Portland to Cubbys, Great South West Walk

Well, here we go again. Somehow I’ve got to tackle a write up of my second attempt at the Great South West Walk (GSWW). Should I write up an extensive intro for all of the punters who have no idea about what previously happened? I guess as a dedicated blogger I should, so if you already know the story I suggest you sit back with a quick shot of heroin and come back in a few paragraphs time.

Now, here’s the tale of woe. Occasional hiking sidekick, the Smuffin and I set out on this 250 km hike, but after a run-in with some leeches and blisters in the Cobboboonee Forest I decided to give up just short of the half-way point at the sleepy coastal town of Nelson.

I returned home to Melbourne and spent about 0.7 of a second wondering if I should return the following week once the feet were healed and attempt a second tilt. I had enough time off work to fit it in and the logical method would be to pick up from where we abandoned. What? Are you nuts? No, I decided to go back and attempt the entire she-bang from the official start at Portland.

I ran this idea past Smuffin and he considered it to be completely stupid, but he did contemplate meeting me at Nelson to walk the return leg he’d missed out on before. Mm… Okay, that was a plan, but there’s more, as I thought of a few things to make it easier for myself.

First of all, the trusty food drop. I wasn’t keen on lugging a weeks worth of stuff until reaching Nelson for a resupply, so I did three drops of food and supplies. One at both Moleside and Tarragal camps with the last one left at the Nelson kiosk/post office/shop/something. Actually, that shop was great and they refused to take my name or contact details. I guess if I didn’t turn up they’d have a few days worth of really crap dehydrated food to munch on? Anyway, I used pretty good camouflage skills on the tubs in the bush. Here’s the one at the Tarragal camp.


Food drop at Tarragal Camp. See it?

So, that was done and now I guess all I had to do was walk? Oh yeah, one more thing. Due to the complete flame-out of my lighter footwear on the last trip, I wheeled out the beastly leather boots and combined them with gaiters for better leech protection. They might be heavy, but the main thing is they’re so worn-in they feel like slippers. Here they are on the first day of this hike.


You may have just asked yourself, “Where are the gaiters he said he was wearing?” Well, there’s a reason for that and it’s because the opening day from Portland to Cubbys is spent just trying to escape Portland itself. In the abortive hike with Smuffin, we started at the first nights destination of Cubbys Camp and skipped this day altogether due to his fighting words of, “There’s no way I’m walking through town with a pack on looking like a wanker”. I wanted to attempt the full ‘official’ distance, so I wasn’t too fussed in having a semi-suburban stroll, but you know what? There was no way I was walking through town with gaiters on looking like a wanker!

With the food drops done, my last chore for the day was to register my walk intentions at the Portland Maritime Discovery Centre and whilst doing so, I was informed there were no other hikers out on the GSWW. Winter walking definitely has a bit going for it in relation to crowd control. Anyway, the lack of people sounded alright and once registered I could finally put my feet up for the night at the Portland Bay Holiday Park, in which the rear fence just happens to back onto the GSWW track. It looked like a promising day with clear skies, as I looked over the rear fence in the early morning.


The caravan park owners were very handy, as they let me leave the car there for the ten days or so I’d be away. For free as well.

Once packed and moving I more or less walked out of the front gate, turned left and within ten metres was on the track. How handy’s that?


I strolled past the fence I’d taken the sunrise from and now was on my way.


On the track

In the picture above, guess what’s at the end of the fence? It just happened to be my first stop for the day which wasn’t bad considering I’d only walked 250 metres. The Whalers Bluff Lighthouse sits on the cliff top and with the blue skies I was always going to stop for a few pictures.


Whalers Bluff Lighthouse

Whilst standing under the lighthouse, some bloke came walking past and upon sighting my backpack stopped for a chat. I explained what I was up to regarding the hike and he started to show interest in my footwear and whether I get any blisters. I explained I have in the past (last week!), but I don’t get any whilst wearing my trusty leather boots. He then said,

“Do you know what I was taught when I was up north in the war?” I was assuming the Second World War, but I could be wrong. He may have meant the Boer War. Once he mentioned the whole military angle I was 99% sure he was going tell me the magical blister remedy was to piss on my feet. Even I was told that one when I was in the Army, but even when I was young and naive (rather than the current old and cynical) I thought it sounded pretty daft. I was interested though, as I wanted to see if I was correct in my guess, so I replied, “No, what were you taught? I could do with some advice!”

He continued, “You pee on them! Just pee on your feet!!” Aha. I smiled, not so much at the method of blister control, but because my guessing was correct. I thought that was it, but I didn’t realise he had more to come,

“Oh yeah, pee on your feet. Pee on your hands as well. Pee everywhere!”

Huh? Now it was getting weird. What’s next? Pee on your mate? Film it? Upload it on the internet? Where was he going with this?! So, I said, “Pee on my hands? Why would I do that?” Now I was really interested in his answer, but he just repeated, “Yeah, pee on your hands for sure!” He was loving this pee concept, but I think we were done. I wasn’t really going to get the answer to the hand mystery let alone the ‘everywhere’ method, so I returned to taking photos of the lighthouse.


Once finished talking about golden showers, we went our separate ways and I continued following the cliff top overlooking Portland Bay. A short distance past the lighthouse is the ‘Portland World War Two Memorial Tower’. It’s an old water tower which has been converted into a museum, but I wasn’t stopping on this occasion.


I continued on leaving it behind…


…and then left the cliff tops for a short time to negotiate a section of Dutton Way which doesn’t have a footpath next to it.


