Day 5 on the Great Ocean Walk – Moonlight Head to Wreck Beach

A cooler day so we decide to walk from Moonlight Head to Wreck Beach. While it’s only 10 km, it’s tricky working out start and end points that work. Literature says it’s a difficult but rewarding walk involving 333 steps down to Wreck Beach, with the anchors of the Marie Gabrielle (1869) and the Fiji (1891) wedged in the rock – a reminder of how treacherous and dangerous the sea can be along this sweep of coastline.

Fortunately we sleep well despite the heat. The fan cooled the hot box cabin a little, a cool shower just before retiring, wet bath towel over the body, and life is good. A cooler wind smashed leaves, nuts and twigs onto the roof of the kitchen during breakfast, and a teeny bit of rain ramped up the humidity.

BOOT NEWS

The great thing about today is Kim spoke with a lady who owns a shoe shop. She suggested to loosen the laces around the toes, tie a knot below the ankle to keep these loose, then tighten the laces above that point. This enables the toes to move freely, but keeps the hiking boot firmly in place. I did this and it worked a treat …no more toe pain for the rest of the trip. Such a simple remedy!

OFF TO MOONLIGHT HEAD

The usual drive to the end point with both cars begins, then a trek to the start of Moonlight Head with one car. It’s taking up a lot of time to do this each day so I can see why others hike and camp the entire route – it certainly saves a lot of commute time.

To get to Moonlight Head is a little weird and wonderful. You need to travel about 15 kilometres past Lavers Hill towards the 12 Apostles, then take the turn off for Moonlight Head Road. After 10 minutes along an unsealed road, you arrive at a car park.

The start point is the edge of a farm, which the owners have managed to denude of any living thing other than a few interested cows. Love to know why farmers continue to feel the need to completely strip the land. And we wonder why the climate is changing.

A climb over a style, a wash of the boots to prevent cinnamon fungus, and off we tramp into the forest.

My goal today is to take creative photos – whatever takes thine fancy. Kim likes the idea too, so the pair of us dawdle along in a happy fashion photographing ferns, flowers, sticks, rocks, dead sea creatures, shells etc.

Near the entrance to Wreck Beach, we deviate to look at the 1905 Moonlight Head cemetery. It’s nicely done with a lovely entrance, but not too many graves to peruse yet. One could take that as a good thing!

WRECK BEACH

There’s a degree of conjecture about the number of steps down to Wreck Beach. We counted and got 333. Other websites say 366, 322 etc. The steps themselves weren’t that bad – just take your time. Happily, coming back up didn’t seem to take as long as going down. However, you want to do this walk during low tide otherwise you can’t see the anchors.

A cuppa and lunch on the rocks, then off on our separate ways for a good fossick – Aileen for sea glass (she makes beautiful jewellery with it) and the rest of us for shells and other titbits. Very cloudy, trying to rain, lovely cool temperature though. Eventually we reach the section of the beach where old anchors are embedded into the rock.

A LITTLE SHIPPING HISTORY …

Information taken from the 12 Apostles website:
The Marie Gabrielle, a large steel hulled French registered and crewed barque ran aground at 1am on Wreck Beach, just west of Moonlight Head. The crew waited until daylight and all got to shore safely in the ship’s boat. Four crew members stayed with the boat with the remainder heading west along the coast bound for Cape Otway.

Without water and food and faring badly by the third day, the crew came across the lightkeeper’s children on a beach below the lighthouse. The frightened children, not understanding French and alarmed by the crew’s dishevelled appearance, ran off and got help from the lightkeeper Henry Ford.

A rescue party was sent to recover the remaining crew and all were hosted locally for over a month until the twice yearly lighthouse supply boat could return them to Melbourne. Mystery surrounds the fate of South Pacific islanders that were also crew on the boat.


You do have to watch where you walk on Wreck Beach. There’s lots of holes filled with water and creatures, but it’s a pleasure to wander around and see what’s in them. Photographing the anchors against various backdrops and in different lights would be delicious.

Back up the 333 steps, into the car and off to Port Campbell to check out Sow & Piglets, a local micro-brewery and backpacker’s lodge. Clean as a whistle, a kitchen to die for, not a single fly in sight – be great to stay here. Interesting spot for a drink with quirky decor which Kim and I loved. Sadly I’m not into beer, so a strawberry stout did the trick … it was pleasant enough and a sure-fire way to relax.

Back late at Bimbi Park and its ubiquitous flies in the kitchen and dining areas. Daryle cooked a staggeringly good pasta with zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, cream and Worcestershire sauce. We were in heaven … what a way to go!

