Read back through the four month expedition around Tasmania's coastline. Below is week 11 to the finish. For earlier reports click through the archived pages... weeks 1-2, weeks 3-4, weeks 5-6, weeks 7-8, weeks 9-10.
11th November 2012 (FINISH)
Flowerpot Rock to Woodbridge Marine Discovery Centre, 4km
Word of the day: relief
Question of the day: Can you come to the Bookend Trust annual movie night on 4th December... you're invited!
Over, finished, complete, done, sorted. All words to describe the end of the Coastwatchers expedition. Today, with Nic alongside, it was a short cruise to Woodbridge. There was no wind and it was probably the gentlest day of the entire journey. By early morning we were at the Marine Discovery Centre boat ramp to be greeted by Nic's dad Robert and his two dogs, Oscar and Evie. It's been over 100 days, joined by more than 1700 students for a few hours or a few days. We've collected marine debris, observed birds, trod the dry sand and wet. From as far south as Melaleuca to the north-east tip of Flinders Island, from the depths of winter to the early hints of a hot summer, it's been an epic journey.
At the centre of the action have been students, you guys, online asking questions, on the ground picking up the bottle tops and getting 'styrofoam fatigue'. You were AWESOME! And helped by the wonderful teachers that let this adventure into their classroom, the generous volunteers from councils, parents, Parks and Wildlife, shop keepers... the list goes over many pages. For now I'd like to single out just a few special people. Nic Pearce, for being coordinator, bringing kayaks, picking up bikes, organising Skullbone trips, being ever patient. Niall Doran, the energy behind Bookend Trust without which I wouldn't still be doing these adventures. The whole Bookend team of Alastair, Ninna, Flick and Reg. The experts who lent their wisdom and time to us- Andrew Walsh, Eric Woehler, Jen Lavers, Heidi Taylor, Alastair Richardson and Mark Wapstra. Bec Hughes who took over the website when I headed into the satellite-only zone for the last few months. Damian Bester from the Mercury and Jo Spargo from ABC for taking the story to an olde crowd.
There are lots of loose ends to tie up (those t-shirts are still coming for the forum winners, and the MADart winners will be announced here soon), but for now let me close with a mega invite to attend the end of year Bookend Trust gala presentation night. For those in Tassie anyway... it'll be on Tuesday 4th December, 7.00-8.30pm, Dechaineux Theatre, UTAS Arts School, Hunter Street, Hobart. Please let me know if you're interested in attending and I'll make sure you get the full details. Or just be adventurous and rock up on the night.
Next year's expedition is called Volcano Land. But more on that in coming weeks...
10th November 2012
Partridge Island to Flowerpot Rock, 25km
Word of the day: penultimate
Question of the day: What does penultimate mean?
Birds of the day: wedge-tailed eagle and white bellied sea eagle
Another magnificent day on the water with a fresh southerly blowing us gently northward. Nic took this photo of me this morning as we left Partridge Island- it was JUST before I put my life jacket on. There are some basic safety precautions you need to take when sea kayaking, even in protected areas like the Channel waterway. Life jacket, bilge pump, tow rope and phone or EPIRB are all very good ideas.
We saw several fur seals basking on the surface. As we glided past quietly they either slid away underwater or, on one occasion, barked and growled when startled. There as also a small bird that looked like a sand piper (but not sure), which was resting quietly on the waves. We went right past it and it didn't fly away. I stopped and back paddled for another look and it suddenly took flight by walking daintily along the surface in little jumps before taking to the air.
Arriving at Flowerpot Rock we pulled in for the day and have set up camp near a farmers shed (with permission). There is a slight change of plan and tomorrow we will finish at the Marine Discovery Centre instead of having a day off. Being so close to the finish line is just too tempting and I'm looking forward to getting home now. That makes it the penultimate day of the Coastwatchers expedition.
9th November 2012
Cockle Creek to Partridge Island, 22km
Words of the day: severe weather
Question of the day: How does hail form in clouds?
After we arrived here on Partridge Island this afternoon, after paddling north from Cockle Creek, we received 2 messages to see if we were okay. 'That's strange,' I said to Nic, 'no-one usually worries too much what's going on out here.' Then we realised that there were severe weather conditions not too far away around Hobart. Apparently there were violent hail storms and even a few sightings of tornados. Very unusual for Tasmania! On the water where we were we didn't even get any rain. The wind blew as forecast about 15 knots from the south-west and we had chilly but perfect paddling conditions. There were some dense and dark storm clouds over the mountains to the west and that must have been where all the energy was being unleashed. Here on Partridge Island there is an old jetty and house or shed site, but now it's part of the South Bruny Island National Park. A fishing trawler has come in for shelter just offshore and we're sitting on the rocks in perfectly calm conditions.
Further north we go tomorrow, then a final (and cheeky) rest day on Sunday before pulling in at Woodbridge on Monday morning. Hope you all have a sunny and adventurous weekend.
8th November 2012
South Cape Rivulet to Cockle Creek, 11km
Word of the day: joey
Question of the day: What's that on the pademelon's nose?
