I’m on the home stretch now. Another post after this, a final wash-up and then this hike is done and maybe, never to return. Multiple visits had dulled things a little, but this day was a little different. I was intrigued by Ryans Den to Devils Kitchen, Great Ocean Walk, as it was a realigned section since my last visit in 2010. Previously, after a bit of coast walking, a road was reached and the fun began. A stroll along bitumen, passing the rural world of tractors, farms, livestock and European cars ensued, before returning to the cliff-tops.
What about now? Well, as before, the road is reached, but immediately the track takes off into a whole new world of bush, far removed from the farmers. How exciting is that? Can I live up to the hype? Not really and it doesn’t hurt to add a disclaimer early on.
There’s one thing you need to know about leaving Ryans Den. Be prepared for about 5 km of constant undulation. I barely remember any flat ground and the heavy showers of the previous days had created a new menace. A slippery track. Mm… What could possibly go wrong?
We headed out in the morning and left what felt like an isolated piece of wilderness, into paddocks and the odd, very expensive house, which happened to have fantastic coastal views. The bastards. Rain was around again, but any thought of wearing wet-weather gear went out the window within 10 feet. It was too hot for any more clobber, other than the traditional shorts and ‘don’t sunburn me solar reflective Columbia long sleeved shirt’.
Early in the day, I remembered an annoyingly steep, grassy hill. What was it like this time? Unusually I found it annoyingly steep. And grassy. It wasn’t a problem for the Smuffin though, as he sprinted towards the heavens with his legs pumping like pistons, thighs parallel to the ground and arms moving back and forth in rhythm with his legs. Due to my role as official trip photographer, I took things a little slower.
The best thing about being the self-proclaimed, official trip photographer, is I had to stop frequently, not for rest, but to record all the exciting things happening. Like turning around now and again for no apparent reason, other than to see the receding Ryans Den campsite in my non-existent mirrors.
I’ve talked this hill up a bit, but it’s quite steep. I tried to capture its vertical-ness by showing it from the top, as it appears the track just plummets over a cliff. Oh look, you can still see Ryans Den in the centre-left.
Rain was constantly threatening and for a while it played havoc with the photos. I mean, how do you make something look fancy, when there’s no colour? The white clouds created a washed-out effect and over the years I’ve wondered what can be done with a camera to avoid this. After decades of pondering, I reckon I’ve got the answer. Nothing. It’s just a matter of enjoying the whiteness for what it is.
Then the fun started. I reckon we had about two hours of lovely coastal panoramas to stare at, which was off-set by slippery, death defying muddy descents. If ever there was a time I needed trekking poles, this was it. With a wide track, we found little to hold onto and a lot of the time it was a matter of sliding, sprinting, screaming and praying to Charles Darwin not to go arse up.
I’ve no idea how I was staying upright, as I’m built to fall over. My hips are way too high off the ground, which creates an unbalance, not to mention an inability to bust any good moves on the dance floor. There’s no way I can groove at the discothèque, as my hips are around the same height as other peoples heads. Somehow though, I was vertical and as the official photographer I had to be attentive for any possible mishaps. Smuffin adopted the ‘banking aeroplane descent method’…
…which he performed at too low an altitude. The result was a headlong plummet into surrounding bush and worst of all, he almost took out the official photographer. I felt like Robert Capa in the Spanish Civil War.
Other than a bleeding arm, there was no major trauma. Even then, Smuffin bleeds for no apparent reason at the best of times.
Light rain continued to sweep through, which was problematic as the camera had to be put away. I may have been the official photographer, but it comes with no wage and I can’t afford a weather resistant DSLR. Actually, whatever I do, I must remember the last line, as I need to revisit it in the next post.
If I forget, can you remind me, or are you too spent lying on the couch, after another horrific day at work, wondering how you can possibly continue until 70, as your body feels like giving up now? Anyway, ignore the thought of a lifetime of working being rewarded with an early death and your superannuation and investments going to people who are non-plussed by your passing. On a sadder note, no sooner had I put the camera away, but the clouds began to lift. I didn’t have to pack the camera away after all.
