Wilson’s Prom. N.P.
Northern Prom. Hiking circuit.
Easter 2017 April 14-17th.
For the third Easter long weekend in succession I went and hiked around the Northern Prom.
Being a VNPA trip leader with 3 other walkers ( read ‘masochistic adventurers’) , and sans one other hiker who pulled out at the last minute despite driving as far as Fish Creek in South Gippsland ,the trip was ready to go as planned.
With a very early start in the dark in the wee hours of Good Friday fellow VNPA hiker Grant and I travelled in my car to the Prom. Being a public holiday and still dark we found there was very little traffic on the road and we arrived at Stockyard campsite at 8.30 am , an hour ahead of schedule.
It did absolutely bucket down with rain while driving between Fish Creek and Stockyard campsite but the weather forecast was predicting generally fine conditions after a morning shower.
We moved onto the designated meeting point at 5 Mile Road car park.
The others were already there. Shortly thereafter we set off along the endless gravel road that is 5 mile road.
A morning nutrition stop was taken at Barry Creek campsite where the creek was flowing well.It was quite overcast and looked like it might have rained again but it cleared up and later became sunny which was pleasant.
Eventually we reached 5 Mile beach. The surf was wild and pounding the sand with great force and as per my theme of finding the best campsites ahead of other walkers we powered on North up the beach to the mouth of Miranda creek.
Once we set up our tents in the ti trees , then the underpants only mission of crossing the creek to fetch fresh water from the stream opposite the campsite was the next task to undertake.
Finding the shallowest place to cross the creek with the tide coming in involved trial and error and eventually our water filters were successfully utilized to pump up enough of the trickling fresh water to see to our needs and carry it back to camp.
After dinner and song or three on my guitar we went off to bed having walked about 18 km.s on day one.
The next day we rose at day break and packed up.
The creek crossing was at a lower ebb which was good but it was still a pants and boots off creek crossing.
Once on the other bank and fully dressed and booted up , we scrambled up the very steep overgrown track that crosses Monkey point. Higher up some fine views became visible and it was evident that some track clearing work had been done since I trekked this route 12 months earlier.
We made good time to Johnny Souey Cove where we stocked up on water , where the stream was flowing well and much easier to access.
Then came the dreaded 3 Mile point traverse. In the past two years in 2015 and 2016 there has been no track there at all. It has been the toughest bit of bush bashing I have ever had to do.
I had warned the others with horror stories and descriptions of how the scrub was so dense it was impenetrable and it would have made TV Outdoors hard man and ex SAS member Bear Gryllis weep and want his mum !
The track has been cut and was easy to find and easy to walk on. I was amazed but it was too good to be true. Whoever did this job chickened out half way and just left a track with pink flagging tape that leads straight down to the evil rocks of 3 Mile point. A place not to slip over , break a bone and go falling into the sea when the tide is coming in!
So the recently cut 3 Mile point path is incomplete and several hundred metres of the last section requires rock hopping which is physically taxing and requires a lot of concentration when carrying a full pack.
I thought to myself “this is nonsense”. I am not big on rock scrambling above huge waves so I pushed straight back up into the evil scrub of 3 Mile point. Very soon I was bushed and like a Vietnam Veteran who has the horrors of war re kindled by some related memory or present day experience I was stuck in the 2015 and 2016 3 Mile point bush bashing nightmare all over again.
I was in fact not far from the beach where the others had safely arrived. Lynn came to find me and I escaped , but not without being reminded of how much brute physical energy and strength is required to push through that wall of scrub for only 100 metres or so.
So a note from a VNPA walk leader. There is still no track through the last third of the scrub when walking over 3 Mile Point and heading north. If you are heading south from Lighthouse point please keep this in mind.
With the tide coming in we were obliged to press on to successfully reach Lighthouse point while the sand on 3 Mile beach was still visible. At high tide the entire beach is submerged, you cannot walk on it and access to the rope which you use to pull yourself up Lighthouse point becomes impossible.
Finally after a slog up the beach we stopped for lunch under the unmanned beacon at Lighthouse point.
It remained cloudy but rain seemed unlikely.
The next section of day two of the hike was very overgrown and the first half of Tin Mine Track heading west was very slow going and was often a scrub bash without any views.