At first glance you'd probably say that's a harmless pademelon with an innocent little joey learning the ways of the world from mum. Not so, this pademelon is a menace! Whenever a wild animal lets you get this close it's either because it's about to eat you, or it's used to being fed by humans. Unfortunately, around some campsites, animals get an easy feed and become very bold. They can chew holes in packs and tents to look for food. NEVER feed wild animals, especially not the ones with big teeth.
Wonderful last day on the South Coast Track with a fine morning turning to rain later. From South Cape Rivulet it's a short walk over to Lion Rock. This is a popular day walking area and people have been collecting marine debris from the beach and stacking it up in a big pile on the bluff. While I think it's a good thing to remove the plastic from the surf zone, it does leave a bit of a problem for Parks and Wildlife with what to do with it from there. Probably the best idea is to pick up as much as you can carry back to put in a bin somewhere but not to leave it in an ugly pile? My pockets were bulging with little drink bottle lids and shards of plastic. On the walk out Blowhole Valley I passed the first people I've seen since saying goodbye to Qug and Stevie at Melaleuca. The first thing I noticed was how lovely they smelt. Which must mean that I stink.
Nic arrived with friends Shae, Sarah and Andy after I'd set up the tent in the camping area near the beach. Nic has stayed and bought 2 kayaks for us to paddle north to Woodbridge over the next few days. We'll be finishing the trip together at 10 am at the Woodbridge Marine Discovery Centre, and I can't wait!
7th November 2012
Granite Beach to South Cape Rivulet, 9km
Word of the day: rivulet
Question of the day: What is the difference between a river, a rivulet and a creek?
Bird of the day: Superb blue wren
Rock type of the day: sandstone
This morning I farewelled the Fluted Cliffs at Granite Beach and headed up through cutting grass dominated bush to the crest of the South Cape Range. With patches of mossy rainforest and buttongrass plains there was a lively bird song ringing through the air. The only other noises were the blow flies and an occasional curse from me as I negotiated some deep mud pits.
Descending the slopes to South Cape Rivulet there were a lot of branches obscuring the track from recent and long ago storms that batter this coast. At one spot I lost the track for 15 minutes while diverting around a mass of tangled branches. Tree falls are the most common way to lose a track, the best thing is to go back to the fallen tree and try again.
Here at South Cape Rivulet there is a feeling that I'm closer to civilisation and tomorrow I'll meet Nic at Cockle Creek. She is bringing down the kayaks and joining me for the last fews days paddle north up the channel to Woodbridge. 5 days to go...
6th November 2012
Osmiridium Beach to Granite Beach, 8 km
Word of the day: fossil
Question of the day: What types of rocks might you find fossils in?
Reptile of the day: tiger snake (saw 2 yesterday, 1 in buttongrass, 1 in coastal scrub)
Complaint of the day: People who have been lighting campfires on the peat soils. It makes a big mess and is not allowed in the World Heritage Area. Naughty!
The hot day yesterday has brought rain and drizzle today. It makes the forest dripping wet and brings out all the colours and smells. I could definitely smell the native plum in the coastal forest, with a pong that's a bit like damp farts! Or maybe it was the wattle seeds, which can also throw out a whiffy aroma when crushed and wet?
On Surprise Bay beach there were 3-4 sets of Tassie devil footprints going in each direction below the dunes. It would be a good spot to set up the remote sensing cameras in future to see what's happening in the night. There were 2 pied oystercatchers on the beach and a couple of big black cormorants coming out of the rivulet. At the end of the beach is a dark rock in layers (sedimentary beds) that has been tipped up (folded) on a steep angle (dip). It is an old limestone that has fossils in it like the one pictured. Although this one was found on Granite Beach, over the next headland where I'm camped. Imagine this creature living in an ocean when there was no life on land at all, about 450 million years ago. Makes your brain hurt.
Tomorrow is a hard day over the South Cape Range to South Cape Rivulet or Lion Rock. Less than a week to go... And I'm told that there's a late rush on MadART entries. Great stuff, but remember to include your name and all the details in the instructions. They'll be posted online soon and winners announced 19th November.
5th November 2012
Little Deadmans Bay to Osmiridium Beach, 13 km
Word of the day: blossoming
Question of the day: what is this fish (pictured)?
Bird of the day: albatross (2 dead washed up on Prion Beach, wing span >2m!) Other birds on Prion Beach: Sooty oystercatchers (4), Pied oystercatchers (6), Hooded plovers (3), Australasian gannet (1), silver gulls (heaps), cormorants (2), Forest raven (2)
The morning was perfectly clear skies and I suspected it was going to be hot. It was and still is at 5.30 pm. From the rocky beach at Little Deadmans Bay I walked through the bogs on the buttongrass plain to Turua Beach. With Ile du Golfe (who named that I wonder?) sitting offshore in smooth seas it was like a postcard. Around a large headland and I was soon at Prion Beach. It stretches about 4 km in an almost straight line of sand. There were lots of birds to observe and a few dead fish washed up like the one pictured. The waves, although small, were biting into the vegetated sand dunes at the back of the beach. Trees and bushes had tumbled down into the surf recently because they still had fresh green leaves. There are two rowing boats to get across New River Lagoon so you have to row one across, tie the other one on, row them both back, leave one and row back across. That leaves one at each side no matter which way the next bushwalker approaches from. In each of the campsites I've noticed a large collection of marine debris as people pick it up along the beach. At New River Lagoon there was a wide mouthed shovel, buoys, a tarp, and the usual rope. I think I read that Parks and Wildlife ask that people do not collect the rubbish and stack it up at campgrounds because there is no way of getting it out. I was thinking it would be a good project to organise a special marine debris bin at each campground and get a boat or helicopter to pull it all out once a year. Have a look at the video of Matt Dell and his South West Marine Debris Cleanup for ideas, but I don't believe they go along the South Coast Track, focussing on even more remote areas.