By the way, have you seen my new Breaking Bad snow globe? The snow’s blue meth-chips. Naturally.
Finally, Parkers Access Road was reached. This was formerly followed inland, but now the new track peels off, descending into a ferny forest. Does this new track have a name? Probably, but I’ve only got the old map with me, so you’ll have to research yourself. I must say though, it was quite good fun to be on something new and it’s easily about one million times better than the previous route. Yes, one million.
The thing is, I got caught up in the bush extravaganza and forgot to get snapping. The track kinda looks like this for the most part…
…with the occasional fallen tree for interest.
Eventually we popped out near the Gables, which is a lookout near Moonlight Head. I’m still not sure what the point of this spot is. Highest cliff? Dodgy place for a sailing ship? Favourite suicide location? I do have a reason for saying this. On my previous visit there was an information sign, but unfortunately it was so weather blasted, all the text was gone. After four years, I was sure it would have been replaced by a brand new plaque, which would leave me full of knowledge. What did we find? Um… The old, destroyed board was gone and it hasn’t been replaced. Oh well, it’s probably just a lookout after all.
Talking about signs. This one seemed a little odd. They’re warning about standing too close to the edge of a dodgy cliff. Okay, no worries, but then shouldn’t the little man be at the top, falling off? That’s what the message is meant to be, but somehow the bloke landed in one piece and then the cliff fell on his head. What a bummer.
One other thing. If you’re into the dead, the new track doesn’t go past the Moonlight Head cemetery any more. It’s not far away, but you’ll have to seek it out for a look.
Now, the biggest decision of the day. Wreck Beach. I’ll talk about it later in my tips of the day, but the main thing is I wanted to get down to the beach for a look, as it was a highlight on my previous visit. I knew the tide was a bit dodgy though and no sooner had we reached the long staircase, which provides access to the beach and we cancelled. The tide was way too high, so we were forced to take the soft option. A comfortable stroll to Devils Kitchen camp, which sits on the cliff top overlooking Wreck Beach.
There was a bit of wandering past grass trees first…
…before making it. Overall, it’s not a bad leg, but as per usual, there were a few more shenanigans before I wrap up this day. It was a ghost town on my last two visits with not another hiker to be seen, so I guess my luck was due to run out, as the place turned into rush hour during the late afternoon.
Suddenly, the thrills came thick and fast. Firstly, our long suffering hiking acquaintances, Harold ‘the Dutch Dasher’ and his sidekick Maude, went into overdrive. Not content with his bald head being shiny as a beacon, he went the whole hog by sitting down, lathering it up and giving his bonce a runover with a razor. Man, if the glare wasn’t bad enough before, now it turned night into day. It’s lucky Smuffin and I just happened to have some goggles for such a rare event.
At least we didn’t need headlamps as the light faded. Is it all over? No, of course not. Suddenly a couple of blokes turned up, looking absolutely wasted. Where had they come from and why hadn’t we seen them the previous day? Oh that’s easy, it’s because they’d just done a double from Johanna Beach to Devils Kitchen. I guess they had some sort of reason for combining the two hardest days of the entire walk and putting themselves through 30 km of fun.
At first I thought they were just some bad arse, ultralight walkers who ate up the mileage with ease. Well, I did until one of them got out his sleeping mat and proceeded to inflate it. Watching a bloke puffing all the air he could possibly have exhaled from his lungs in his lifetime, into a double-sized velour mattress was a bit of an eye opener. This blue velour monster could easily be used as a liferaft. All I could do was stare and say stuff like, “Wow”, repeated over and over like a stuck record. HR Pufnstuf looked up with bulging eyes, as he risked slipping into a narcosis from oxygen debt, with an expression on his face which said, ‘shoot me now’.
What was his ultralight heavy as bejesus companion doing during this? Well, of course he was setting up their tent. It just so happened he didn’t want to put it out into the provided campsite spots like a normal person. No, he wanted to set it up under the shelter. Why would he do this? He explained, “because the tent isn’t waterproof”.
