Lake Pedder to Melaleuca
Day 1 - half day - Lake Pedder (Scotts Peak Dam) to Junction Creek
Day 2 - Junction Creek to Watershed Camp
Day 3 - Watershed Camp to Spring River
Day 4 - Spring River to southern side of boat crossing - Joan Point
Day 5 - half day - Joan Point to Melaleuca
12 Dec 2007 - Scotts Peak Dam/Lake Pedder to Junction Creek
With a big bag of gear, I headed off towards Lake Pedder. I arrived at the start of the old Port Davey track, near the Scotts Peak Dam at 11.30am and spread out my gear on a tarp. My plan was to be out for 12 days. The break up of this would be 4 and a half days to Melaleuca and then 7 days to Cockle Creek. I was only going to start with 6 days of food for the first section and get 8 days of supplies flown in to Melaleuca for the section to Cockle Creek.
I had no urgency as I packed because it was a warm, sunny day and there were plenty of daylight hours, being light until roughly 9.15pm. I headed off at 1pm heading for Junction Creek and quickly regretted letting my boots dry in the sun after the last time I cleaned them. They were now stiff and had changed shape a bit. There was unusual pressure on the bone of my left ankle. It was only a minor discomfort so I didn't really worry about it.
The Chapman book said this was 2.5 - 3.5 hrs away. In the first 2km I realised that I was walking parallel to a road that went to the Red Knoll Lookout. When I checked an older map after the trip I saw that the track used to go from a point near the end of that road. As I walked along the track I noticed that lots of people must still leave from this point as there were still fresh foot print. Leaving from near Red Knoll Lookout instead of the campsite where the walk registration is, shortens the walk by about 2km. My main comment about the current Tasmap - South Coast Walks Map is that they leave off campsites that they know exist but they don't want people to use and they also leave tracks off for the same reason. It is useful and interesting to also have the older tasmaps to see other campsites and tracks. As I walked I made notes on my new map to add the extra campsites.
Some of the gear I was using was:
Macpac Cascade pack with 2 side 'modules' (what a waste that Macpac closed down);
Sea to Summit (Wilderness Equipment) Second Arrow tent;
scarpa boots (the fabric sort, not the leather ones);
sea to summit small sized tarp (for shelter in lots of rain);
gps, South Coast Walks map 1:100,000 (with track notes printed on the back), compass, satellite phone, epirb;
walking clothes including cap, beanie, polar fleece, goretex jacket & sandals for comfort after taking the boots off;
small trangia with one bowl, small kettle, plastic mug, 500ml metho, knife, spoon, fork, pasta meals, tang drink powder sachets, 2 water bottles
2 head torches;
Olympus mju795 waterproof camera (I don't like the fiddly menus on this camera. I prefer canon but they don't do a small waterproof camera)
The 3 hour walk to Junction Creek was pleasant and uneventful, through attractive forest and button grass. I crossed to the southern side of Junction Creek where there was a campsite. My left ankle had become quite sore due to the pressure of the mis-shapen dried boot.
While I was there the campsite was dry but I believe that the campsite would hold the water in rainy weather. While I explored in the afternoon, I found another drier site about 50 metres up a gentle slope along the track, near the turnoff to the toilet and just before you open out to the plain for a view to the Western Arthurs. I had an early sleep at 6pm after a lack of sleep while packing on the previous night.
|Junction Creek campsite|
13 Dec 2007 - Junction Creek to Watershed Camp
I woke up a 5.15am, crawled out of the tent at 6am and headed off at 6.50am. The sky was clear and the Western Arthurs looked beautiful in the morning sun. Within a few minutes of leaving the campsite, I was heading west on a flat plain. There was recent fire damage across about 5km of track and there were sections of burnt boarding.
On the way to the Crossing River there were a few creeks and the walk was quite flat and easy. The scenery at the Crossing River was beautiful and the sky was clear. The track notes stated that the Crossing River was deeper on the side I arrived at. I gave it a prod with a stick. It was about 2 feet deep but I could see that it became steadily shallower. I waded across and then sat on the smooth white rocks and took my shoes and socks off. I relaxed there for an hour and had a good drink.
I headed into the scrub where the main campsite was and found tracks going in all directions. After looking around a bit I found that if you cross the river and then follow it to the right a bit, that is where the 'real' track goes before leaving the river. I had a roll of fluro orange 'flagging tape' and marked the route from the edge of the river to the continuation of the track. I try and carry one of these because it prevents people heading off onto false leads or extra tracks around campsites. I know Parks & Wildlife would probably frown on me marking tracks but often I am replacing 'tapes' that have come off or where branches or trees have fallen and people can't see the route any more.