Tomorrow to Granite Beach and a closer look at the awesome Fluted Cliff (dolerite) on South Cape.
3rd - 4th November 2012
Freney Lagoon to Little Deadmans Bay, 30 km (2 days)
Weekend Report Word of the weekend: agitated Alpine
Plant of the weekend: pandani Introduced
Pest of the weekend: black rat
There was a noise at my head that woke me at 2 am last night. Rustle, rustle.... rustle bustle. Then something jumped and brushed my cheek. I sat bolt upright and started immediately feeling around for the headlight. The 'thing' became agitated and jumped throughout the tent in little hops. I kept fumbling about in the darkness for the light to see what I faced. With the torch found and clicked on, there was a sizeable black rat bouncing and scurrying around my bags. It had entered through a large hole that it had gnawed through the tent, but couldn't find it to escape. I unzipped the door, hoping it hadn't lost it bowels already, and it fled into the night. None of my food bags were nibbled which is lucky because there's not much to spare.
Today I climbed over the biggest obstacle on the South Coast Track, the Ironbound Range. The track reaches up to nearly 900 meters and is the only section that passes through true Tasmanian alpine vegetation (plants). The air was still on top and I could see from South West Cape to South Cape along the coast and inland to the Arthur Ranges, including Federation Peak. Tomorrow will be a shorter day along to Osmiridium Beach. There hasn't been anyone on the track yet, but I've seen dozens of empty native snail shells in the rainforest. I wonder what's been eating them?
2nd November 2012
Melaleuca to Scottsdale (Dorset Debris Hunters)
Melaleuca to Freney Lagoon, Cox Bight, 12 km (Andrew)
Word of the day: amazing
Birds seen today: Hooded plover (6), Ground parrot (4), Pacific gull (2), Silver gull (30+), Green rosella (2), Sooty oystercatcher (1), Pied oystercatcher (1), unidentified (lots).This was the last day for the Scottsdale High expeditioners, and the last of the four Skullbone adventures this year. They have been dotted throughout the Coastwatchers journey and have all been special highlights. This morning I woke the 10 dozing students with a few clangs of the metal water bottles. It was 6.25 am so that wasn't very nice of me. To get everyone moving I wondered aloud what job we could award for the last out of their sleeping bag. Brianna suggested cleaning the toilets, I agreed, and then there was an incredible flurry of arms and legs as they scrambled to leap onto the floorboards of the hut. Kieran stayed stunned in his green sleeping bag, looking rather like a caterpillar awaiting a metamorphasis. He got toilet duties. Everyone pitched in after breakfast with Trangia cleaning, tent folding, hut sweeping and gear returns. By 10 am, after our usual Skullbone debriefing and t-shirt presentation, it was down to the airstrip with packs and boxes for the flight home. It's been an extra special week thanks to Qug (resident), Will (Parks and Wildlife) and Stevie (Rosny College) for chipping in with their time and extraordinary effort. Ninna filming, Sally guiding and Geoff as their teacher made it an around team effort. As the planes took to the air I took to the track and am heading along the South Coast Track for the next few days. As the expedition draws to a close in 10 days (not that I'm counting down!), here are the thoughts from the students on their week in the wilderness.