Oh well, what can you do? I guess the restricted movement brought on by the ‘leaks like a sieve’ porous nylon was pushing the friendship a little, but I think the main annoyance was when they attempted to eat.
We decamped the setting up scene, so luckily missed their attempts to eat a hearty dinner. Returning later, we came across the destruction and detritus of the meal. Multiple empty tins, which kinda made perfect sense, after witnessing their featherlight sleeping gear, was okay I guess.
Our only beef was they appeared to have missed their mouth during the inhaling. Maybe they were too tired from the long day and liferaft inhaling? Spilling food all over the table and not even attempting to clean it up was disappointing, but at least they had their ultralight toys to keep them happy.
It was one of those days and there was still a bit left in it. Remember the last couple of posts? When I complained about the bags of rubbish left behind on the floor of the Johanna Beach and Ryans Den comfort stations? No doubt some group had passed in recent history and couldn’t be stuffed lugging their crap out. Gee, I wonder what awaited inside the Devils Kitchen cubicle? You’ll be pleased to know I wasn’t disappointed. Another bag or crap? Well yes, but this time they’d outdone themselves. Three of the best awaited.
What can you do? Not a lot, but before wrapping up I’ll give you the…
Big Greg’s GOW Tip of the Day.
Again, this is pretty easy. Try and get down to Wreck Beach for a look. Sure, it’s about 6,245 steps to the beach, plus the slog back up is not a lot of fun, but I reckon it’s worth it. The thing is, at the end of the day it’s easy to forget about it when the camp is only a stroll away on level ground. Anyway, there are two anchors from the shipwrecks, Marie Gabrielle and Fiji, available for perusal. I’ve always wanted to be down on the beach at either dawn or sunset to try and capture the anchor lying in a rock pool, but alas I can’t see this happening any time soon.
Anything else? Not really, but best of all I’ve only got one day to go!
At the top of the campsite, there’s a nice spot to overlook Wreck Beach.
I was hoping for some fancy sunset photos from this spot, but it didn’t eventuate. Instead you’ll have to settle for a picture from my 2010 visit.
We're also constantly bamboozled by people's unpreparedness and laziness. Who hasn't heard the mantra 'you take out everything you take in' when it comes to rubbish? I dunno.
Sounds like an interesting leg of the hike : )
Yeah, can't see the point of carrying a tent if it doesn't keep the water out. I know I've carried some crap over the years, but even at my most naive I didn't think a double velour blow up mattress would be a good idea for hiking 🙂
So much rubbish and so depressing. I guess it gave me something to write about though!
I was reading your blog earlier in the year and wanted to come back to read about your GOW walk this time around, having done it myself in April. My friend and I also did the Johanna Beach to Devils Kitchen in a day – purely because the campsite at Ryan's Den was fully booked up. It meant a pre-dawn wakeup and a hard day's hike – frankly, it stopped being fun somewhere around km 20. When I read your note about the people who did the JB to DK leg in one day I thought it might have been us and we might have shared a campsite with a legend such as yourself. Alas, we had a normal, non-leaking tent (as much as any tent doesn't leak), used a normal campsite (though spent much of the night wondering what would happen if there were high winds, what with all the overhanging limbs), and I've never carried a can further than from supermarket to car. Keep up the blogging – it's an awesome read!
Hi Brett. That would have been a hard slog! It's interesting about the GOW. When I first did it in winter 2009, I didn't see anyone. In spring 2010, it was busy, but after Aire River there was no one. It seemed people skipped the harder days near the end? No idea, but on this occasion the end was by far the busiest. I guess now it's more popular all year round, as once I wouldn't have thought Ryans Den would be booked out in April. Certainly in 2010 I appeared to be the only person amongst the people I came across who had bothered booking. Actually, no idea where I was going with this comment, but there's something in there somewhere!
Trust me. I might sound like a legend here, but in real life I might be a bit of a disappointment 🙂