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Adventures on a bike; sometimes on foot

GOW: Day 2 – Blanket Bay to Aire River

The morning dawned about as perfectly as you could imagine. Soft light flitting through the trees and low cloud cover keeping the temp down so that you didn’t wake to harsh glare and a steaming tent. It wasn’t warm, but i wouldn’t say it was cold either. Just enough to put on a jumper and set about the morning tasks of making breakfast and packing up camp.

Coffee. This is the star of morning camp and for this trip I had elected to go with the GSI filter method. I have long envied B-rads GSI filter primarily due to it’s compact size. The coffee it makes is a long way short of a Melbourne Espresso, however when in the middle of the bush, it’s quite awesome. Just for ease of use, i actually brought 2 of them along so that Gea and I could simultaneously make coffee. With a touch of milk powder, it made for a quite palatable, if not powerful brew. Never mind, make a second šŸ™‚

We packed our things and headed off into more amazing single track through some kind of eucalypt forrest that i’m struggling to find words to describe. The undergrowth was very spartan but the trees that dominated formed a thick canopy and it was unlike anything we had walked thus far.Ā It was very interesting and the soon the hunt was on for Koalas. No sooner did the idea occur to me to look for them, than i looked straight up at one in a tree about 2 m above me. Interestingly, it wasn’t even a tree you would expect to find one in. It was basically a dead stick with almost no leaves on it. Shortly after, we stumbled upon a wallaby trailside who was kind enough to hang around long enough for me to point him out to Gea before lumbering away to find a less paparazzi filled spot for the day.

Drop bear

Drop bear

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Our first point of interest that morning was the “river” crossing at Parker River. I have seen some photos where there was quite a bit of water pushing through however on the morning we arrived, it could best be described as a stream. There was still no way across for us that would result in dry feet so we took our socks off and waded across before the interminable struggle of putting socks back on wet feet.

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From there, it was one big arse climb out. There were about 12 million stairs which some poor sole had cut into the side of the hill and carried the rocks there to form the tread surface. I recall hearing about it’s origins in the audio book however the story is now lost to me through the fog of time although it had something to do with hauling cargo out of the bay. I think to resupply the lighthouse however someone would have to fact check me on that one.

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The view back to Parker River after climbing out

From there, we followed a narrow ribbon of bushland between the coastline and farmers paddocks which gave amazing views of the coast and allowed us to wander along searching for mobs of kangaroos in the neighbouring paddocks.

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The next stop for was Cape Otway Lighthouse. We hadn’t really formulated a plan in advance as to what we would do here, however we were making good time and it was a pretty cool historic site so we elected to pay the entry fee and go in and see what it was all about. I’m glad we did. The view from the lighthouse was epic and the lighthouse is one of the most important historic landmarks in the whole precinct and is referred to over and over again in most of the stories of the area. There was also the option to head into the cafe and get a cold drink in what had now become a gloriously sunny spring day.

Lighthouse on the left

Lighthouse on the left

View from the top

View from the top

Secretly, i had been a little worried about whether i had brought enough coffee along with us for the trip. This isn’t something you say out loud to Gea as the Wrath of the Titans would befall someone who messed with her morning coffee. Seeing the chance to correct my oversight, i asked if there was anyway we could buy some coffee and the cafe workers were more than generous in charging me just a couple of bucks for a small takeaway container full of grinds. More than enough to finish off the trip and rescue me from certain doom when we ran out.

After we left the lighthouse, we stopped off at the campground for Cape Otway to have lunch. We thought about buying something interesting at the lighthouse cafe however having carried foodĀ all the way so far, I was firmly in favour of reducing the weight in my bag. So salmon and cheese wraps again. We lounged in the shade for about half an hour, filled up on water to make sure we had enough (lucky we did because it’s very exposed in the midday sun through the next section) and adjusted band aids on our feet which were starting to show the cumulative wear of manky toes pointing in funny directions rubbing against one and other. Band aid tough strips for the win. Those things hang on for days and I can’t recommend them enough.

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We set off for Aire river and the next section of trail was both the best and worst. It had some dramatic coastal views from the edge of sheer cliffs and strange alien landascapes comprised of red rocks and stunted coastal heather. I actually commented at the time that it reminded me of Arizona as it was like we entered a beach side desert – utterly different to the tall rain drenched forrests of the Ottways we had been Koala spotting in the day before.

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Cliff edge

Cliff edge

It also had trails made of pure sand and Ā unrelenting sun with no shade, which saw our water useage peak dramatically. Thankfully I brought plenty of hydralite to fend off the cramp fairy who was chasing us down the trail with his barb wire wand. I’ve battled with him on more than one occasion in the past and may have finally learned that prevention is better than cure.