I really enjoyed the trip because I found out a lot of things about the place and met some great people. I saw some amazing things along the way and I will be back again one day. Simon
This place is great! I love it here and definitely plan to come back!! I enjoyed the walk back from Cox Bight. Qug's house was awesome and I enjoyed listening to all the stories. Brianna
This was an amazing trip! It was very challenging for me, like the walk to Point Eric, but I really enjoyed it. It has the most beautiful scenic beaches in the world. Edana
The weather was surprising. I thought it would be dry but cold. The worst thing would be getting dirty, wet feet and sinking in the mud. It was great to talk to people I've never talked to before and the scenery and history was cool. Tahlia
An amazing place to spend a week! The flora and fauna at this place are awesome. A special thanks to Stevie, Qug, Andrew, Sally, Ninna and Mr Saville for making this opportunity possible... and fun. Daniel
Awesome trip! The wild unchanged scenery is striking. Qug's place was very interesting. The track is well kept but a little muddy at times, which is funny with the girls screaming. Benike
The trip was good, a very good experience I would say. It would have been much more enjoyable if I wasn't so scared of everything, and I'm looking forward to going home, and the plane ride with the lovely Holly. Elisha
I really enjoyed coming to the South West. I liked making new friends and getting to know everyone. I really enjoyed the history of Melaleuca and playing the King's home piano. The walk was hard but the scenery and beach were worth it. I definitely plan to come back! Shauni
I enjoyed making new friends and learning heaps about people I didn't know. The walk was very challenging but I'm glad I did it. Holly
I enjoyed the friendships that we made and I will miss everyone so much, and I was learning heaps about each other... I love you all! Kieran
1st November 2012
Point Eric to Melaleuca, 13 km
Word of the day: obstacle
Bird of the day: southern emu wren
Rubbish of the day: cray pot and two buoys (too heavy for us to collect)
Early start at 6.30am, we packed our bags, ate an energy starting breakfast and rolled up the very wet tents. It was raining almost all night so everything was pretty wet. Once everyone was ready we were keen to go so we checked our sites for rubbish and headed off into the wet wilderness ahead. There were many obstacles along the tracks back to Melaleuca, like muddy trails and steep hills, and lots and lots of water. It went above our ankles where it sat over the boardwalk and sometimes mud that was to knees. Elisha, Brianna and myself (Tahlia) fell over a few times and all of us had wet socks and shoes. It was uncomfortable but we put up with it and waded onwards. Tahlia
We got back and some people went to sleep. And we all miss our Mum's so much! Kieran
Today we walked back from Point Eric. The walk went really quickly. When we got back to Melaleuca we found the bushwalkers huts were empty so that's where we're camping tonight. Simon
After the walk we arrived back at camp and tonight we're allowed to sleep in the hut! After I set up my sleeping bag I looked around and it looked like a bomb shell had hit. The steps outside were covered in muddy shoes, gaiters, socks and overpants. Inside you couldn't see the floor because of everyone's gear. I am still trying my hardest to ignore it. After a couple of games of 'May I?' with Stevie we had dinner. I think everyone is getting tired because people are getting annoyed over the smallest things. We will see if I make it home! Daniel
31st October 2012
Point Eric and surrounds
Word of the day: debris
Question of the day: What is the technical (or more polite) term for animal poo?
Shorebird of the day: silver gull
History snippet: Qug's grandfather's name was Deny King and her great grandfather was called Charles King. Both were tin miners.
This morning we cleaned up the beach from our campsite to the point, which is the Cox Bight eastern beach. We found lots of plastic and rope which had come ashore off boats. There were loads of really cool shells, not like what you see at more used beaches. There were also lots of rocks on the beach in a way that I haven't seen before. Brianna
This discovered, with a little help from Qug, a fallen down hut which the miners used back in the day (1930's). It has also accommodated bushwalkers from as recently as the 1980's. It's basically a ruin now and not safe to go inside. Elisha was extremely amusing attracting all the leeches with her scent of fear. We crossed a small creek and had a drink which was brown and tannin stained. Qug showed us some rock walls which the miners built too. Benike
Today I overcame a huge fear. I was so proud of myself, we walked through bushes and scrub of leech infested areas. I was absolutely petrified. The walking track was only like 2 feet wide with vines, branches and ferns everywhere. I got so many leeches on my shoes and demanded them off- yuck! We finally got up to the hut and I was shaking in fear and almost crying but I kept on walking and faced my BIGGEST fear. Elisha
While some of the group went to see the mines others stayed back to work on their student projects. My project is on plants and discovering what plants are found at Cox Bight. All together I have found nine plants and five I have identified. They are Acacia verticillata (Prickly Moses), Anopterus glandulosus (Native laurel), Nematolepsis squamea (satinwood), Pimela and Monotoca glauca (goldey wood). Shauni
Weather overcast but cloudy and cool all day. Much better than the rain that we thought was coming. Phew. It gave everyone a chance to follow their projects and be part of what might be the last clean-up for the Costawatchers program. I'll upload the results next week when back in normal communication range. Great day and especially well done to Elisha. Andrew
30th October 2012
Melaleuca to Point Eric: 13 km
Word of the day: endemic
Question of the day: what does endemic mean?
History snippet: at point eric the old tin miners would load their ore onto boats to ship back to Hobart. Part of the slipway has been exposed on the beach.
This morning we woke up with the sun shining brightly in our eyes and to the sound of the chirping orange bellied parrot. We got up, got dressed and cooked ourselves some breakfast. My breakfast was three weetbix with powdered milk. We then packed up our gear, tents and food and headed out on our walk. First up myself and Elisha were the pack leaders. Edana
The walk turned out to be a challenge for most of us, but it was a great walk and there were some amazing things to see on the way. The track was a little rough going but it was worth it when we got to the beautiful beach at Point Eric. Simon
After we got back from our massive walk (which I muchly enjoyed) we set up camp. I went the whole walk of 13.5km without getting a single leach on me. We got to camp and as soon as I looked down I had a black, slimy leech sucking on my leg. I screamed so loud almost crying.I think the whole camp found out I had a leech on me. We had dinner soon after, then a wash. After that we just chilled. Elisha
Big day for the team trooping down to the beach and everyone battled through moments of fatigue really well. on reaching the coast my eyes immediately began looking for marine debris. It's been a while since the sand has between my toes and I'm loving it. Tomorrow, weather dependant, we'll spread out along the beach and surrounding country to explore further. Andrew
29th October 2012
Scottsdale to Melaleuca (for the team arriving)
Word of the day: quartzite
Question of the day: What is quartzite?