Read about Day 6 …

Day 2 on the Great Ocean Walk – Blanket Bay to Cape Otway

The temperature’s warming up for our 13km hike today, starting from the Blanket Bay campground and finishing at the Cape Otway lighthouse.

One car is dropped off at Cape Otway parking area, then we drive to Blanket Bay, dropping off bandaids and socks to Aoife and James. They’ve had a rough night. No sleeping mats = cold and uncomfortable + no cooking facilities = no hot food or drinks. Kinda adds up to no fun.

Map showing Blanket Bay to Cape Otway
Blanket Bay to Cape Otway lighthouse map

At 09:45, the Tramping Sisters head off in jaunty fashion, enjoying spectacular scenery and some wonderful creatures en route – gang-gang cockatoos, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, koalas, a (very small) snake, loads of insects and butterflies, and unfortunately too many biting March flies.

Lots of stairs, wooden paths and hills today. Stopped at Parker Inlet for a snack around 11:30, before hiking the never-ending haul up Parker Hill. There’s steps all the way up and you have to admire the people who built it because it’s a seriously steep hill.

Aoife and James caught up to us earlier, so we rested together at Parker Inlet before they took off at a fast clip. They want to go much further than we do. The Tramping Sisters, fortunately, do not do fast clips. A school group trudged past us with full backpacks – the last straggle of students walked like life sucked and they’d do anything to find a comfy chair and spend their lives on a mobile device.

Later we lunch at Crayfish Bay and Daryle, Kim and I risk life and limb jumping in for a swim. Let’s just say the water temp was very clear and fresh but we weren’t in for very long. Not a soul around – blissful.

WHAT’S HURTING TODAY?

My toes aren’t too good, I know I’m going to lose a few toenails out of this and I can feel little blisters forming on the edge of my big toe pad. How do I get these boots to work? Are they too small?

Kim’s backpack is considerably lighter but it’s no more comfortable for the lesser load. Fortunately everyone else is hunky dory.

REACHING THE LIGHTHOUSE

Much later, just as we reach our Use By date, the lighthouse is spotted in the distance. I change into walking sandals and the relief is immediate. I can wiggle my toes!

We thought we’d visit the lighthouse but entry is a ridiculous $20pp. You cannot visit the cafe without forking out the entry fee either. Oh I don’t think so – that’s a large rip-off and very disappointing. Everyone was hanging out for a scone with jam and cream, so we settle for an icecream instead.

Aiofe and James are staying at the same campground as us. Their plan to go further was thwarted by exhaustion plus the need for a shower, a decent night’s sleep and a hot meal. There’s a wide demographic staying at Bimbi Park – mostly Chinese/Asian but also Americans, Germans, French, English and our Irish pals.

Notes:

  1. If this was a Camino where you sleep with 458 others, I figure it’d be very disruptive. Snoring, moaning, teeth grinding, bad smells and trips to the toilet (not that we girls did any of these things because we’re pure and hygienic). But a nice hotel room does start looking good …
  2. When it’s hot weather and you’re in a little bunk room where space is at a premium, the air doesn’t circulate – it stays hot and stuffy. We
    eventually borrowed a fan which made a difference.
  3. To keep cool on these hot nights, drape a wet towel over your body and keep a bottle of water handy to re-wet it. Saved me from insanity a couple of nights running.

Read more about Day 3 …

Possum wallaby woes

With the big dry affecting many parts of Gippsland in Victoria (Australia), the amount of feed for wallabies, possums and other wildlife has diminished.  So what do they do when there’s no fresh grass?

With drought affecting Phillip Island and no sign of rain on the long term weather forecast, it’s looking a bit grim for the hungry hordes of animals on the reserve out the back of our place.  When they run out of green grass, what do they do? Why, they come checking out nearby properties for any titbit that’s green and edible.

Here the wildlife can choose to browse any number of properties and farms.  However, many are fully fenced, located in suburbia, or don’t have gardens because they’re only occupied for a few months each year.  That leaves places where humans reside during summer, and who plant and tend juicy horticultural things in our gardens.

ONCE UPON A TIME …

Our house backs onto a reserve.  Once upon a time it contained mangroves, shrubs and tall native grasses.  Seawater flooded much of it at high tide.  Of course, it would’ve been loved and used by many animals and hundreds of different birds.

Then a moron came along and turned it into a farm, building a land bridge to stop the tide, and whacking in cows so they could stroll along eating what little grass they could find and trampling on the native grasses, plants and mangroves.

One day about 6-8 years ago (can’t recall exactly when), the moron removed the cows and allowed the land to go back to its natural state.  And wow, has it flourished without that constant trampling.  Unfortunately rabbits and foxes moved in.  The Council undertook a baiting program to remove foxes from the island, but you’ll all know what happens to rabbit numbers when there’s no longer any predators.