Dutton Way, Portland

This wasn’t too bad though, as the track then strolls past the Old North Cemetery (or the Pioneer Cemetery). I don’t mind an old cemetery, so I was always going to stop there for a look.


Old North Cemetery

I inspected a few gravestones and as is the common theme with these places, quite a few children were buried there.


After spending a few minutes wandering, I spotted an information box which contains brochures explaining the significance of some graves. I was quite interested, but on this occasion I was out of luck.


I continued on with the ‘track’ now actually some suburban streets. I passed Jesus who was busy getting the jobs done…


…before reaching the hillside where I could head back down and rejoin Dutton Way.


I dropped down to the side of the road and I noted I was glad to be doing this leg in winter, as it would suck on a hot summers day strolling alongside the open, unshaded Dutton Way. It was easy going for me though on this coolish day, as I passed this faded gate post decoration…


…and looked back at the road I’d bypassed inland.


This was pretty casual fare, but it wasn’t too long before I found a turn-off which would took me inland and away from the sea for the next week. It’s actually an old disused road which is only used privately though. I continued on…


Looking back towards Portland Bay from the old road

…and the road started to rise. The only thing this place was missing was some tumbleweeds blowing past.


This was quite peaceful and I found the track which now veered off up a hillside…


…before popping out into the modern world again with a quick dash across the Princes Highway.


Once across in one piece the track headed back through some more bush…


…passing the odd skull lying around…


…before again reaching the suburbs again.


I strolled down this road before coming across Princes Highway again. Didn’t I cross this already? Yes, I had, but needed to do it again and this time it was slightly busier. I realised it’s not easy to sprint whilst wearing a backpack. How did I go? Well, I’m typing this at home and not in intensive care, so I must have survived.

It was upon reaching Robertsons Road I noticed my GPS was on the blink. I was using an old Garmin eTrex Vista HCx (what’s with the random capital letters? Is that meant to be funky?) and I noticed it was no longer displaying the topographic map which was inserted on a micro SD card. Mm… That’s a bummer, seeing how it was only the first day.

I stopped and took it apart, although when I say ‘take it apart’ I meant taking the cover off, removing the batteries and then reinserting the micro card. Whilst doing this I noted the rubber seal of the GPS was looking a little worn and there was a hint of moisture inside the battery compartment. I’m not sure what you’re thinking, but I don’t think that’s ideal? Anyway, it seemed to fire up again, but I wasn’t too confident of it staying alive for the next week or so.

On I wandered and Robertsons Road was a bit of a straight-ahead road bash…


…which was lined by some reasonable sized properties. Now, do you know what the common theme of these residences was? Dogs. It appeared every property had some sort of crazed, large dog that would bound to the fence line and proceed to go mental at me. The thing about dogs though, is whenever I hear multiple barking all I can think of is Professor Schwartzman in the Gary Larson, ‘The Far Side’ comics.


Ever since I read that comic about 15 years ago, I just think dogs are yelling, “Hey!”, at me whenever they bark.

I reached the end of the road in one piece and continued into something that at least had a feel of some bush. Well, until I reached a railway line in which its presence was announced by a sign which clearly was a threat. I felt safer though, knowing there were some responsible gun owners around who weren’t intimidated by such a scary sign.



This was probably the dreariest of the days walk for me, but at least I was leaving Portland behind. I plugged along following the railway line…


…passing a boot on the way. How do random shoes end up all over the place?


The dirt road was pretty wet from recent rain…


…and there wasn’t a lot to look at other than the odd tree oozing sap.


I finally reached a point where I could leave the railway line behind, by firstly following this road…


…and pass some more random skulls lying around.


’44 skulls buried in the ground. Crawling down through the muck’

If you worked out where those lines in the caption above come from without resorting to Google, feel free to have an extra mug of Milo tonight and stay up a little later as a reward.

Finally I’d reached bush. Well, it was sort of bush. Just ignore the humming from overhead…


…and continue walking for another kilometre or so until finally reaching Cubbys Camp. I was glad to drop the backpack, as I hadn’t actually stopped for any length of time during the day. I’d contemplated a lunch break a few times earlier, but there seemed to be too many people and cars at all of the places I’d considered.

Anyway, it was time to put the tent up and enjoy having the camp to myself.


Cubbys Camp is in a nice spot of bush, but what initially feels like isolation is quite deceiving. All night I could hear dogs barking and cars on roads not too far away, so I guess there are plenty of semi-rural residences within a few kilometres of camp. I’d made it though and the end result for the day according to the GPS was 19.99 km distance. Maybe I should have walked an extra step to round it off?

Now, I must say, the first day of walking wasn’t too bad after all. I was expecting it to be a little mind numbing, but it went quickly and now there would be bush all the way to Nelson.

Is that it? Well, not quite. Being the first day of a hike I always bring some extra food along which I intend to make last for a few days, but usually end up eating the lot on the opening evening.

There was the obligatory family block of Cadbury Snack chocolate. The plan was to make the block last until my first food drop, but naturally that went out the window and I inhaled it all in the first few hours of stopping. There’s one thing about the Snack block though and it’s I wish they included more pineapple pieces. Actually, if they made just an entire block of nothing but the pineapple pieces I’d be really happy, besides the side effect of being about 150 kg.


Yes. More pineapple pieces please.

Now in wrapping up. I had a bit of reading to do, as I’d brought a backpack worth of classics to get through. Well, I cheated a little, as they’re in Haiku form.


I must say though it’s easy to knock off a classic in about five seconds. ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’? Done. It’s that easy.