History fact: Qug (one of our fabulous guides) is the grand daughter of Deny King who mined tin here in the wilderness. Benike
Plant fact: Found the Melaleuca squamea (swamp melaleuca) for which this place is named after. It is scattered all over the plains. It has heaps of little purple flowers all over it. Brianna
By the time we sorted our gear we were pumped and ready to go.
The long trip was worth it when we stopped off at Campbell Town for hot chips! By the time we were at the airport to catch the little planes to Melaleuca we were excited. Holly
Once we got to Melaleuca we explored our campsite and checked out the lagoon. We all took so many photos of the beautiful mountains and landscapes. Once we were set up Qug took us on a little historical walk including some of her family's lives. She also showed us some birds including the Orange bellied parrot. Elisha
We saw a potoroo with a joey in the pouch which was cool. Simon
Big day, saw some Orange bellied parrots and the work area where Barbara and Peter mined for tin. Kieran
Great to see the three planes land safely and the ten Scottsdale students, teacher Geoff, guides Qug and Sally and camera person Ninna pile out. It's quite a crowd we've created down here but luckily there is only one other bushwalker and Will from Parks and Wildlife to annoy!
Everyone has settled into camp life quickly and we're about to take a night walk along a new aboriginal interpretation boardwalk. Might see some little critters along the way. Tomorrow we're planning to walk 13 km down to Point Eric in Cox Bight. Back to the coast at last. Andrew
28th October 2012
The expedition took a muddy turn for the past week as I was joined on the Port Davey Track by Adam and Stevie. They are both students at Rosny College and Adam was completing a navigation task for his outdoor education course. That meant he was in charge of leading us for the four days from Lake Pedder to here at Melaleuca. The track passes through open buttongrass plains (something South West Tasmania is famous for), around the foothills of mountain ranges and through gullies with fast flowing streams. We only saw the sun a few times and often it rained or even hailed.
There was black mud, brown mud, gravelly mud, stinky mud, slippery mud, funny mud and deadly serious mud. Our socks look like mud. Stevie has bad blisters, Adam has a swollen and painful knee and my walking boots have fallen apart. But we made it and still with smiles.
Adam has just flown out on a Cessna with Par Avion to get back to school and Stevie is staying down to join the Scottsdale 'Dorset Debris Hunters' when they arrive for their 5 day adventure starting tomorrow.
We'll be doing our final marine debris surveys for the Coastwatchers Expedition, learning about the tin mining history of Melaleuca and the critically endangered orange bellied parrots. Stay tuned for students reports throughout the coming week.
27th October 2012
Today marks the end of the trip for Adam, he's done a great job and leaves with rather swollen knees, whilst Stevie will stay on and have a day to rest her blister filled feet. We met Will the Park Ranger today. Will's job is to work with the Orange Bellied Parrot - do you know why Parks and Wildlife are focusing on this particular bird? Will is looking forward to meeting the Scottsdale High Students who are flying down to Melaleuca on Monday. Stay tuned it's going to be another great week!
26th October 2012
Farrell Point - Bathurst Narrows, 20km
Crustacean of the Day: Freshwater Burrowing Crayfish
Weather was terrible today hail, rain and lots of deep river crossing. Sun looks like it might come out at Melaleuca tomorrow.
25th October 2012
Lost World Plateau, 16km
It was a drizzle filled day and we arrived at camp tired and fighting off the leeches. We've set up camp by a creek tonight and I have just discovered that the sole of my boot is coming off (and we're only 2 days in!)
24th October 2012
The Crossing, 17km
Met Adam and Stevie from Rosny College and headed out on the track. Had a great day in the mud and they're both doing well.
23rd October 2012
Huon Campground - Lake Pedder, 12km
Bird of the day: Cheeky Currawong
22nd October 2012
Scotts Peak Dam Road, 36km
Plant of the day: Native Plum
I got lost today on a forestry road and briefly headed down a bushwalking track. Dragging my bike through the bush was hard work. Eventually found the main road.
20-21st October 2012
Florentine Road, 38km
Bird of the day: lyrebird
There hasn't been a single other person or vehicle on the Florentine Road today. It's a forestry road that makes a nice little short cut to reach Lake Pedder. It starts at Wayatinah and ends on the Gordon Road.
Yesterday, feeling lazy, I just stayed in the tent and around the campsite beside the road reading a book. But today it was a cold slog through rain and hail. On the surrounding mountains, Mt Field West, Stepped Hills and Clear Hill (both mountain peaks), there is a light dusting of snow. A lyrebird with long black tail feathers ran across the road, which is a rare sight. Only once before have I seen one in Tassie.
A pair were introduced in or near Mt Field National Park in the 1930's, and they seem to have established a healthy population in the area. My only other sighting was nearby at an abandoned mining settlement called Adamsfield, where they used to mine osmiridium.
This week there will only be location updates as the batteries have to last for the Scottsdale 'Dorset Debris Raiders', who are joining the adventure at Melaleuca from October 29th. I'll be walking down the Port Davey Track from the bottom of Lake Pedder with Adam and Stevie, two outdoor education students from Rosny College. If they're reading this, I'll be waiting at the Huon Campground from Monday night. Please bring a litre of methylated spirits (spare for the fuel stove) and maybe a caramel slice?
