MONDAY 31 JANUARY DOVER
Today we set out to tackle one of the adventurous challenges that was on the must-do list. It seemed a reasonably promising day, with some blue sky, quite a bit of cloud, but fine.
We headed south again, down the Huon Highway and to Hastings, the way we went yesterday, then continued further south – as far as the end of the road, in fact, at Cockle Creek.
The road was unsealed for much of the way past Hastings, apart from a few patches of sealed surface where there were concentrations of houses.
It was an attractive and varied drive, mostly through forest, and inland until we came down to the coast at the beautiful Recherche Bay, where the narrow road ran virtually beside the sea.
Recherche Bay was named by French explorers who spent some time here in 1792, for one of the group’s ships. The Catamaran River and Cockle Creek are both fair sized streams that empty into the bay – brown, tannin stained water.
Along Recherche Bay there are a few pockets of settlement of sorts – Recherche, Catamaran and Cockle Creek. There were the occasional proper cottage or house, but mostly a number of shacks. I presumed that these were on privately owned land that dated from the times of whaling, coal mining and timber cutting in the 1800’s.
There were also bush camping areas strung along beside the road, wherever it was by the sea. These did not have the look of formal campgrounds, but more like places that successive campers had created in the scrub. Clearly, some people had set up more or less permanent camps in old buses and vans – rather unattractive, and feral seeming, mostly. There were some pit toilets in those areas, and some water available.
I suspect this area would be rather crowded with campers in the main summer holiday period.
At one stage, we’d thought about bring the van and camping down here – but I am glad we didn’t. As our main intent in coming down here today was to do the walk to South Cape Bay, we did not spend any time exploring around the Cockle Creek area.
As it was, we did not begin the walk until midday; it would have been better to have begun earlier, but we are not great at early starts.
There was a bridge – one lane – over Cockle Creek, where it runs into the bay, and just past this was a parking area, information board and the start of the track. This is the South West walking track, a long distance one that comes from Port Davey/Melaleuca, along the coast. It is a similar length to the Overland Track – some 85kms – and takes about a week to walk. But the track conditions are tougher than those of the popular Overland Track, and as there is no road access to Port Davey, hikers generally fly one way. We were just going to do the 7-8km section to South Cape Bay, and back.
We did see several walkers, with packs, seeming to be waiting around for transport. Presumably, these had just finished the South Coast Track from Port Davey. They had that look about them that I recognized – just hanging out for a long hot shower and a really good meal!
The walk to South Cape Bay was lovely. It was drizzly when we left Cockle Creek, but then cleared up and we had sun for much of the time.
The first part was through forested country, skirting hills. The track was a bit uneven and rocky, which was not good for John. We spotted a strong billed honeyeater – new bird!
The next part of the walk was over swampy heathlands, much of it on board walks, on which little lizards were warming themselves. It was the sort of area that required a careful watch for sunbaking tiger snakes, too!
The last section was through forested creek and gully country. It was a bit hilly and we had to step carefully due to rocks and lots of exposed tree roots.
The track came out at South Cape Bay at the top of an exposed coal rock outcrop. We walked across that to eventually get down to a beach that was about 800 metres long.
From the top of the coal outcrop, there were great views of the rugged coast. Off to the west, we could see South Cape, with Maatsuyker Island in the distance.
To the east, was South East Cape.
We went down the steps by the black, coal-material bluff, and onto the beach of South Cape Bay. Walked along this to Lion Rock at its western end, on a lovely, empty beach.
A couple of hikers eventually appeared – one went up to the campsite that was behind the beach.
At the end of the beach, behind Lion Rock was a sort of rocky, shingle area. It was not possible to go any further along the coast from this point. The South Coast walking track swings inland here.
We left there at 3.30pm, to walk back and got back to Truck at 5.45pm. Overall it was a 15km or so walk. Our legs were well and truly tired.
I phoned K from the phone box at Cockle Creek – Australia’s most southerly phone box – and left a message telling him that!
The drive back to Dover – almost 50kms – did not seem too long. We were grateful for daylight saving, though.
Had a lovely hot shower – very welcome on tired muscles.
Tea was beetroot soup, rissoles, potato rounds, onions, egg.
It was a wonderful day.