Friday 8 Sep 23
South Coast Track, Tasmania
Ironbound Low Camp is a very loose term. Camp is not what you might imagine the the word. Any patches of ground that looked reasonable proved, on close inspection, to be potential ponds, or were located under vast tonnages of timber which is disconcerting to say the least. We located a site partially hidden by some deadfall so after sawing some of that out we found ourselves a half decent home for the night. Stopping there proved to be a good call since today we confirmed we would have been on the track in the dark and reaching Deadman’s Bay in the dark as well, a dangerous undertaking. Some of the track is in reasonable shape but for the most part in rough condition. There is significant amount of deadfall – mostly across the track but sometimes in line with it. Negotiating it in daylight is one thing, in the dark very problematic.
But the muddy, tree root trapped, greasy wet forest environment, let alone stream crossings are just not worth the risk. Oh, I should add that even though the day might be bright you need to shorten the working day by an hour or since it gets dark early under that wet forest canopy.
We were on the track at 0813. There had been scattered showers through the night but nothing substantial, though they kept me awake at times. By the time we surfaced and got going we could catch glimpses of blue sky through the canopy above us.
We took just under three hours to get to Deadman’s Bay. Leaving the campsite there took a bit of deciphering since the track was not marked and an old and well defined track took us up along the creek only to be blocked by an enormous fallen tree. After crawling under it sans pack and discovering there had been no traffic along here for a while we realised it was a false turn. We wasted twenty minutes discovering so. I suspect the track originally went up here as there are signs of ongoing track on the other side of the creek beyond the fallen tree.
Eventually we got ourselves onto the beach and managed our way along a short stoney stretch before climbing up onto a flat boggy plain which, hurrah, had a relatively new boardwalk made of that recycled plastic. We cracked across 400m or so in fast time to find ourselves wading a stream before getting to Turua Beach. This is a pretty place but some of the walking over beach boulders slowed us up. We stepped up off the beach onto very pleasant walking, on tracks we had not seen for a couple of days. But we are soon waylaid by deadfall and although there were occasional boggy sections the track was mostly well graded and pleasant walking. That there is so much fallen timber is a real distraction and hindered progress – either because of having to negotiate another route or to simply remove it from the track where we could. On very boggy and eroded sections of the track we average 2km in 3 hours. On unimpeded bush track with occasional deadfall 2km in 2-2.5 hours. 3km in one hour has happened only on sections of open quartzite track or on clean (non slippery) boardwalks. In fact the planks often reduce us to a careful shuffle. Despite all the obstacles I am confident we can be at Prion campsite before dark tonight. We will be back on schedule after losing a night on Ironbound.
The track lifts over a couple of knolls and then drops steeply to the ocean at Grotto Creek. The thunder of the surf is joined by the ferocious roar or water in Grotto Creek. But when we finally reach their junction the surf boiling into the Creek mouth only had one message – your passage is blocked. We could see the beach 100m away and where we wanted to be. But despite putting my kayaking booties on to see what might be possible it was obvious there was to be no passage at all. One of the problems is that the ocean washes around a corner into the creek mouth and just as I was about to step into the wash another wave would catch me out. These were not benign sloshes of water either. So we stopped 4km shy of our goal today. Stopped by a tide timetable over which we have no control.
A cold rain started so we put our overprints and jackets on, anticipating sitting out a break, but it was very obvious that there was to be no waiting that did anything except trying to negotiate the next water crossing in the dark. Our reclining in the rain on the track was really about us taking stock, even as we knew in our heart of hearts there was no getting over the water this evening. Eventually I took an exploratory walk back up the steep bank we just descended, wondering if there might be a flat piece of ground I could clear for a camp site. Laughed out loud on discovering a mossy square with our names written on it. Flat. No deadfall directly above it either. So we carted our gear back up here and set up camp. Very blessed.
However a functioning tide map application tells me that the three tide dependent crossings in front of us will throw our timetable out. We are arriving at every crossing at mid afternoon or later and the high tides all land at 1400-1430. Low tides are either 6 -8 hours either side of that. And in the direction this track takes we have no campsites on the west bank of each crossing. They are all on the east which means we need to cross in order to camp though we are very capable of carving out a camp site wherever we need. So some planning adjustments are in order. But as I set up camp the sinking feeling is that we are going to have trouble getting across any of these tidal crossings at night. The energy in the water in a sheltered cove like Grotto was formidable. These more exposed places will be a barrier.