MARCH OF THE MULTITUDES

Rabbits aside, the wallabies moved in.  Then the Cape Barren geese built nests in the swaying grasses, along with ducks and purple swamp hens (affectionally called pukekos in our household, because that’s what I knew them as growing up in NZ).

A plethora of other smaller birds also became common, and the possums think life is akin to nirvana.  We’ve even got snakes, echidnas and blue tongued lizards.  It’s helped enormously that a few neighbours added a permanent supply of water in troughs along the boundary fence.

So a multitude of critters great and small now have water, edible food, and places to hide and sleep.  The price they pay for that is competition for food and having to tolerate annoying human beings on one side of the fence.  They get their own back, as you will see.

SUMMER TIME AND THE LIVING IS …

In early summer, the animals and birds are very well behaved.  They eat their grass, wild fruits and seeds, they drink the water, they blink at us from a distance, and in the late afternoon they may visit a human’s property for a sticky beak.

Come late summer, with no decent rain for a few months and grasses effectively dried up, many creatures are struggling to find enough to eat.  So they come a-calling.  Every last single one of them.

WHO’S BAD …

  1. Possums

Possums are by far the worst.  Scungy fluffy cute little critters they may be, but they’re incredibly effective at knocking off everything.

Last week, in one night, they ate the ENTIRE crop of the neighbour’s flourishing and massive passionfruit crop.  That was hard to bear.

You cannot grow herbs or fruits without them being decimated.  Same deal for any vegetables at all – including hot chillies – because they’ll be munched by rats, rabbits, wallabies, possums, pukekos and a few other lurking creatures I’m probably not aware of.

Possums also love flower seedlings, and any plant with pelagonium or geranium in its title.  They pull them out by the roots, leaving nothing to continue growing.

Normally wildlife don’t touch succulents.  But when possums get peckish, the succulent collection is prey to a horror story.  Mine sit on a table above wallaby height, and the possums have to get through a barrage of spikey yukka plants to reach them.  So at this stage, they’re relatively untouched.  The neighbour, however, has suffered a posse of possums having a late night party and knocking the pots off their shelf, followed by the indignity of being trodden on and nibbled.

ALL my geraniums have suffered badly.  The larger ones planted in the garden have been jumped on and squashed flat during a myriad of night time possum parties.  Then they chow down on any juicy new growth, leaving a few bare stalks.  If the geranium is in a pot, it finds itself upside down on the ground and pulled out by its roots.

  1. Wallabies

Next up on the Bad List are the wallabies.  Anything they can reach is subject to a taste test, then nibbled at until destroyed.  Even caught a baby wallaby on my back verandah chewing at a spiny spikey succulent.

When really hungry, they chow down on succulents of all kinds including our huge jade bushes, shrubs (irrelevant whether they’re native or not), pelargoniums, herbs and climbers.

I’ve double fenced many areas, which the weeds have taken advantage of because it’s that much harder to reach over and pull them out.

baby-wallaby-drinking
Baby wallaby drinking from our dilapidated birdbath

wallaby-who-me
Young wallaby in the reserve – “it wasn’t me …”

  1. Pukekos

Don’t actually mind pukekos.  They just mosey around and mind their own business, pecking the tripes out of the lawn to find juicy bugs.  They’re murder on water sources though –  dig up plants and poop into the water rendering it undrinkable for anything.

  1. Pheasants

Yes you’re correct, pheasants aren’t native to Australia.  Neither are dogs, cats, rabbits, foxes and a squillion other creatures the Brits left us with (yes, I’m from English/Scottish stock so this failure to think things through might’ve had something to do with my ancestors, but I like to think they were smarter than that).

Two pheasants escaped from a (now defunct) local pheasant farm some years ago (see my previous post).  Ferdinand was the original escapee and somehow Felicity has done a runner as well.  We’re very grateful – he was a lonely boy without her.  Figured a snake would’ve got them in the intervening years, but they’re actually alive and well.

They like to scratch through the soil, digging up grass and plants and leaving bare dry earth in its place.  It’s a nuisance, but at least they’re not eating my remaining precious plants or stealing lemons from the neighbour’s lemon tree.

pheasant-bkyard-sml
Ferdinand pecking in the backyard

END OF GARDEN CAPERS

So there you go.  We love the wildlife deeply, even have a possum box on the back verandah, but I really wish they’d go visit someone else’s property.

In the meantime, I continue to learn the lesson to only plant things they hate to eat, and buy all my fruit and vegetables from the supermarket.