My destination for the day was to be Watershed Camp which is next to an "unnamed creek". The notes just refer to "traversing several kilometres of button grass plains to the hills (and then a few more km's after that). I was feeling pretty tired when I reached Watershed Camp and I had been getting regular twinges of pain from my left ankle - caused by my boot the previous day. The camp was quite small and I estimate that you could only fit about 4 tents there if people were organised and considerate. I relaxed and had a wash in the creek next to the camp and cooked a pasta meal. The track notes on the map say that this camp is often wet and there are no further campsites for "many hours". As a result of this statement I stopped here.
14 Dec 2007 - Watershed Camp to Spring River
I woke up at 6am and started walking at 7am. As soon as I put my left boot on, the pressure on my outside ankle bone was very painful. I started walking but I couldn't stride out and had sharp, stabbing pain whenever my boot tilted sideways. After about 20 minutes of walking to the south of Watershed Camp I passed a small campsite. There were other small tent sites at other creeks - often on each sides of the creek. I assumed there were there for people who reached these creeks when they were in flood and they had to wait.
I struggled along for an hour south of Watershed Camp and rested my ankle for 10 minutes. I then continued for another hour before I had to stop. I was feeling depressed and annoyed about the injury. The pain was being caused by the pressure of the boot on the outside of my ankle bone. I took my boot off and put my sandal on (over my walking sock) and walked around a bit. I decided to continue like this with one sandal and one boot. I figured that I could put the boot into the deep muddy bits and keep the sandal & sock out of it.
I put my pack on and continued and instantly felt a lot better without the pressure of the boot against my ankle bone. I guessed that it wasn't a muscle or ligament strain but it was more likely a bruise and swelling on the boney outside of my ankle and the pressure was making it worse.
I found I could speed up to my normal (un-injured) pace. The buttongrass plains seemed endless.
I had been curious that this track was called the 'Old Port Davey Track'. I wondered where the 'new Port Davey track' was. I later checked an old tasmap and found that the old Port Davey Track continues down the western side of the Spring River, to the n/w corner of Joe Page Bay of Bathurst Harbour. From the Spring River crossing the old track isn't marked on the South Coast Track Walks Map, but both tracks are on the 'Old River' 1:100,000 tasmap.
As far as the campsites go - if you want to add the extra campsites to the current South Coast Walks map - there is a campsite 1km s/w of the Watershed camp; 2km north of the writing of Dripstone Point; a camp on the track level (east of) Lost World Plateau and another one 1.5km south of there and a big camp at a deep creek 10 minutes before (west of) reaching the Spring River.
When I first reached the Spring River on the western side it was very muddy. The track had been re-routed turning left up river about 30 metres to a big tree that had fallen across the river. I crossed here. On the eastern side the track turned sharply right following the river down stream in heavy mud again for about 30 metres to a small, rough, muddy, uneven campsite - with lots of leaning, rotten trees.
Where you first reach the Spring River if there hasn't been much rain you could just wade straight across the river to the campsite opposite instead of doing the detour through the deep mud and crossing on the fallen tree.
On the eastern side there was space for a few tents but it was lumpy, boggy and scary due to lots of leaning, rotten trees. I was so nervous I got up and moved my tent during the night (in the rain) because of the creaking sound above me. The wind had picked up and there was a howling westerly. I then lay away clutching my epirb in case I was trapped by a tree. I almost considered packing up and sitting under a tarp with my coat on.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that I wasn't impressed by this campsite. It smelled like a public toilet, maybe due to the rotting vegetation.
15 Dec 2007 - Spring River to Bathurst Harbour - south side
I woke up, relieved that I wasn't pinned by a tree. I packed in the rain, under a tarp that I put up. It was still very windy from the west and I headed off again, still with the sandal on my left foot. From this campsite there was about 1km of bog before it reached a creek. Just before the creek was a nice, flat campsite that would fit 2 tents. This was just as you climb up from the buttongrass plain.
This was followed by endless hills, valleys, bog and very strong west to n/w wind. Along the top of the hills there were good views down to the meandering Spring River. Just before the halfway point (between the Spring River and the Bathurst Hbr boat crossing) I entered a section of thick vegetation with a steep, slippery hill, dry forest and rain forest and a nice creek in a valley and then a steep hill again. In this section, still wearing one sandal, I stepped in the mud and the suction held it in the mud breaking a strap. Rather than putting my boot back on I kept walking with the broken sandal because my ankle was still very bruised.
