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South West Tasmania Adventure

Lee Cordner, Perth, WA

Our adventurers, Delia Hollbach, John Yeomans, Cees Beemster, Graeme Russell and Lee Cordner assembled in Hobart on Friday 5 March. We delivered our food drop to Par Avion Wilderness Tours airline, enjoyed a  last supper at the infamous Drunken Admiral restaurant and visited historic Salamanca Place and scenic Mount Wellington.

Early Saturday we boarded a Tasmania Wilderness Travel bus with a large number of hikers, mostly destined for Cradle Mountain and the Overland Track. After an hour those of us heading for Scott’s Peak, on the southern shores of Lake Pedder, transferred to a mini-bus. As we passed Mount Anne the rugged beauty and extreme remoteness of this wilderness area became apparent.

The group ready to go.
The group ready to go.

The well-formed track from Huon Campsite was muddy in places due to persistent light rain. We rapidly learned what gaiters were really for and developed a new appreciation for waterproof boots. As we established our first camp after crossing Junction Creek we heard cries of “who’s got the salt” when we encountered Delia’s favourite creatures, the ubiquitous leeches.

Sunday dawned clear and sunny and we set off in great spirits. We were surrounded by spectacular scenery in a glacial valley with the rugged White Monolith Range to the west and the Arthur Range to the south. An American group negotiating Moraine Alpha on the Western Arthur’s were the only other hikers we were to see until Melaleuca. Mud made for heavy going along the button-grass plains requiring personal fitness and minimal pack weights. We forded the swiftly flowing and pristine Crossing River for an extended lunch in glorious sunshine on the cobblestone beach, while Graeme fished for trout.

After an exhausting day we arrived at Watershed camp in a damp glade and leeches and mosquitos closed in. As we made dinner one member of our group was heard frantically searching for the salt inside his tent, with a leech attached to a most private appendage.

Map of the South Coast Track, Tasmania
Map of the South Coast Track, Tasmania

Monday dawned sunny and warm as we transited the superb Lost World Plateau. We saw the back end of two Tiger snakes, and were grateful that the Tasmanian variety seemed more timid than their WA cousins. We traversed higher ground and negotiated the log-bridge at Spring River before making camp.

Rain and wind woke us at three in the morning. Grand vistas greeted us as we passed Manwoneer Inlet, Mount Rugby and descended to Bathurst Harbour. The sun was interspersed with strong, cold westerly winds and horizontal rain showers. We arrived at Bathurst Inlet mid afternoon and made camp on the northern shore as strong winds, choppy seas and a strong tidal flow made crossing unsafe. We were reminded of the harsh environment when a member of our party developed the early onset of hypothermia.

Wednesday dawned calm and cool and we rowed across Bathurst Inlet in less than an hour. Bathurst Harbour was delightfully scenic and we took time to eat mussels from the rocks, and Graeme caught a small fish. We found our food parcels at Melaleuca airfield in the early afternoon and at the bird hide we were fortunate to observe four rare and endangered orange-bellied parrots. That evening we enjoyed a candle-lit dinner, washed down with two litres of red wine in the luxury of the walkers hut.

The next day John and Cees took advantage of the only opportunity to exit the area by light aircraft. Delia, Graeme and Lee continued on the South Coast track, which was in excellent condition, with boards covering muddy sections to protect the fragile environment. We enjoyed a swim in the chilly Southern Ocean and sunbaked on the beach at Eric Point.

Tackling the hills.
Tackling the hills.

Beaches and duck-boarded button-grass plains made for easy walking from Cox’s Bight to Louisa River. We encountered intermittent sun and sea fog before a 300m ascent with superb coastal views, and then a descent to Louisa River campsite in the shadow of the foreboding Ironbound Range.

Saturday started dry and warm with mist rising from the valleys. Our hopes for a clear 900m Ironbound ascent were dashed when we entered the cloud base at 350 metres then endured wet, cold and windy conditions on the ridge, which is boarded to protect fragile and unique alpine vegetation. During the eastern descent we slipped and stumbled through a morass of tree roots and mud. Giant tree ferns, colourful fungi, lichen and wonderful trees abounded in the enchanting rainforest. Little Deadman’s Bay campsite came after eight hours of hard walking and we relished the rare opportunity to warm by a campfire.

We slept in on Sunday before a sunny beach walk from Deadman’s Bay to Prion Bay and New River Lagoon. We rowed across the Inlet and after lunch pushed on to Osmiridium Beach with its spectacular views of Precipitous Bluff to the north.

Beach walking.
Beach walking.

Monday was a relaxed day with a short hike through wonderful rainforest with huge ferns to beautiful Surprise Bay. We enjoyed a rest day and shelter from strong south-westerly winds at Granite Beach campsite with its waterfall and spectacular views of South Cape.

On Tuesday we ascended South Cape Range followed by a slow muddy six and a half hours slog with lots of tree roots during which Lee went up to his waist in a muddy hole. The Lion Rock campsite provided shelter and water to wash the mud off.

We arrived at Cockle Creek ranger and bus station on Wednesday 17 March and our senses were assailed by the unwelcome sounds and smells of civilisation. After a restful journey by bus to Hobart we enjoyed a fine dinner at the Drunken Admiral and congratulated ourselves on completing one of Australia’s great wilderness hikes.

This was a challenging full pack, remote wilderness hike requiring thorough planning, good fitness and quality four seasons equipment. Extreme weather including snow can occur even in summer. We planned 10 days but took 12 after a weather delay at Bathurst Inlet and to connect with the bus service, which runs every second day.

I am ready to go back tomorrow.