Mallacoota Meander 7th to 13th February 2011

Participants:
Harry & Jill Richards – Pathfinder
Rick & Glenda Farlow – Pathfinder
Ray & Lynne Bridger – Patrol
Les Warburton – Discovery

Victoria is an amazingly diverse state. We have deserts in the north-west, the world’s largest lava plains to the south-west and the High Country and associated forests and National Parks.

The extensive lakes systems of the Gippsland Lakes and Mallacoota Inlet (and the inlets between) just add to this geographic tapestry.

This diversity was brought home in another way as I was driving to   Mallacoota for the club trip.

The car radio was giving out graphic details of towns inundated by floods in the northern part of the state, less than one hour’s crow flight from where we were.

Where we were was just east of Nowa Nowa. And here, SES and CFA units were mopping up after an extensive bushfire.

Wisps of smoke were still drifting through the blackened forest as the crews cut down burnt trees and poured water on smouldering stumps.
It was an eerie image to begin our week away.

Mallacoota though, was very welcoming. The weather was comfortable and benign as we booked into our cabin in the Beachcomber Caravan Park.

The Farlows and Les Warburton were    already there, so after settling in, we sat down to Happy Hour and to plan the week ahead.

Ray and Lynne were due in next morning, While waiting for them, it was agreed we would pass the time with a visit to the   local museum.

I anticipated a quick “in and out” and on to something else. But what a surprise. Our quick “in and out” lasted nearly two hours.

Before us was a history I knew nothing about. How the area was an important  station in our World War II coastal    surveillance was revealed, along with the part it played in detecting and watching Japanese submarines. Most interesting.

Back to base for lunch and, as there was still no sign of the Bridgers, we took a short drive up to Gypsy Point, some 15kms from Mallacoota.

Gypsy Point is a lovely, quiet, scenic spot on the Inlet and obviously popular with tourists.

Needless to say, with such a wonderful expanse of placid water, fishing was the most popular activity. Little jetties poked out into the Inlet around every corner.

While at Gypsy Point, two D.S.E. rangers were launching an ugly looking boat. Upon enquiry, they told us they were doing a survey of the fish in the Inlet.

The bulky structure on the boat was a  generator which, when a two pronged     attachment was placed in the water,    produced an electric charge which stunned all the fish in the immediate vicinity.

These fish would then be collected off the surface, measured, recorded, tagged and released. Apparently, the fish were not harmed by the experience.

The rangers took off to continue their work further up the Inlet. Another example of our D.S.E. friends working for our benefit.

Upon our return to camp, the Bridgers had arrived and set up. They were ready for a Happy Hour, so we could not disappoint them.

Next day, the group gathered for a trip through the Croajingolong N.P. to Wingan Inlet, via Shipwreck Creek.

In the main, the track was easy although there were plenty of water filled potholes to be wary of.

Shipwreck Creek is a lovely isolated beach between a couple of rugged headlands. There is a small camping facility here, with composting toilets.

After a bit of beachcombing, it was back to the vehicles and off to Wingan Inlet.

The tracks through the Park were anything but boring, as we traversed various track conditions and forest flora.

Unfortunately, one track took a dislike to Ray’s vehicle and slashed one of his tyres.

While our convoy was parked by the side of the track effecting the tyre change, we got word a “B Double” was on its way and to be careful.

This was a concern, as the track was not that wide, although I did think “What on earth would a B Double be doing here”.

The tyre change was completed and Wingan Inlet beckoned. No sign of a B Double, or any other vehicle for that  matter.

Wingan Inlet is a lovely, picturesque, large inlet where the Wingan River meets the sea. There is a good camping ground here with toilets.

From the car park, a boardwalk takes you through the coastal scrub to the ocean beach.

The wind had risen by the time we reached the beach, making it a little    uncomfortable. Offshore were “The Skerries”, a number of islands well known as a home for seals.

With the aid of binoculars and a long camera lens, one could see them lying back in the sun.

From Wingan Inlet, we returned to camp via Cann River and the bitumen.

After another lengthy Happy Hour, we retired to our respective abodes for dinner and a rest.

Thursday we headed into N.S.W. and the seaside town of Eden, about an hour from Mallacoota.

The day was spent meandering around the town, starting at the lookout over Twofold Bay.

Nearby is a memorial wall erected to honour mariners who had died at sea in the area. It was built in 1978, after the sinking of the fishing trawler Shiralee that year with the loss of all hands.

The plaques on the wall detail the names of seamen from the port of Eden, who were lost at sea and their bodies never recovered.

