In the litany of disastrous hikes undertaken, I’m pretty confident the following has never been uttered before. At first I thought I’d misheard Ben. That can happen. Just look at Neville Chamberlain. The press sent his name into infamy when they reported he said, “Peace for our time”. In a propeller-lagged state, his actual words were, “Please, can I have the time?”
I wasn’t mistaken though. Ben really did say, “I think I’ve done something to me knee when I was surfing the road marker earlier”.
The northern circuit of Wilsons Promontory has been on my ‘to stroll’ list for a few years now. I’d walked the tamer southern circuit a few years back. Actually, it reminds me. I haven’t finished writing it up. I think I got stuck at the Wilsons Prom Lighthouse and haven’t progressed. Oh well, it’s a probably the best place in Victoria to get stranded on.
Last year I made two attempts at the northern circuit. Guess how far I got? Five Mile Beach, Wilsons Promontory at the end of the cleverly named Five Mile Road was the limit of my foray. Actually, is there any reason we haven’t gone metric with the name? I’d be happy if it was called Eight Point Four Six Kilometre Road.
So, this post will detail two failures of the highest standard. If you’re a hiker, you really won’t get much more pathetic than this. Hopefully the pictures will carry me through.
The northern circuit is classed roughly as a four day wilderness walk, but in order to complete the circuit there’s a road bash. Not any old road either. It’s as incongruous as it gets in relation to what’s around it. This is like a stinkin’ highway and there’s the dilemma. Do it first or last? I’ve no idea what’s ideal, but on both occasions I’ve wanted to knock it off first. The initial failure was on my own and the second was whilst accompanied with the Smuffin and Ben. This latter tilt created a couple of disturbing photos, so I decided to drag it onto the blog, rather than filing it away. Where to start?
On my solo attempt I arrived at the, wait for it, Five Mile Carpark and proceeded to smash the 18 or so kilometres to the beach in one four hour frenzy. Oh yeah, it might be Five Mile Road, but the distance is actually 11 miles. Confused yet? Don’t worry, that happens a lot in here.
With my companions we had a late arrival, so the aim was to warm up the legs and stop at Barry Creek Campsite for the night. A short 6.5 kilometre from the start is all that’s required. This was back in July with the short day, so by the time we hit the highway, there was already a glow from the sun, low in sky.
Oh yeah, do you want to know what’s annoying? On the two attempts I seemed to have stood in exactly the same position to take exactly the same photo. I now have doubles of everything, but on alternate days and with alternate weather. Does this make sense? Here’s an example of what I mean. A nice sized boulder next to the road caught my eye. Twice. The first time on a bleak, overcast day…
…and on the second occasion.
No doubt you’ll see more of this doubling effect later and just to throw your brain into a twist. Here’s the rock again, but before I’d reached it.
There was something unusual going on though, which differed from my earlier attempt. The road is lined with plastic markers, but on the sunny afternoon, a large number were smashed and a few thrown out onto the gravel. Was there some sort of roadside marker-ist at work? Whose grip was so tight, they’d destroy them?
In a roundabout way, I blame the ‘Marker Mangler’ for the second failed hike. If he (face up to it, only a bloke would do something so stupid) hadn’t decided the roadside marker affected his view of the world, then the following wouldn’t have occurred.
Yep, you better believe it. The hi-jinks of a bit of marker surfing resulted in the twist of the knee and the subsequent, “I think I’ve done something to me knee when I was surfing the road marker earlier”. Truly the inconsequential can lead to the significant. We were only a few kilometres in and this hike was already toast. Not straight away though. There was a bit of rueing, non-beard stroking, head shaking and ball scratching, before deciding to continue onto the camp and ponder the problem the following day.
Barry Creek Campsite was reached with the light fading. Then things got a little entertaining. Firstly, Smuffin proudly showed his technical set-up for cleaning cloths. I guess it does makes sense to keep these things organised.
Then he wanted to show his new thermals. A last minute purchase in a sort of baby-blue colour, was interesting. Ben declared them, “the clothing of the future”, as it had a funky finger strap, which meant the sleeves would never ride up. The only trouble with this though, is the watch had to be worn on the outside.
I guess on the cold winter evening, a balaclava was handy, but the end result was quite disturbing. In the following photo, there’s a bit of blur, which I believe is caused by my hands shaking due to the trauma of the image I was taking. Here’s the ‘clothing of the future’ combined with a pair of ‘Vlad Putin’ pants. The only comparison you’ll find is probably some armed hold-up footage at a bank.
You don’t know this, but I’ve just had a substantial break after posting the photo above. I think the freestyle man-cans pecs drained something from me mentally, as I hit a fearsome writers block, which has taken some time to recover from.
