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15 December 2007

SW Tasmania Expedition

Days 3 & 4 - Saturday 15/12/07

Matt rang at 5.30 pm to let us know he was safe at the southern side of Bathurst Narrows, enjoying the peace and quiet of a sunny afternoon.

Apparently, he has injured his left ankle which made wearing boots uncomfortable. Since that incident he has been wearing sandals, until one broke, so he is back to boots again.

All being well he should reach Melaleuca tomorrow (Sunday) when he will reassess his injury. If the food parcel has been left for him by Par Avion he will then need to make a decision as to whether he is fit enough to continue on to Cockle Creek or get a lift out by plane.

13 December 2007

SW Tasmania Expedition

Day 2 - Thursday 13/12/07 - Port Davey Track

Just a brief text message from Matt today via sat phone - "At Watershed Camp. 20kms today. Sore and tired but OK."

I tried to call him immediately I received the message but unfortunately there was no signal. I would expect he is limiting his phone usage to preserve battery power, even though he has a flexible solar panel to re-charge batteries whenever possible. I hope he wasn't standing around staring at the phone screen for 2 hours waiting for enough bars to appear so he could send his message.

12 December 2007

SW Tasmania Expedition

Day 1 - Wednesday 12/12/07 - Port Davey Track

A new adventure starts!

Today, at 12.55 pm, Matt started out from Scots Peak Dam on the first leg of a walk down to Melaleuca and, maybe, on to Cockle Creek.

Weather was fine, slightly overcast, with not too many march flies to bother him.

His aim for today was to walk to the junction of McKays Track and the Port Davey Track (maybe 3 - 3.5 hours) and camp there. He expects to take 4 days to get to Melaleuca, then 6 or 7 to Cockle Creek.

I don't expect daily updates, especially bearing in mind the problems he had on his previous attempt to paddle down the west coast but, as information comes to hand, I'll keep this site updated.

According to the registration log book no other walkers were planning to do this trip at this time, so he may not meet many, if any, other walkers.

07 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 6 - Friday 7/12/07

Matt rang (CDMA from Macquarie Heads - thank you Telstra for closing this service from Jan 08!!!) to say he had arrived at about 10 am after a very difficult struggle from his last night's camp site 2 kms north of Sloop Point.

He was up at 4.45 am after enduring a night of strong winds, expecting the wind might drop early in the day. No such luck, so he set off, hugging the shore to gain some protection from the N-NE winds.

As he rounded Cape Sorell he was met with the full force of the gale wind and steep seas. A front came through and turned n/w - which was a gale force TAIL wind (coming from a 7-8 o'clock angle behind) with torrential rain. The wind was so strong he couldn't avoid being hurled down the steep breaking waves so he had to brace for the ride.

As he approached Hells Gates in gale force winds a tourist boat poked its nose out - the tourists must have wondered just what they were seeing as Matt paddled into Macquarie Harbour, apparently having come from the open Ocean.

He now intends to re-assess his plans for the remaining 6 weeks of his holidays but said that he would have gone insane if he had to spend 5-6 weeks by himself back on that section of coast again - when you are so spoiled kayaking and you can do the same thing in 2-4 days.

He now plans to do some more 'normal' trips like Precipitous Bluff 'circuit' (out Moonlight Ridge & back via South Coast Track), Mt Anne Circuit, Frenchman's Cap, and a two week paddle trip to Albatross Island area - n/w Tas.
Thanks Phil for the suggestions. I mainly decided it was best for the little remaining sanity that I have left, that it wouldn't be smart to spend 5 weeks by myself bush-bashing through dense scrub with no tracks. I have heard that someone was stuck in the section near the Wanderer River and was praying for a fishing boat to pick him up to escape it.

from Matt W.

06 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 5 - Thursday 6/12/07

First, a note of thanks to Phil for helpful suggestions of how to protect food when left in a remote area - I'll pass on to Matt at first chance.

Gale force winds today would have made 'progress' very difficult for Matt - from the north to north-east. However, I heard from my wife Suzanne, when I had returned from a day trip to Melbourne, that Matt had made it to about 12 kms from Cape Sorell lighthouse (20 km from getting back into Macquarie Hbr) during the afternoon.

Apparently, if he has a chance he will attempt to get up through Hells Gates during the evening - if the strong winds ease up as it cools down. He thinks the strong wind might be due to a hot day and strong sea breeze.

I hope he doesn't get "homecoming fever" and try to do too much too soon. I would rather he waits a day or two close to Strahan than push too hard.

However, he is his own man and I know he will take care.

05 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 4 - Wednesday 5/12/07

Despite repeated attempts last night no contact was possible with Matt.

