I’ve been living in Melbourne for over two years now. One thing I have heard consistently since I moved here is how amazing Wilsons Promontory is, and yet, I hadn’t made it out there.
Bikes aren’t allowed to be ridden on the trails and tracks in the Prom, so that makes access a little more limited. Its also a 150km from the nearest train station or a 3 hour drive from Melbourne.
Between moving house, and a few weekends alternating between stifling hot or extremely wet weather it had been a while since I’d managed to get away. While it had been a good opportunity for my body to rest (something it doesn’t get a whole lot of) I was definitely getting anxious to get out of town.
The forecast for the weekend called for more rain but late on Thursday I decided I wasn’t going to let it stop me this time. With the last minute decision I wasn’t able to find anyone to join me on such short notice, so on Saturday morning I threw some gear and some food into a backpack and drove the 3 hours to Tidal River to commence my first adventure on foot in quite some time.
My original plan was to depart Telegraph Saddle heading east to the coast on Sealers Bay Track, following the coast south to Refuge Cove to camp. In the morning I would continue down to Waterloo Bay before completing a clockwise loop back along Waterloo Bay Track and Telegraph Track back to the Saddle.
Once on the ground however, before gaining my bearings I spotted a sign directing me to Refuge Cove. With out pause I set of in that direction, a silly mistake and within about 10 minutes I was sure I was headed south, but checked my map to confirm my suspicion. No issue. There was no way I was turning around, I would just continue South to Waterloo Bay Track and complete my loop in reverse, it would all work out about the same.
Telegraph Track is a management track; well kept and of fairly mild grades. So the going was fast. I had covered the 7km down to the junction of Waterloo Bay Track in a little of an hour, and doing the math in my head I would be at camp at Refuge Cove very early and end up bored so I made the decision push on south the the lighthouse at the southern end of the peninsula.
After passing Halfway Hut and the Roaring Meg campground the Telegraph Walking Track split off from the management track, dropping down into a gully where the drier vegetation gave way to temperate rainforest. The trail wound its way south through the bush, eventually hitting the coast. Emerging from the trees onto a rocky outcrop gave way to a spectacular view overlooking Bass Straight and Rotondo Island, a conical piece of land jutting from the ocean a few kilometres offshore. To the right, the steep face of the Promontory wound its way back north, their slopes covered with dense forest and massive boulders piled at their feet where the waves crashed into the land. Below me on my left a tiny sliver of land jutted out into the ocean, the tall white silhouette of the light station exclaiming its southern most point.
I descended the trail towards the light station where I would briefly stop for a lunch of couscous that I added some water to while walking so it would be rehydrated upon my arrival. The light station was originally built in 1859 and with no vehicle access, supplies and operators arrived by boat. Since 1993 it’s operation has been automated
Climbing back up and over the edge of the Mt Boulder plateau I was treated to more great views of the coastline as I approached Waterloo Bay. The trail continues along the beach for 2 km where walking on the sand slowed my progress. I found it easiest to walk on the wet sand, where it was firmest, but without walking so close to the water that an energetic wave may creep up on you and soak your feet. It had been drizzling on and off through most of the day, but the sun had poked its head out enough to dry me off and I had every intention of keeping my feet dry if possible.
I climbed briefly back up into the bush around to North Waterloo Bay before another brief stint along the beach. By now it was getting on in the afternoon, around 7.30 and the sun was starting to get low in the sky as I once again started climbing away from the ocean. This time the trail ascends towards Kersop Peak, offering great views of the setting sun behind Mt Wilson, and then drops down into Refuge Cove where I would set up camp for the night.
Once down in Refuge Cove I sent up camp. Expecting rain, I chose to bring my tent on this trip, over my bivy, for the extra protection from the elements that it provides. I quickly pitched it amongst the trees, before walking over the water to eat my dinner where I chatted with a couple of other hikers who’d had the same idea.
With the last of the day light faded from the sky, I retired to my tent having covered 38km for the day and quickly fell asleep. At some point during the night it started raining heavily and I was glad to have brought my tent.
By the time the sun had begun to rise the rain hadn’t eased much. I ate my oats in my tent before packing up in the wet. I’d had a visitor during the night (I’m guessing a wombat) and when I went to fill my water bottle that had been sitting outside my tent, water came streaming out two perfect bite holes in the bottle. I still had my 500mL soft flask so long as I was vigilant and hydrated and refilled at every opportunity I would be fine.
The day began with a small ascent up into the bush and across to the campsite at Sealers Cove. By the time I reached the cove I was already thoroughly soaked and when confronted with a knee deep crossing of Sealers Creek plunged straight in, knowing I couldn’t possibly get any wetter. Once across the trail continued along the beach and around the cove before bidding farewell to the east coast and cutting back inland for the final time.
The next several kilometres continue along raised duckboards through a lush marsh area. From the end of the marsh I began the long, uphill climb into the fog that was sitting around the mountains. Cresting Windy Saddle, the pass between Mt Ramsay and Mt McAlister was a relief, my legs were definitely feeling heavy after the previous day’s effort.
Nearing the end, I spurred on, blasting down the descent back to Telegraph Saddle where I had started the day yesterday, running past lots of hikers as I went. Despite arriving at the the saddle in the heaviest downpour of the day, I decided I was feeling good enough to attempt the climb up to Mt Oberon summit. As I began the ascent, head down into the driving rain, I didn’t hold much hope of any sort of view from the top, noting the thick fog that was now limiting visibility even on the track ahead of me.
The final push to the summit is a scramble over the granite outcrop that tops the mountain. The trail had come up from the east, and as I clambered onto the highest boulder I was assaulted by a blustering wind blowing from the west and struggled to hold my footing on the slippery rock. I looked around but all I could see from my perch was thick, white fog. Disappointed by the lack of view, but still accomplished, I began sliding back down off the rocky summit. I took one final glance back, just as the wind lifted the fog briefly to reveal Norman Bay down below me. I quickly climbed back up to take a photo just before the veil lowered itself once again.
The rain eased as I retraced my steps back down to Telegraph Saddle, but as I commenced the final descent back to my car at Tidal River it picked up again ensuring I was sufficiently drenched by the time I got back to my car. I’d covered another 27km on the second day making a total of 65km, which I was pretty pleased with considering how long it had been since I’d covered any real distance on foot.
I definitely enjoyed the slower pace that hiking and running affords. You take in your surroundings a lot more, even than when traveling by bike. It definitely renewed my motivation for travelling by foot and I can see myself doing more in the near future.