Okay, continuing on. That was the first day of the walk, which on the first occasion wasn’t the first day, as I made it to Five Mile Beach in one hit, so the first day alters between the two walks of the same destination. Mm… I think I’ve just written the most annoying sentence in literary history.
What’s next? I think you know the drill. We woke up and headed off on the highway. Let it be said, the most traumatic part of the road is you can see the gravel unfolding a few thousand miles ahead. Like this.
It’s a pretty dispiriting sight to see your destination so far ahead. Oh yeah, most of my posts don’t have too many tips for the visiting punter, but I’ll give you one now. If you’re going to do this walk in the height of summer, then I suggest you bring a couple of things. A solid rope and the knowledge of how to tie a decent noose, plus a ·38 revolver. There’s barely any shade for the length of the road and I’ve no doubt you’d be suicidal before reaching the beach. Give it a go, but I’m pretty confident you’ll put yourself out of your misery around the ten kilometre mark. After dying, I’d be appreciative if you leave a comment on the blog, confirming my warning. How you do this is up to you. I accept comments via Ouija board if need be.
There seemed to be a lot more wildlife on my first trip. Instead of apprehension, the animals viewed me with complete boredom. This kangaroo was too immersed in giving a good scratch…
…while this one couldn’t even be bothered getting up as I walked by.
Nearing the beach, the photo opportunity of the day presented itself, but I was too slow off the mark to record them properly. A baby wombat dutifully following its parent across the track. By the time I’d fired the shot, they were almost in the scrub.
Nearing the beach the open landscape continues…
…before finally reaching the sand. Five Mile Beach is lovely and with the tide out, it’s quite expansive.
There’s a bit of a trudge on the sand to reach a campsite, hidden amongst trees at the inlet of Miranda Creek. On the way, we passed a crab making a dash for the water…
…and the occasional expletive. I’m not sure who wrote this, but the person standing next to it in Vlad Putin trousers, whilst carrying a stick is a prime culprit.
I love the sheltered campsite here, but there’s one problem. The source of fresh water is on the opposite side of the creek, which is fine if the tide’s out, but it wasn’t the case on my first trip. I arrived to find one other bloke there who was desperate for some water, but it required a swim to reach it. He’d had a bit of a rough day, as he detailed his backpack may have been a bit too heavy for an overnight hike. How heavy? Well, he reckoned it was about 25 kg. Me, the man who once took a hammer on a hike to knock in tent pegs on soft sand, was even amazed at this lofty total. I can only assume he brought everything he owned, including a Bamix.
I’ve become quite the master at keeping things under 15 kg these days, so I was fine as I set up my tent. I guess you might be wondering how the first trip ended up so disastrously? It was around the tent stage where things went wrong. I’d powered up the road in quite good time, but upon stopping at camp I suddenly felt quite nauseous. At first I wondered if I was dehydrated, or just needed food, but all I could do was lie down immediately.
Crawling into the tent at 4.30 pm, I thought I’d lie down for an hour or so, before getting up for food. Little did I know, I woke up in the dark at about 9.00 pm and continued to drift in and out of sleep all night, whilst going through stages of shivering. Essentially, I felt like I’d come down with a bug and come morning, I was totally sapped.
I pondered for a while, before realising I was done. I wanted to eat breakfast, but I felt if I ate, I’d immediately vomit. I’m not one for hiking when sick, as the walks will be there another day, so I packed up and decided to head straight back to the car. No dinner, no breakfast and the trudge back along the road was almost double the time it took me on the way in. It was a real purgatory job and I was thankful to make it to the car without another lie down. I remember I was sick for about a week after this abortive trip, so it wasn’t an overnight thing and felt glad not to have attempted to soldier on.
What about the second occasion? Well, I was flying on all cylinders, but Ben was feeling the pinch with his knee. If it was the second last day, I’d have figured to continue on, but with a few more days of bush bashing to come, the sensible thing would be to abandon. No use struggling on with an injury, so we figured we’d give it another night and see in the morning, but it was unlikely they’d be a recovery.
There were things to look at before bedtime though. The hill opposite had some nice clouds overhead…
…and Five Mile Beach likewise.
An enormous piece of water smoothed timber lay on the beach. Ben declared it looked like Gandalf’s Staff before tossing it into Miranda Creek. We’ll get back to this later, but it lay there as the sun set.
As night fell, I was instructed to take this photo of an Aarn backpack, as the opening ‘had an extremely angry face’. Check it out.
Then Smuffin played the traditional game, “Look at my leg! I’ve got a painful leg twisting fracture!” It’s an age old classic.