I sent the 5am coastal forecast early today in the hope he might be able to get a signal to read that conditions are expected to ease somewhat.
However, at 7.30am I got a phone call from Matt to say he thought it would be insane to continue and undertake the walk as planned. He did not get the text message though.
His reasoning is that he checked the food box at The Shank (where he spent last night) and found that animals had attacked it and water had got into the plastic box even though it was sealed with strong fabric tape.

Imagine the despair if he had found this after 7 days walk and then no food re-supply for the following week!

His plan now is to back-track, maybe to Point Hibbs today.

More news as it comes to hand.

Update from later in the day - Matt has reached Point Hibbs in worsening conditions. He reckons he might try for Strahan (Heads Camping Ground) on Thursday, weather permitting.

04 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 3 - Tuesday 4/12/07

This must have been a very frustrating day for Matt - he is still at The Shank!
I received only the briefest of phone calls from him and 2 text messages:

5.58 pm "Still at The Shank. V strong gusty wind. Next 3 days wind?"

7.35 pm "I am not getting any radio signal for news, weather. Sat phone 1 min per hour."

He apparently tried many times to get a signal and, when he did, I happened to be tending a small fire to get rid of rubbish and did not have the forecast printout with me that I had sent.

The coastal weather forecast I sent by text would not have given him any joy either (if he was able to get it). It started off with:

"A gale warning is current."

I tried many times during the evening to get through to his sat phone but only got the unavailable message. Not a good recommendation for a sat phone in a remote area I thought.

I don't think Matt is running out of time for this food supply trip but I know that hanging around waiting for the weather to improve isn't his favourite way of spending the day in the wilderness.

(from Matt) - I was waiting at the Shank and had no idea what the weather was going to do as I hadn't heard any forecasts. I could see that it was very gusty and would have been messy off Low Rocky Point. After I had watched the weather for the whole day I realised that in hindsight I could have easily coped with the conditions - but I couldn't predict that. It really does drive me crazy when I get stuck at a place. Even though the Shank is sheltered for landing a kayak, it isn't a pleasant smelling place. There is a lagoon full of rotting kelp that smells like poo. The lagoon had a stream of flowing rotten kelp past my camp. After a while you get better at breathing without smelling as well. There are the marks of lots of 4 wheel bike tracks near the Shank from bikes that come down the old mining exploration track from Birchs Inlet (Macquarie Hbr) to Low Rocky Point. There is also fishing rubbish everywhere.

03 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 2 - Monday 3/12/07

Only a sketchy report from Matt today when he rang at 9.05pm due to the appalling coverage by his globalstar satellite phone.
He is at The Shank, about 35 kms SE of Point Hibbs. He left Point Hibbs at 9am after packing and leaving his food parcel for the walk later. He left a second food parcel at Hartwell Cove, about 20 kms SE of Point Hibbs. It had been raining heavily during the paddle and he sheltered in Hartwell Cove for a while waiting for things to improve but after a while he left because he decided he may as well be wet and get warm paddling rather than stand around getting cold and wet.
As well as the rain, it was very misty with only about 2km visibility, so he followed the coast as closely as the large breaking waves would allow.
Yesterday it took him over an hour to get a satellite phone signal before he was able to get through to report progress. Today it was over 2 hours and then the signal dropped out after 2 minutes due to a lost signal. "Thankyou Globalstar." You are improving Telstra/Iridium's business by the day! Even Globalstar Australia's website lists in the coverage details the optimum times of the day that you will get coverage for the location that you enter - maybe once every 45 mins or so in some areas for a minute or two. It is a shame that there satellites are failing (see media reports that they may not be working by 2008)

Even though he is well equipped, with a solar panel to charge batteries, if the sun's not shining when he stops paddling then there isn't much chance to re-charge any batteries. When he landed at the Shank he cleared the braken ferns from an old fishermen's campsite and watched the waves breaking on all of the reefs that make this area sheltered.

02 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 1 - Sunday 2/12/07

After what must have been a nightmare organising gear for two trips at the same time, Matt left the camping ground at Macquarie Heads at 11am with his Mirage 580 sea kayak packed with not only his supplies for up to 2 weeks of kayak paddle, but also food for four (weekly) supply drops when he walks down the coast.
He phoned at 9.30pm to let me know he had made it to Point Hibbs, the first drop-off point, at 7.30pm, very tired.
He had head winds out to Cape Sorell, then light to moderate SW winds during the afternoon. At about 6pm the wind dropped to calm conditions for the final stint to Point Hibbs. Upon landing he set up camp on the beach but was annoyed that he didn't have his sand pegs (snow pegs) as they were in his walking pack - back in the car. He used buried sticks with rocks over the top of the sticks in the sand instead, which held his macpac microlight tent firm on the beach.
Distance covered today was about 60 kms.