In this post, Mark shares his trip report on the South Coast Track in southern Tasmania. The Track extends over 84km of very rough country from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek. It is situated in the South West National Park in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Click on this link to view a simple map by Parks Tasmania that shows where it is situated in the world.
The party consisted of Mark, John , Sue and Frank (yes us!). This trip occurred in February 2009 and it was our second trip into the area (but not the last). Sue has also written up a trip report that we have not yet posted. We did have a bit of an adventure on the way out, you can read about us being caught between two flooded rivers on this same trip here.
We were reminded last night (over a few beers) that Mark had sent Frank this report months ago. He had overlooked it, and thought it was already posted. So without further adieu we present Part One of Mark’s fantastic recollections of our hike from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek – keep an eye out to see if we ALL finished….
An early morning start with Frank and Sue picking us up in their car at 4.30 am for a 7.00 am flight to Hobart. On arrival with Jetstar we picked up a hire car and then drove in to the city on a fine sunny day to drop off our end of trip change of clothes at The Shipwrights Arms Hotel. We went to Sue’s favorite bakery at Battery Point for some morning tea/lunch and then drove to a supermarket for some last minute food shopping as well as a butchers shop for some cryo-vacced sausages ,hamburgers and fillet steak. It was then back out to the airport to catch our Par Avion flight with four other people to Melaleuca .
The conditions were perfect for flying as we followed the Derwent River and then the D’Entreccasteaux Channel to the South Coast. I was surprised at the large number of fish farming structures which dotted the coastline. Despite the usual sudden drops in altitude due to the thermal currents the views of the south coast were breathtaking and one of the great highlights of the trip. I got some nice snaps of Precipitous Bluff, Louisa Bay and New River Lagoon although I missed the pilots commentary on the headphones, technology not being my strong point.
Backpacks were dropped at the airstrip as we took a complimentary open boat cruise on the Melaleuca Lagoon with the Par Avion pilot doubling as the skipper and tour guide.We cruised past a spot where a bulldozer had been taken by barge for Denny King many years before and had promptly become bogged. It apparently took him two days to unbog his new and supposedly unboggable toy from the peat. We made our way to the bushwalkers huts and finding them both empty Frank and Sue selected the best one for our accommodation.
We had plenty of time to settle in before tackling dinner and then our three bottles of red wine which we had purchased in Hobart. We slept to a symphony of snoring from all three males with, in my opinion, Frank’s efforts taking the first prize for build up and then sustained guttural eruptions. (Ed, should have taken that bit out)
We made bacon and eggs for breakfast and I drank half a cup of red wine left over from the night before. (Ed, gutsy effort we reckon) At sunrise I had taken some photos of Melaleuca Lagoon and observed a resident quoll doing the rounds of the huts. Once packed we headed off across the runway and then south to Cox Bight with the track and numerous boardwalks being in good condition.
Lunch and a well deserved rest on the beach was just what the doctor ordered as my quads and knees were aching. It was disappointing to learn that planes were no longer allowed to land here as it was a great site to see them take off from here and just clear the New Harbour Range. I had a very cheap flight(not more than $50) out of here myself in the mid 80’s backloading on a flight that had dropped a group of walkers off (ah the good old days).
A young solo French bloke walking to Melaleuca came in to sight as we got started again and we briefly chatted to him. The walking along the beach to Buoy Creek was straightforward, with a short break at the beautifully situated Pt Eric campsite. Buoy Creek campsite had much better water however, and was also a delightful spot for a dip in the ocean and then a wash in the creek. Unbeknow’nst to Frank and myself Sue was snapping away Paparazzi style from a distance as we nuded it up (what can I say,its a European thing).
I later tried to bribe her with some fruit jellies to delete them but she could not be persuaded. Dinner was gourmet sausages with Deb mashed potato and vegetables (sensational). I took some photos of the sun setting behind New Harbour Range from the beach and Frank was fortunate enough to snap a rainbow on his new Canon digital camera.