19th October 2012
Florentine Road, 50km
Next report Sunday.
17-18th October 2012
Lake Burbury to east of Derwent Bridge, 80km (2 days)
Word of the day: glacier
Question of the day: What countries might you find glaciers creeping along in right NOW?
Weather: Cold and cloudy with rain yesterday but clearing today.
Last night I found a dry campsite right under the Collingwood River bridge, so I couldn't get phone or sat phone reception to send a report. It had been a cold and wet day of riding up from Lake Burbury to an elevation of about 500 m ASL (above sea level). When I reached the Collingwood and saw the little patch of dry gravel under the first span, it was too cosy looking to continue. The tent didn't quite fit on the platform so I could see the river gurgling past where the fly hung out over a ledge. The water was up to 1.8 meters on the river height ruler. The Parks and Wildlife sign advises rafters not to depart unless the height was below 1.2 meters. This is where the brave souls set off down the famous Franklin River in rafts or kayaks.
This morning the tent was dry on the outside and wet on the inside where condensation had formed in the still air. Most of the rain had passed and it was a dark but dry sky I pedalled underneath. I was passing through part of the Franklin Wild Rivers National Park, which is part of Tasmania's much larger Wilderness World Heritage Area. Probably my favourite place in Australia. Around the flanks of Mt Arrowsmith the road climbs steadily through rainforest to reach the King Billy Saddle. The landscape changes to buttongrass plains and eucalypt forested moraines. Moraines are old piles of rocks that glaciers pushed into piles and deposited when Tasmania was much colder. Glaciers also carved the smooth U-shaped valleys like the one in the photo. Although we still get plenty of snow (even some today on the high peaks) the climate is not cold enough to make glaciers in Tassie anymore. You might be able to research it, but I think it was about 8000-10000 years ago that the last glaciers melted away?
At Derwent Bridge I passed the road that goes up to the Lake St Clair National Park and continued on the Lyell Highway. After the Smithton expedition I accidentally sent my 4 litre water bladder home with Sally and Ish. That means I have to camp near water because I only have the 750ml drink bottle as a reservoir. Luckily today I found a quiet forestry road with a creek crossing it and a clear patch to pitch the tent. After 2 days of wet weather I'm starting to dry out and feel more comfortable.
16th October 2012
Queenstown to Lake Burbury, 22km
Word of the day: hydro
Question of the day: How is electricity generated from water in dams?
Weather: Frequent showers from the west with gusty wind.
Rough outside the tent at the moment and I couldn't peg it down properly because I'm camped on a old roadway. The wind is funnelling up Lake Burbury and slamming into the back of the tent. Hopefully, it'll pass soon. I didn't get far out of Queenstown today after lingering to pick up some last supplies before a long stretch between supermarkets. Actually, there will only be the roadhouse at Derwent Bridge in a few days, and after that no re-supply until the plane brings students and food tubs down to Melaleuca.
With the extra rolled oats, sultanas, muesli bars and metho the bike was as heavy as it's been for the whole journey. There is a long and winding hill (mountain really) out of Queenstown which I walked most of the way up. At a little rest stop with shelter I paused to watch a heavy shower pass and looked down over the mining town. Historically the hillsides around Queenstown were infamous for being stripped of all plants. This was due to early miners chopping down forests to feed furnaces for smelting the copper ore. With the trees gone, the thin rainforest soils was easily eroded by the high rainfall. And, to make it even tougher for the plants to grow back, the sulphorous (check spelling on that one!) smoke from the smelting reacted with rainwater to produce poisonous 'acid rain'. These days the process has changed and the plants are beginning to make a comeback. A sign told me that about 4 billion dollars worth of metals have been mined near Queenstown, over more than 100 years.
Over the hill I rolled down past Gormanston and Linda, old towns that are now just a lonely collection of houses beside the road. Reaching Lake Burbury the wind was strong and right behind me. It feels like decades since I had a helpful tailwind so it was an enjoyable glide towards the bridge crossing the lake. This lake was formed by building dams across the rivers downstream. In Tassie we make a lot of our electricity from dammed rivers and their power stations. I've found an old road to camp on that must be the original one before the lake filled up in the early 1990's. The bitumen runs straight into the water and disappears!
15th October 2012
Queenstown rest day
Word of the day: hibernate
No photo today and not much to report either. I've been hibernating in a hostel room here in Queenstown all day without even going outside! That sounds (and is) horrible, but I've been busily catching up on correspondence and researching fold up kayaks for next year's expedition. Over the coming four weeks there might be days when there is no, or a very brief, report because I'll have to conserve batteries on laptop and sat phone more carefully. Great to see your contributions on the forum and, even though it's going to be a few weeks before we return to the coast, we'll continue to explore Tasmania every day (except today).
13-14th October 2012
Corinna to Queenstown, 84km
Just posted extra photos from last week's expedition with Smithton High students. We only had satellite reception so were limited to one photo per day. Have a look below at some of the bonus action. I've spent the weekend moving further south from Corinna to Queenstown. It has been spectacular riding (and a lot of walking up hills) with a mixture of rainforest, heath and wet eucalypt forests. The West Coast's history of mining is everywhere with exploration tracks darting off the side of the road and broken down ruins of past glory days. There are still some major mines in the area including here at Queenstown where the huge copper mine still operates.
