Beem River to Lakes Entrance Victoria 23 to 25 August 2007.
30 Aug 2007
After leaving the campsite we drove the short distance to the Bemm River Bridge where we had a walk across it to look at the small rapids up the river. We had only just parked the van when a large wood lorry came down the hill, we felt glad we had pulled off at the side of the road instead of meeting it on the bend. Back in the motorhome we retraced our tyre tracks up the C615 to the Princess Highway, turned left and set off in a westerly direction.
Not far along the highway we turned off onto the C107 and headed for Cape Conran Coastal Park, a great camping and bush walking area. We pulled into the car park, at East Cape, and headed down to the beach where we watched a group of surfers out in the sea. It seems that in Australia you are either a surfer or a fisherman but I suppose with a large percentage living near the coast that is inevitable. From the beach we had seen some viewing platforms further along on the cliffs and as we could not walk along the beach due to the tide we went back onto the road. We walked down the short distance and before reaching the beach area we discovered a bush walk which joined the east and west cape up. As we would be driving round to the West Cape beaches later we decided to just do the nature walk, it took us up over the headland and round to the next bay known as Cowrie Bay. Discovering steps down to it we had a walk out onto the rocky outcrop and watched the waves banging up onto them.
Back at our original destination we found the boardwalk. Usually board walks are 'tame' ways for walkers to experience the area, not these; we first had to scramble over a rocky outcrop before you reached the first boardwalk, which took you part way around the headland. Then we had to cross a beach and over more large rocks or boulders to reach the second part of the board walk. This area was named Sailors Grave, due to three ships running aground on the nearby reef known as Beware Reef. The reef is a pinnacle of granite that rises 30 meters off the sea floor with barely 2 meters to be seen at sea level, so I would imagine most sailors would want to beware of it. Why it got the name of Sailors Grave is a mystery as the notice board informed us that all ships crew and passengers were safely rescued.
Back to the van and around the bay to West Cape and out for another walk along a beach and more rocks to scramble over. Jeff always insists it is an easy way but then he has longer legs than me and can climb up and down them better. Perhaps I should have been a rock wallaby! After lunch we drove on along the coast road to Orbost, a small country town. The town street, as we drove in, was lined by cherry trees and they were all in blossom making a pretty sight. We stopped at the tourist office which is in an old Slab Hut near the banks of the Snowy River. The building started life in 1872; about 2 miles further up the river as a family home, and was moved to its present position when it was donated to the local Orbost Historical Society. The lady suggested we visit the local community project, the construction of the Paddle Steamer Curlip. This project is housed in a large barn building and around the walls is a display of the history of the project and a photographic record of the work to date. It is hoped the work will be completed by July 2008, when it will be taken to Marlo and offer tourists trips along the Snowy River. It cannot sail here in Orbost as the river is too shallow. There is a web page for the project at www.paddlesteamercurlip.com.au so we will be able to follow its progress.
Outside the building is the old pump house which has markings on it to indicate the flood levels in the town over the past 100 years. The most recent flood being only a couple of weeks ago. The area we are travelling through at present is called Gippsland and last December and January we watched TV coverage of devastating bush fires which destroyed over 1,000,000 hectares of land. Fifty one houses were burnt down and one man lost his life. The fire left the hillsides bare so that when this June the area was hit with heavy rains and storms there was nothing left on the mountain to hold the water. As a result, a large area was flooded, mud slides destroyed houses and roads and bridges were damaged. More than 60,000 hectares of prime grazing land was washed away. On June 27, 319 mm of rain fell on Mt Wellington's parched slopes, that were the second highest single day's rainfall ever recorded in Victoria. The effects of these floods are still evident as we drive through the area. It seems ironic that the country has experienced a 10 year drought and they desperately need rain, yet when it does come it destroys so much. The farmers out here are 'doing it tough' as the TV drought appeals run by the Salvation Army inform us.
We found an internet shop and checked out our e-mails and discovered one from Louise who is organising the shipment of our van. She has now got us a definite sailing date of the 15 Sep so we can go ahead and organise our flights. We had wondered if we should stay here but decided to move on to the next town, Lakes Entrance. As we drove along the Princess Highway we saw a wombat sitting on the grass verge, this is only the second wombat we have seen in the wild. Unfortunately for us and probably fortunately for the wombat, there was no where for us to pull up and get a photo. So one lucky wombat got left in peace.
We arrived at our destination and found our campsite with no problems; however they only have one power site as they have converted their park to cabins. We had chosen this site as it has a wireless connection through the chain Big 4, and we still have 8 hours of time to use up. It is a long story about this which I wont bore you with now, I will save it till we get back. We decided to stay here and low and behold our internet connection worked with no problems, so we were able to surf the net looking for air flights and accommodation in New Zealand. Our van will not arrive until the 28 Sep, and as that is a Friday it will not be processed through customs and quarantine until Monday, so we will need somewhere to stay.
After a morning catching up with our web page, doing e-mails and surfing the web we spent the afternoon exploring Lakes Entrance. This is the area where the Gippsland Lakes meet the Southern Ocean, and the start of Ninety Mile Beach, which stretches as far west as Yarram. The lakes area is the largest inland salt water system in the Southern Hemisphere, and we were told that you can sail a boat from Lakes Entrance to Sale, a distance of over 43 miles. The lakes have been described as the 'best examples of coastal lagoons in the world' and with a Mediterranean climate they make a popular holiday destination. We discovered just how popular when we saw how many caravan parks, apartments and hotels are in the town. We walked across the footbridge over the lake and along the bush walk to shipping entrance to the lakes. This is the man made entrance built in the late 1890's, replaced the existing natural entrance which was further up the coast. We were told that there is a lot of trouble in keeping the channel open from the silt build ups, and after the recent storms the fishing fleet could not get in to port and had to dock at a rival port. This raised concerns that they might loose the fishing fleet altogether.
We walked back along the beach and then back into town to do some shopping and our usual coffee and cookie. Then back to the van and we were able to make a couple of phone calls via the internet.