A youngish couple who had been aboard their converted (and leaking) fishing boat anchored off the east side of Cox Bight came ashore. They told us about catching crayfish with meat tied at the end of a pair of stockings. They had managed to snare a 3kg specimen which became entangled in the stockings. They euthanased it by drowning it in fresh water and then cut it in half and barbecued it (sounds so simple). (Ed, this is actually illegal Mark and should NOT be repeated here)
I set off for Louisa Bay about an hour later than the others and tackled the long haul up the Red Point Hills. At the base I could see the others slowly making their way up. When I had nearly reached the top ,I encountered a bloke of a similar age to myself on his own and heading to Buoy Creek. He informed me that the others were only about 10 minutes ahead so it wasn’t long before I caught up to Frank and Sue resting and attending to Sue’s developing foot blisters.
After a decent rest we pushed on to Louisa Bay with myself bringing up the rear and tiring badly as we neared our destination. The training that John, especially, had done in the weeks prior to the walk was clearly evident.in his superior fitness. The steep climb down to the beach with the much needed assistance of previously placed ropes had its moments but the site of this magical place made it more than worthwhile.
As we set up camp behind the dunes in a nicely situated and well sheltered campsite we were continuously pestered by a quoll which seemed to reside in the small adjacent patch of forest. It eventually grabbed Johns bag of food (four days worth) and made off in to the undergrowth with John in hot pursuit.
John managed to relieve the blighter of its booty but by the time the pesky quoll launched its next sortie he had well and truly lost his sense of humour and gave it a good wack with one of his walking poles.This seemed to do the trick as we were left in peace for a couple of hours as we settled in and gorged ourselves on another delicious meal of fried fillet steak with veges and mashed potato (no roughing it here). We all hung up our packs on branches overnight as a precaution against the hungry marauding wildlife.This seemed to be a successful strategy which we continued for much of the trip.
I surprised myself by getting up early for some photos of the sunrise over The Ironbounds, from the beach. After brekkie we all went for a walk along the beautifully curved beach with me having to catch up to the others after taking more photos from the dunes. I was surprised at how much fitness I had gained in just two days as I barely felt any effect from this reasonably lengthy jaunt. Some low cloud moved in and as we started back to camp we copped a heavy shower of rain with jacketless Sue having to shelter under Frank’s jacket .
Sue and Frank had decided not to continue the walk due to Sue’s foot problems but generously gave John and myself the option to continue on to Cockle Creek. We left Louisa Bay with some regret and sadness but also with the knowledge that they would have the rare opportunity to experience what, in my opinion, is the most beautiful spot on the South Coast in depth and at their leisure.
We (now down to Mark & John) climbed steeply out of the bay again with the assistance of the invaluable ropes and then followed the moderately muddy track along the west bank of the Louisa River. After some minor scrub bashing through swampy ground we rejoined the South Coast Track (a better route than on the way in). The rest of the walk was fairly flat on double planked boardwalks with a couple of easy water crossings.
John and I set up our tents on the east side of Louisa River which was nearing capacity. This was a delightful forested spot where we were able to do some minor washing of clothes and bodies before an early night so that we could get a dawn start the next day. It was at this campsite that we first encountered the Essendon Bushwalking Club (E.B.C) a group of six very fit people in their early sixties who were retired and were doing an unofficial exploratory walk.
There was also a young (26 year old) German bloke on his own who hailed from Hamburg, a city where I have many relatives. Two walkers sharing a tent next to ours kept us awake at first with their talking and laughing. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, one of them was John Hosford, my sister in laws brother (Ed, does that make it a close relative or what?) who now lives near Launceston and whom I had not seen for many years, and did not recognise(and vica versa).
Fortunately we had no trouble at this campsite with any nocturnal visitors nor at any of the other campsites from here on in.
End of Part One – many thanks to Mark for such an entertaining recollection of the trip. We will post Part Two of his yarn in the next week or so. They had a lot of “fun” while we were chilling out at Louisa Bay.