Last night I found a special little campsite beside the Dundas River. I followed a 4WD track beside the river until it crossed the water. It looked shallow so I took my shoes off and waded in with the bike. The water grabbed at the panniers and tried to take the bike and trailer down river. But I held on and emerged on the other side only to see a perfect tent site on the bank that I'd just left. So back over I went! Water had leaked into all the bags but it was worth it to have a secret tent site right beside the river. Today I pushed uphills or rolled down them until reaching Queenstown. I'll stay here tomorrow to recharge all the batteries and wash some clothes before heading towards more mountains on the way to Lake St Clair by week's end.
12th October 2012
Pieman Heads to Corinna, 1km walk + ferry ride
Word of the day: hectic
Question of the day: How did the Pieman get it's name?
Weather: Just a little drizzle after pack up and on the ferry ride.
Another chapter of this year's Skullbone adventures is over. The Smithton High 'Rubbish Raiders' explored the Pieman Heads area over the past five days. Perhaps there was more walking, cooking, fishing and kelp cricket than marine debris collecting, but it was a cracker anyway.
Yesterday we did manage to get close enough to the wave swept shores to grab a bag full of junk and I'll tally up the results shortly. This morning we managed to get the tents down before it started to drizzle, and walked the short journey to where the ferry could pick us up. It was a tired crew who loaded onto the dinghy with grubby packs (and leaking metho bottle... Brooke...) and steamed up to the bus at Corinna. Special thanks to David Buchanan (teacher), Sally Prescott (guide) and Ish Saraswati (cameraman) who combined to make a great team with the eight brave students. And here are their last thoughts top end the week.
The trip was enjoyable and I got a lot of experience out of it. Even though I found it really hard at the start, by the end I was having heaps of fun and it's something I won't forget. Brooke
I loved the trip. Great people and good fishing. Joseph
This week was hectic. Legit. Zac started us off with a great idea of making a cricket ball out of kelp. Next minute, Joseph cuts his finger open... But in all seriousness, it was a great opportunity to meet new people and do something out of the ordinary. My highlight was Joseph's rap (which I can't repeat here). Thank you America, peace out. Morgan
I really liked the trip. In the beginning it was hard but the rewards were worth it. Getting to the Interview River was my highlight, it was definitely worth it and I won't forget it. Laura
This week has been very interesting. The most important part would be the new friends and experiences. Sally was really cool too. Zac
This week has been awesome for me. This may be a once in a lifetime experience, it was fun and exciting. Thank you guys for this adventure. Alana
This week was a once in a lifetime for me too. My highlights were camping for four nights and walking to the Interview River. But the best one was driving the Arcadia 2 (ferry) back down the Pieman. Zack
My week was a good mixture of challenges and hardship. I was challenged by walking long distances and I enjoyed every part of it. Eloise
I was apprehensive at first heading into the isolated West Coast with eight students. The guidance and support of Sally and Andrew was excellent. It was great to see the students grow individually and as a team who, under normal circumstances, would not work together. Sensational! Mr 'Buchy' Buchanan
And so that leaves me on the banks of the Pieman, in a tent, with the bike parked outside in the drizzle. I'll stay here the night at Corinna and have a meal at the hotel before catching the barge across and heading further south tomorrow. It's only two weeks until the final chapter in the Skullbone expeditions unfolds in the depths of the South West wilderness with Scottsdale High.
11 October 2012
Coastal camp to Pieman Heads camp, 2km + daywalks
Word of the day: constellation
Question of the day: Can you identify 1 constellation?
Animal of the day: Common wombat
Today we got up at 7.30am to eat a slow breakfast. On the track we walked back to our first campsite. This afternoon we went on a fishing trip but it turned out to be a walk through the bush, walking over logs that had a five foot drop to a rocky bottom! Joseph
On the walk this afternoon we crossed a precarious log and trekked through the bush when we couldn't follow the coastline. Our aim was to get to the Pieman River from the coastal camp. We finished up having to walk through waist deep water around the edge of slippery rocks. We found our way back on the same track we came to our first camp on. Eloise
While the girls were devil hunting (Brooke and Laura went searching for animal tracks in mud and sand), and the boys with Eloise went trekking I stayed at camp and studied! My project while out here is astronomy, and it was a tad hard to look at the stars so I got the books out to triple check the constellations. Tonight looks clear so we can check them out properly. After some solid studying (5 minutes give or take), Mr Buchanan got stuck into some Monty Python re-enactment everyone returned and banter resumed. Morgan
Today, I went for a walk to take photos of the land and rocks as I got closer to the Pieman Heads. We discovered a pool filled with foam as the waves crashed into the tannin coloured water. It turned to foam that looked like melted ice cream that was so tempting to jump in and drink it. Later I took more photos of a cute wombat, lots of photos! Alana
10th October 2012
Day walk to Interview River, 14km
Word of the day: interview
Question of the day: What was the swell forecast for the west coast of Tasmania today?