From the 109m hill (on the south coast walks map) the track was generally open with grassy hills and valleys with a bit of bog in between. There were lots of up and down hills in this section. There were good views as the track headed south next to Joe Page Bay towards Bathurst Harbour. I had read that there wasn't water on either side of the boat crossing so I filled up on the eastern side of Lindsay Hill. I had to walk down off the track following a trickle of water and found a better flow about 30 metres east of the track.
I reached the fork to the Farrell Point campsite (north side of boat crossing). There was a dry creek bed that I crossed near to get to the campsite. This campsite has heaps of space and campsites looking to the west up Bathurst Channel. The campsite is on the western side of the point which was the windy side. I left and walked the few hundred metres to the boat shed on the eastern side of the point.
The launching point on the northern side was very sheltered from the wind. I knew that it wasn't sensible to do the boat crossing by myself in the very strong n/w wind but I had the time and I felt that I was a strong rower. The main problem doing the boat crossings by yourself is that you have to do 3 crossings and on the second one you have to tow the second boat. I knew that it would be difficult to tow the second boat in the strong wind.
The boats at this crossing were big fibreglass dinghies and were a lot bigger and heavier than the small aluminium dinghies at the Prion Beach crossing. On the northern side there are short, steep rails and it wasn't too hard to get the boat down to the water.
|Bathurst Harbour boat crossing - north side|
|Bathurst Harbour boat crossing - south side|
I cruised quickly to the southern side where there were long, gently sloping wooden rails. This landing point is very exposed to the wind. I pulled the boat up the rails to get it clear of the water. The other boat was upside down about 20 metres up the rails. I turned it over and dragged it down to the other boat and tied them together. It wasn't easy launching in the strong wind but I managed to get clear. It took a lot of effort to tow the other boat back across in the strong n/w wind. As I got close to the northern side it became sheltered and I landed on the gravelly beach. I winched the second boat up the rails and secured it and then rowed back over, dragged the boat up the long rails and secured that one as well.
This campsite was big as well and I had it to myself. I set up my tent and put up the tarp as well to shelter from rain showers. From this camp site there were great views to Mt Rugby across the passage. I had a relaxing evening sitting out of a rock watching the channel and the fading light on the hills, while eating my pasta meal.
16 Dec 2007 - Bathurst Harbour south side to Melaleuca
I set my alarm for 5am but managed to turn it off without waking up properly and while I was sleeping longer it started to rain heavily. I lay there, listening to the rain without enough will to get out in the rain and pack up. Eventually I packed up at 9am under my tarp to keep my gear dry as I put it in. I headed off to the south down the point and soon reached a fork in the track. I had a quick look at the walk map and it didn't show 2 tracks and a fork. The left track looked like it was heading down to Clytie Cove (to the east) so I took the right fork. This track was still clear and well trodden. It quickly entered the trees and went downhill to a bay, a creek and a campsite. I walked around the campsite for ages looking for the track. Beyond the campsite was cutting grass and high, scrubby grass. I found a spot to break through the scrub and headed south.
There was misty rain and I could see the hill that I had to climb, 1km to the south, across a scrubby button grass area. I bush bashed along the plain and eventually found the track at the base of the hill. The track had followed the long ridge, up off the plain, parallel to the route I took but a lot easier. I then crossed over a steep, bare hill with good views of Horseshoe Inlet and Bathurst Harbour. The track then headed back down to the plain with only a few hills to break up the morning. This section was about 12km and I was feeling weary. The weather improved and so had regular stops and relaxed, taking in the sights, sounds and smell of the button grass plains.
The last few k's had a few small hills, twists and turns before crossing a creek just before the airstrip at Melaleuca. I had a wash in the lagoon and then relaxed, watching the Orange Bellied Parrots, Green Rosellas and other parrots. I had a comfortable night in the hut and got a flight out the next day. I didn't continue to Cockle Creek because I couldn't put my left boot on and now my sandal was broken as well. I planned to fly home and buy some walking shoes as they wouldn't press against my ankle bone.
To sum up the Port Davey track from Lake Pedder to Melaleuca - The first bit to the Crossing River is very scenic, with the highlights being, Junction Creek, the Western Arthurs and the Crossing River. I wasn't thrilled with the section from the Crossing River to the Spring River. It was nice again after crossing the Spring River with views to Bathurst Harbour. The walk from Bathurst Harbour to the top of the first hills was nice with a long stroll across the plains to Melaleuca. It isn't as spectacular as the south coast track but it still has some interesting sections and nice scenery.
If you have long daylight hours and feel fit and walk fast, a 3 day schedule would be:
1. Scotts Peak to Crossing River
2. Crossing River to Spring River
3. Spring River to boat crossing then to Melaleuca