The track improved a bit as we headed NW and finally we arrived at China Man’s Long beach , all very exhausted but with 3 kms left.
Grant, Lynn and Scotty were so worn out that they missed the turn off for the campsite on the headland in the ti trees at Tin Mine Cove. They camped on the beach next to the water flowing into the sea at Tin Mine Creek.
After setting up camp a quick dip in the sea was very refreshing. The 5 Mile Beach to Tin Mine Cove trek never becomes any easier. It is a long and strenuous 18km day of hiking.
Bush fires caused the Tin Mine Cove dunny to burn down some years ago .Unfortunately some people lit camp fires at Tin Mine Cove and there was toilet paper strewn everywhere at Tin Mine Camp.
This sort of behavior ruins what is meant to be an unspoiled wilderness.
With little wind on the beach all the campers retired for an early night. I was over exhausted and tossed and turned all night . I was also thinking about the crossing the much vaunted China Man’s swamp the next day.
Day 3 and with another Pakistani 8 am start ( 8.25 am ) we headed back over the headland over Tin Mine Cove and up China Man’s Long beach. The tide was out which provided a dramatic contrast to the previous day ‘s walk along the same sand.
Thousands of crabs were seen in action along the tidal sand flats of Corner Inlet in a superb display of nature in action. The weather was mild and dry and the views of the mainland and the hills to the south of the Prom added to the scenery.
Eventually we reached the junction where the sign post directs walkers towards Lower Barry Creek campsite.
Although only 12 kms in total , day 3 of the circuit was no easy stroll. Often there is no track at all, one imagines that one can see track markers in the form of pink or white flagging tape and either orange or white plastic poles. They are mirages , pink flowers or faded dried old grass tree stems.
Some sections were very tough, pushing through seemingly impenetrable scrub and walls of thickets.
When we reached the orange arrow on the ankle high post in the middle of nowhere , which must be a joke, we knew it was time to swing away from Chinaman’s knob and go SW towards Chinaman’s creek.
We took lunch underneath some old Banksia trees. Then it was time to resume the team work of navigating through the featureless scrub and swamp lands. The whole area including the two creek crossings were dry, they were not even muddy which made for a small mercy in what is a long and slow day on foot.
Eventually having crossed the much talked about Chinaman’s Creek and pushed through a wall of thicket to emerge with the low saddle in between low hills in sight we knew the end of the swamp was not far off.
Looking back across towards Chinaman’s knob we could see it was not very far but it was a grind to get through it.
Then came the long slog through the Banksia forest using team work again to spot the more closely spaced flagging tape that was attached to the trees along the route.
We were all worn out and just ploughed on knowing the campsite and fresh water could not be that far off. Yet again the GPS was very useful in helping find the way .
Finally we arrived at Lower Barry Creek. We were the first party there and got the first choice of the tent sites which was a plus. The creek was flowing well.
Two other parties appeared shortly afterwards and the entire site on both banks of the creek was at maximum capacity for tent space.
It was a cool , clear and starry night deep in the jungle however most people were in bed and off to sleep at about 8 pm .
It was another clear morning and we four VNPA walkers rose at day break to get ready to walk the last 10 kms out back to the cars at 5 Mile Car park.
The track between Lower Barry creek and the 5 Mile road has become more overgrown since Easter 2016 but we managed to find our way to the top of the big rock and rest for morning snacks and photos of the views Mt. Vereker and Corner Inlet.
Coming off the big rock there is no indication of where the foot pad continues and the GPS helped us to locate the most humane route out of the scrub and back to 5 Mile road.
The last 6 kms were a slog along the gravel surfaced management road that is 5 Mile road. The weather on Easter Monday was dry and sunny but not too warm to be walking , just right really.
Seeing the cars at the end of the 63 kms that we had walked in four days , was a big relief, but wait , my car battery was flat and fortunately we were able to escape by way of a fellow bushwalker’s jumper leads assisted start.
Never say never again but next Easter I may hike somewhere else. I have to say having walked the whole Northern Prom. Circuit three Easters in a row , it is tough but always memorable. It is also never as overcrowded as the Southern Prom. Often is.