Sand and no shade

Sand and no shade

Aire river looked more like a lagoon when we finally spotted it from atop a ridgeline. It appeared the river mouth was silted closed Ā and the dark waters looked cool and inviting from atop our ridge in the sun. All that was left was actually getting there… which took forever. We were ready to finish for the day and then it felt like the trail turned and walked directly away from camp. It was quite the mental game to keep our shit together and soldier on.

Aire river

Aire river

Then came the sand dune descent. I would guess we were probably at about 150m elevation? and to get back to our Sea level camp, we had to descend a trail comporised completely of sand. It was shit in a comical way. By the time I reached the bottom there was no longer room for my feet to fit inside my shoes and there was a mandatory break to remove sand from places it shouldn’t have been.

Then it was about 500m of sweet firetrail to get to the bridge and camp. Relief.

Bridge across to camp

Bridge across to camp

I had read reports that the GOW hike in camp was difficult to figure out and i didn’t really have a clear picture of why that was until arriving. You initially arrive at the drive in camp site and comparative to other sites we had seen thus far, it was massive. It was also un-useable in all the low lying areas as the river level was so high from the silted up river mouth that vast areas of the camp ground were under water. Regardless, there was still considerable amounts of space and so we chose a spot a long way away from another school group and set up camp.

Camp MkI

Camp MkI

Gea wandered off for a look around while I sipped some Baileys Irish Cream we had the foresight to packĀ and read a book in the afternoon sunshine. When Gea returned she informed me that we were camped in the wrong spot. The GOW hike in site was actually up a steep pinchy hill near the toilet block. She had investigated and there were a whole bunch of secluded campsites there, nestled amongst the tea trees with much more serenity than the open grassy expanse where we were staying. With our tent already up and our stuff strewn everywhere, I wasn’t really inclined to do anything about it.

There was a little pier that was just clear of the water level in the river that i had spied and I pondered going for a swim to cool off after the heat of the day. I wandered over to check it out and had the misfortune to blow a plug on my Havianas while crossing the boggy campsite. J.W.A. Gea could hear my scream of torment from the other side of the camp ground as it wasn’t just a pulled plug, the bloody nob had snapped right off meaning my camp shoes were now stuffed for the rest of the trip. I can’t tell you how good it is to take hiking shoes off after a long day and put on the pluggers. The dream was over, I can’t go on.

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So I sat on the pier and dangled my feet in the river and shed a tear for the departed. I quickly decided swimming wasn’t an option however. The water was freaking cold. Fine to dangle your legs in for a few minutes, but hyperventilate as your testicles retract far enough to impact lung volume cold if you were stupid enough to jump in. So I enjoyed sitting there and watching the world go past for an hour or so before returning to camp.

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Just as I arrived back a school teacher informed us that he had a group of some 50 students and the only site that was going to be large enough to hold them was directly next to us. He apologised for spoiling our romantic little camp but with the river level being so high, he didn’t have any other options. That gave me the motivation i needed to move campsites and so we dragged everything up the shittiest little hill ever to get to the real GOW camp. Frankly, it was a much more intimate and romantic campsite anyway so in the end i was quite glad we were given the impetus to get our arse into gear.

Camp MkII

Camp MkII

We made some dinner and promptly ran out of gas in our first canister part way through heating the water. Now for anyone that has been paying attention – i could only get 2 small canisters in the fiasco that was our departure schedule. So 2 days into a 6 day hike and we were going to have to ration in a big way. Remember what i said about the Wrath of the Titans? I was scared. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal in most of the stealth situations i’ve been in, light a fire and cook over that, however the GOW is strictly no fire and i didn’t feel like making enemies of the hiker gestapo who like to adhere to the rule book. So our options were limited, there was no resupply shops or options for the rest of the trail so we would have to see what panned out.

While brushing our teeth before bed, I noted a group of people pointing to a small copse of trees in the middle of the campground. I wandered over to see what was going on and was informed that a group of 5 Koalas had just nonchalantly wandered through the middle of the school group to take up residence for the night. 5 Koalas! I don’t think i’ve ever heard of them moving in such a large group. In fact, if google is to be believed, there isn’t even a collective noun for Koalas as they are such solitary animals. So as the sunlight faded, we watched them chew their way through their own body weight in gum leaves and pondered what a rare sight we were witnessing.

We went to bed secure in our little orange tent, serenaded to sleep by the buzz of a thousand hungry mosquitos that were thankfully on the outside. We again slept really well after another big day of around 21 kms. and the knowledge that the next day was going to be our first leg that wasn’t a double so just a leisurely 14 kms.

Links:

Preamble

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

 

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