The earliest plaque is for a young crewman on a whaler lost in September 1881.
The story goes that his boat had harpooned a whale and was towing it back to base, when it suddenly turned and smashed the boat with a flick of its tail flukes. The other crew were rescued but the young fellow’s body was never found.

(One for the whales!)

The memorial wall is within a park and proved a perfect lunch spot. Some of our group drove into town to procure some fish and chips from a recommended    purveyor of such goodies.

The recommendation was well founded. So much so, that before we left Eden, we returned to buy some fresh fish to have for dinner back at camp.

(Surprisingly for a fishing village, Mallacoota does not have a shop selling fresh fish. The supermarket has frozen fish in stock)

After lunch, we strolled along the pathway by the extensive Aslings beach. This concrete pathway depicts the maritime history of Eden in large stencils applied to the concrete while wet.

The walk demanded a reward upon its completion, so it was back into the town centre for ice creams.

On the way back to camp, we stopped off at the historic Seahorse Inn.

A significant early settler of the area was Benjamin Boyd, who arrived from England in 1842. He quickly established a shipping service between Eden and Sydney, a bank and purchased large landholdings where he ran sheep and cattle.

Shore whaling and the related oil    extraction process was soon added to his business empire.

With his growing wealth, Boyd’s ideas became grandiose. One of his displays of grand style was the building of the Seahorse Inn in 1843, using convict  labour.

It had ten guestrooms, hand carved doors, lots of stained glass, a winding staircase and a sense of luxury throughout.

It looked out over landscaped gardens and sprawling lawns to Twofold Bay.

The Depression of the late 1840s hit Boyd hard and many of his forays went  bust. Boyd left Australia and, after a short stint at the Californian goldfields, immigrated to the Solomon    Islands. He disappeared while hunting there.

With Boyd’s departure, the Seahorse Inn became vacant. Vandals caused significant damage and it the lack of upkeep added to its deterioration.

In 1936, it was purchased by the Whiter brothers, who renovated the Inn and     restored it to its former glory. They added a second storey which blends in very well with the original design.

The Inn now operates as a luxury hotel with an emphasis on relaxation and local seafood.

On the coast, is one of Boyd’s follies known as Boyd’s Tower. A replica of the tower is found in the grounds of the Inn.

After our taste of luxury, it was back to camp for Happy Hour and to enjoy our fish from Eden.

Overnight, the sound of rain could be heard, but come morning, it had gone and we were greeted by a fine, albeit cloudy, day.

Today we headed off to the Maramingo State Forest in the Genoa Wilderness Area, where I had read tremendous views of the surrounding hills could be had.

Our first destination was the fire tower on Maramingo Hill. The track wasn’t too bad and eventually we arrived at the fire tower.

Alas, the alleged views could not be seen because the trees had grown and hidden the scene. Looking through the tree branches, we could see what could have been a good view, but …

Consulting our references and the maps, we decided to press on to an interesting grave site and what appeared to be camp sites along the headwaters of the Genoa River. One of these we thought would be suitable for a lunch stop.

To get back to the main road meant going down Bridle Track, which the map suggested was a formed track.

Well, it may have been at some point, but it proved a bit a challenge to our convoy. It was overgrown and the    recent heavy rain had caused a few washaways which required a bit of care.

No matter to us. The traverse was  accomplished without incident and soon we were travelling on the main track looking for the turnoff to the grave site.

Well, it should have been there somewhere, but it eluded us. Just as the mythical camp sites on the river hid as we approached.

Soon we found we had left the river and were climbing steadily uphill. A stop for a map reading and consultation was needed.

The map showed us that if we continued on, we would come to the Waalimma campsite. In brackets it noted “pretty spot”.

Sounded good, so we went on, up a track which deteriorated the further we went.

Eventually we arrived at the camp site, a quiet secluded spot in a heavily treed  forest. I’d like to say we had the place to ourselves, but forty million mosquitoes would disagree.

Jill went to use the drop toilet and as she raised the lid, a cloud of mossies arose and threatened to carry her off.

Needless to say, we had our lunch with a minimum of fuss and jumped back into the vehicles to descend back to the township of Genoa.

Just out of Genoa is supposedly the Genoa Creek Falls. Alas,   I can’t confirm this. We spent some time driving around its reputed location, but to no avail.

Before heading back to Mallacoota, we agreed to climb Genoa Peak and take in the views from there over the Genoa River valley to the sea.

From the car park, it is a 1.7km walk to the Peak. It was warm when we set off and got progressively hotter as we climbed.

The track is not for the unfit, nor the infirmed. In parts it is quite steep and requires some scrambling over rocks and ledges.