Animal of the day: Tasmanian devil
It was an 8 o'clock start today with beautiful clear skies. We decided to try to make it to the Interview River which is north from our base camp. It was roughly 14 km with some hills and sand dunes. At about 9.30am we set off with day packs and high hopes of reaching our destination. Laura
By the time we crested the final dune everyone was about finished. When we finally saw the river we practically flew to it's edge. We fell down the dune to the riverbank and sat there thinking about lunch. The huge waves that have been hammering the coast sent surges up the river that nearly washed us away, so we decided to vacate to a more suitable spot to eat. Zac
The return to camp, being led by Joseph and Zack, was set at a quick speed. After 2 hours we were back at camp and many of us had a wash in the creek. At 5pm we started dinner and that was followed by a few laughs and discussions. Alana
A big personal highlight for me was watching a Tassie devil wander across a sand dune in broad daylight. Normally they're nocturnal creatures so it was a special treat. It looked healthy and had a large white blaze across it's rump. With wombats, wallabies, cormorants, a sea eagle, a cat, rabbits and burrowing crayfish (their mud chimneys anyway), it's been a lively expedition so far. Which from that list are introduced species? Andrew
9th October 2012
Pieman Heads to up the coast 3km
Word of the day: saturated
Question of the day: When is it going to stop raining? (it has now...)
Fish of the day: parrot fish
Weather: Clear morning, NW breeze, rain from mid morning to late afternoon, sunny again.
This morning we awoke to our first official day in the wilderness. We had breakfasts of porridge and muesli, packed up our tents and gear and moved on. During the walk we encountered some obstacles- mainly water and rocks! Mostly we stayed near the coastlines and sometimes even below it, where the rocks were especially slippery. We stopped a couple of times to inspect big pieces of marine debris, a rusty old car and multiple alcohol related pieces of rubbish.
A couple of kilometers up the coast we found a campsite with a creek (fresh water) and good flat ground. After set up it rained steadily so some of us chilled out in our tents before exploring further up the coast without packs on. It kept raining so a group of us (me, Morgan and Zac) played cricket with a home made kelp ball. We got saturated. Later we made dinner near our tents and talked about our new memories. Eloise
It was a real west coast day today but the team dealt with the only way you can- they got on with it without complaining. Each of the students, as well as helping me do a few marine debris surveys, will be working on personal interest projects. Today I was lucky to help Joseph with his project... fishing! He caught two parrot fish on a hook and sinker set-up. Tomorrow we're aiming to day walk to the Interview River, exploring the coast along the way. Andrew
8th October 2012
Corinna to Pieman Heads via ferry and 1km walk
Word of the day: sushi
Question of the day: When is this bus ride going to end?
Fact of the day: The biggest (7kg) gold nugget ever found in Tasmania was up the Pieman River.
Weather: slight wind, clear sky, late shower.
Today eight Smithton High students all gathered at school around 8.30am.
After a long packing process and a verrrrrry long bus ride, we finally arrived at Corinna. We met up with Andrew and caught the boat up to the Pieman Heads. The weather was on side today as it was lovely and sunny, but most of us accidentally slipped over in the mud, lost shoes and wet clothes on our way to our first camp.
Once we set up our tents and got dry clothes on we were pretty right.
Some of us went exploring and got our clothes wet... yet again.
We cooked our tea and now everyone is sitting around talking about good times. Hopefully the rest of the week goes well. Brooke
It was a relief to see the bus pull up with the team aboard just after lunch, phew! They've done a great job as we began the third of the Skullbone expeditions with high school students. This week you can follow the adventure as we explore the wild coast north of the Pieman River. Andrew
6-7th October 2012
Past Arthur River to north of Corinna, 75km (2 days)
The best way to decribe the past two days is sunshine and showers, buttongrass and bush. Since leaving the sealed road I've only seen a couple of cars and talked to one person. He was walking along the road carrying a camera with a microphone and told me he was searching for Tassie Tigers with a couple of friends. They were planning to make a documentary. It's the sort of place where you could never be 100% certain, but I reckon he'll need a lot of luck to find a tiger!
The riding has been exhausting with short, sharp hills and spinning wheels the only way forward. Even on the downhills I have to apply the brakes so I don't bounce off the rough surface too hard and break something. So far the bike is holding together well, and it only needs to keep going for a few more weeks. Apart from a tiger hunter, I've seen lots of Bennett's wallabies, a couple of common wombats and oodles of birds. Hopefully, when the Smithton team arrive tomorrow, we'll spot some Tassie devils down on the coast. The weather still looks okay for the week ahead, with a few showers coming through to keep us from getting smelly.
Amazingly, there is normal phone reception on the ridge I'm camped on tonight. In the distance I can just see the square topped waste pile of the Savage River mine. They dig up haematite and magnetite which are minerals that contain iron and oxygen (called iron oxides). The iron oxide is broken down in a mill so the iron can be used to make things like steel.
Tomorrow, it will be a short (but steep) ride to Corinna where I'll wait for the Smithon students to arrive with their teacher David, guide Sally and cameraman Ishta. Together we'll be boarding the Arcadia 2 to motor down to the mouth of the Pieman River. The captain will ferry us across to the north bank and leave us to fend for ourselves until Friday. The only sneaky plan I have for the students is to help gather more marine debris. The rest of the time, they'll have to work it out for themselves! Should be fun so stay tuned.