Night consisted of the standard sleeping, snoring and “Oh my god, I’m about to piss my sleeping bag at 3 am” before an early wake up. The weather was still, but there was some weirdness happening outside. Sea mist had rolled in at dawn and I began to run around feverishly like someone with a fever trying to capture the mist before it vapourised. Fasten your seatbelts, as it’s photo time. Here’s the mist over the inlet…
…and the still water created some lovely reflections.
Miranda Creek has dark, tannin stained water…
…which had a red tinge on its sandy edge.
The thick band of mist was across Five Mile Beach…
…but after a short amount of sunlight, it vanished within minutes.
On my first trip, there was no sign of mist, but again the weather was still.
Smuffin had a discovery in the morning. He found out the front pockets on his Aarn pack have removable waterproof bags, which make for a snazzy handbag.
What happened after all this? Nothing really. Ben was griping about his knee, so there wasn’t much point going on. The going back bit didn’t really bother me, but what did, was we’d have to walk the infernally dull Five Mile Road back to the car again. It was a soul destroying prospect. My only hope was an eagle would fly past and drop a tortoise on my head after accidently mistaking it for a large rock. Just like Aeschylus.
Remember Gandalf’s staff? In the morning it was lying on the sand, so it was thrown into the creek. We watched it race out to sea and disappear into the waves. After packing up and heading off again, what should be lying on the beach? Yes, it was back. It was the staff that refused to die, so we took it as an omen (an extremely dubious one) it actually wanted to go with us.
The idea was to oil and then proudly stand it up in the corner of my loungeroom. Smuffin assured me this would occur, but it still doesn’t seem to be in my lounge? Anyway, the decision was made to take it home and unfortunately I drew the short straw amongst the no straws competition, so I strapped it to my pack. Due to being waterlogged, it was quite heavy and certainly made a difference to my overall pack weight, as there’s no such thing as ultralight pieces of timber. Anyway, off we trudged…
…and I really don’t have much more to say. Five Mile Road sucked and it seemed extremely warm. It was a baffling day of weather. The Victorian coast in July would normally mean icy winds, but we were boiling to death. Discarding clothing left, right and centre didn’t seem to help. Why was this? Well, let me tell you, the one day we spent the day slogging on this infernal road just happened to be the warmest July day in history. 23.3 °C. Over 20 in July is a pretty bizarre concept and explains why we were melting.
That’s not all. There was no wind, so it was quite stifling at points, but ominous dark clouds were forming all around us.
The trudge continued, as the sky darkened.
Rain was around, but the temperature didn’t let up. A rainbow formed behind us…
…but other than sweat dripping foreheads, it remained dry.
It was a slow day for animals again, but there were the odd footprints in the gravel road. Quite large ones as well.
The same problem I mentioned earlier applied. It was deflating to see the road, snaking ahead to the horizon.
On my first trip, slogging along whilst feeling crook as a dog, all I did was keep my head down and push onwards to the finish line. About the only time I stopped was to admire the latest Parks Victoria vehicle. Another public service department, cash-filled, spending money on lavish cars, which are just not needed. I mean, a 1989 VN Holden Commodore wagon, would have cost at least $225. I’m outraged to see where my hard earned tax dollars are being spent.
On the second occasion, a standout highlight was your favourite boulder. Yes, somehow I took another photo of it, but at least this time it was from the opposite direction.
Really, that’s about it. Finally the carpark was reached and it was all over for a second time. Plus this post, I’m glad it’s over as well, as it’s exhausting dredging up these failed walks.
Done! A footnote to the second walk was as soon as we drove out the carpark, the rain which had been circling us all day suddenly arrived with biblical force. Driving out of Wilsons Promontory, I swore I saw some old bloke collecting animals. Smuffin still says Ben doing his knee was the best thing which ever happened to him, as we didn’t have to endure the downpour if we’d continued the hike.
Time to go.
Better luck next time with the Prom. I've only ever been there once and found it to be beautiful yet bleak. On that particular weekend it was 42 in Melbourne yet only 22 at Wilsons Prom. WTF?
Enjoyed reading the report. It must be a good place for knee injuries – I walked the North 'circuit' a year or two ago, and ended up coming in after dark carrying half of my mate's gear after he strained his knee somewhere near Tin Mine Cove. The only consolation was that we couldn't see the road for the last few km. That's one seriously soul-destroying stretch of gravel.
Third time lucky!
Thanks. The southern circuit is lovely, but the northern bit feels completely different. I've got some time off in May, so I might give it another go then. You'd think a coastal area is cooler than Melbourne, but 20 degrees is a fair bit!
Yeah, May might be the time for another session in the north. Ridiculously I didn't really read the notes about Five Mile Road before going down and for some reason I had a vision it was some sort of disused/partially overgrown track. Not sure why I thought that, but I remember being surprised to see a freeway! It's a shocker!