About three-quarters of the way up, you come to an outcrop which looks back towards Genoa and the hills    beyond. It was a good resting place before tackling the last stanza.

In the final 100 metres, one climbs up two ladders, a final killer to the hot, tired hikers.

The view though was great for those who made it to the top.

Not everybody, including your scribe, got beyond the earlier outcrop. So I am relying on the comments of others who reported on the great views.

After giving the cameras a workout, we returned to the car park. A much easier task than climbing up.

Word had reached us that on Friday nights the local Bowling Club had a $10 per head Roast Night. That sounding appealing, so we walked around after making a booking.

Somebody’s wires got crossed because the Roast Night was not on and it was a limited a-la-carte menu. No matter, we ordered and sat down to chat and have a quiet drink.

By coincidence, everybody ordered fish and chips and I think this put their kitchen  under a bit of a strain. The meals, while nourishing and good value, came out in dribs and drabs.
As is the wont of many country pubs and clubs, after we’d finished our meals, our hosts announced the “Meat Raffle”.

Dutifully, we all bought some tickets and, lo and behold, Jill won a tray of sausages.

As Ray and Lynne were leaving the next morning to head home, it was agreed we would have a BBQ breakfast on the beach to consume the snags.

Saturday morning was perfect for our BBQ on the beach. Betka Beach was the selected venue, only ten minutes out of town with BBQ, tables, toilets and a nice quiet sandy beach.

What a life. Sausages, eggs, bacon all on toast done on the BBQ, listening to the gentle lap of the water and the birdsong in the surrounding scrub. And it was all ours!

With the nourishment of the troops done, it was time for Ray and Lynne to leave and wend their way home.

After our goodbyes, they headed back to town, while we went on to investigate a couple of beaches we had passed on the first day.

The first of these was Quarry Beach, named because in bygone days, some stone was extracted from here for local use.

For the amateur geologist, this beach and its coast was a wonderland. As we looked around, we could see rocks twisted and contorted by actions of probably millions of years ago.

The subsequent erosion by wind, rain and tide, had created amazing shapes and sculptures. The layers of soil, sand, limestone, pebbles and in one section, a soft, yellow layer which we assumed was sulphur in some form, were easy to see and dissect.
For the beachcombers, they too found much of interest. Baby fish, anemones and the like were skulking in the rock pools. Large, purple/red crabs scuttled across the sand until disturbed. Then they backed themselves into rock crevices with just their large claws visible, a threat to  any unwanted approaches.

The other beach, Secret Beach, was again another lovely, quiet, secluded beach away from the mainstream. Again, the beachcombers found much to interest them.

After lunch back at camp, it was into the vehicles again to travel to the other side of the Inlet and into N.S.W. to walk through the Maxwells Road Flora Reserve.

From the Princes Highway, we turned down Maxwells Road and travelled through the Nadgee State Forest to the Nature Walk.

The walk is only 1.2kms around, but it  takes you through a lush Lillypilly and Pinkwood forest, with a thick understory of tree ferns, lichens and mosses.  Signboards along the way highlight the various species you come across.

It is one of the very few areas where Pinkwood (eucryphia moorei) survives and as we walked around, we came across many of its large white flowers carelessly dropped on the path.

A lovely, easy walk and thoroughly   recommended if you are in the area. On a hot summer day, it would be a great refuge.

A little further along Maxwells Road and not very prominently signed, is a turnoff to a small picnic area.

Here there is a magnificent vista over Mallacoota Inlet and Bass Strait. I am told by those who did both, that it was a better view than from Genoa Peak. And nowhere near as strenuous to get to.

This was a perfect quiet spot to have afternoon tea. We didn’t let the opportunity pass.
The return home was via Duncans Road and New Binns Road to Wallagaraugh Road. “Road” is a significant misnomer. They were very much tracks, which, at times,       disappeared into overgrowth.

It was obvious there had not been any traffic along them for quite some time.

The old wooden bridge over the Wallgaruagh River proved worth a look. While there, we disturbed a metre long goanna, which showed its disdain for us by scooting up a tree.

That evening we had our last Happy Hour and next morning packed up and made our respective ways home.

All in all, it was a great week, with lots of new discoveries and plenty of scenic travels.

The trip basically covered the far eastern section of the Croajigalong National Park. There is plenty of the middle and western sections of this wilderness still to see. Look for a trip later in the year.

To those on the trip, thanks for your   company and great spirit. I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Report: Harry Richards
Photos: Jill Richards, Rick & Glenda Farlow