I've read a few reports about finishing in the dark. You might be onto something there!
Thanks for dropping by.
Third time lucky hopefully?
I'm glad to hear the southern circuit is tamer as we're heading that way soon.
Cheers Greg : )
Yeah, maybe in May I'll go down for another session 🙂
Enjoy yourself on the southern circuit. Loved my trip in winter down there a few years back. About time I did again I reckon!
had a small failure there too… arrived at camp after 8hrs, set up camp, started to rain, thought, better put tarp over tent..cut some rope , my son(13yo) had the knife (a really sharp one), and somehow I managed to walk straight into it..went deep into my leg…walking impossible.. and that's a really great place for a rescue… so…5 hrs later I was back at carpark..with ranger on quad and ambulance and police…
Oh wow, what a nasty story! That's the sort of crap I'd do! Pretty remote spot, I don't think we had phone coverage, so I can imagine that was a problem or did you have a PLB with you? I'd have one hand on the spurting blood and the other unravelling the antenna on the PLB 🙂
My only consolation to your story is it couldn't happen to me, as the only knife I carry is a 20 year old Swiss army knife and the blade is as sharp as a blunted butter knife!
Glad you made it out okay, and as a bonus, I guess you didn't have to walk on the road again?!
I have a gps tracker.. spot.. but..at camp..there where 3 guys.. they walked back to get phone receiption..called the ranger.. explained the situation.. and ranger came 4 hrs later with paramedic on a quad..and drove us out..incl. these 3 guys..they didn't want to walk back..lol, yeah..and me..bleeding as a pig..was the last to leave the camp…next day I went into hospital and got stitched up…
Maybe I'm crazy, but I actually LIKE the look of that road walk!
Beautifully captured…..love the photography….very impressive
Sounds like the perfect day to have a few other people at camp. A bit of a laugh though the other cheeky buggers taking a lift out! I guess it's a story to tell at a later stage, plus you can talk up how you got the scar? Most of my scars are caused by shark attacks 🙂
Goat, after the roads you've walked on over the past year, I can understand why this one looks so good! Definitely no chance of being run over by a wayward truck and hugging the guard rail like you had to do in Korea 🙂
Thanks for your comment! I do my best, but as you would know, photos can be a bit hit and miss 🙂
Five Mile Beach – the scene of my first ever overnight hike. I didn't realise I'd need to carry water for the walk but luckily had an empty Coke bottle (glass), and then the road … the bloody road … and the sun, and then the final hike along the beach. My first tent peg found the previous camper's latrine site (a crappy experience) and I never did fnd the spring – but then I didn't look on the other side of the creek. Thanks for the memories.
Thanks for another great blog Greg. Just thought I'd brag that, while it took me two attempts, I completed the Northern in 3 days. Well worth attempting again Greg, but I must admit one needs the conditions to be almost perfect. A friend of mine attempted it during too much rainfall and had to turn back from Chinaman Swamp … a long long two days of hiking. I remember on the third day when we emerged from Chinaman Swamp back onto the HIGHWAY (Five Mile) we were utterly exhausted and the last 6 km seemed to stretch out forever.
First ever overnighter? Not sure I'd want to introduce anyone to overnight hiking by making them endure that road 🙂
Oh, the ol' tent peg in the crapper method? I bet you're not the first!
I'm not sure why, but in my mind I thought the water source was on the camp side. Little did I know you'd need low tide to get something to drink or go for a swim. In the drier first attempt it was running at barely a trickle. Seems to be a fickle place down there. It's either soaking or parched.
Thanks re the pics!
Well done for the getting the circuit done. Three days sounds doable, but I'm not sure I want to punish myself as much. Four days sounds more gentleman-like to me 🙂
Yeah, like I mentioned in Ian's comment. Go there in the wetter months has the bonus of lots of water, but the potential for chest-high wading in Chinaman Swamp or go for dry months and possibly having to scrounge for something to drink, but maybe easier walking. I'm pencilling in this walk again for May, so I'm hoping for the best of both worlds!
I like the idea of going anti-clockwise and hitting the last 6km of road in the early evening, so I can't see the bloody thing.
Thanks for dropping by!
I wanted to hike to Sealers and back but my hiking companion wanted something flat for our first hike. Big mistake.
I see. That's a bummer, as you well know, the overnight to Sealers would have been a billion times better!
I just did the walk from five mile car park to five mile beach a couple weeks ago … and took these two pictures thinking of this write up:
Ha! That rock! I think I've got about 20 photos of it on various trips. I must admit though, it really stands out along the road, so I can see why we take pictures of it!
Thanks for taking the time to comment.