Final: Summit to Sea, Victoria

Summit to Sea March 17th– 25th 2019

This was the important last stage of the Summit to Sea, which had begun three years previously at the Summit of Mt Bogong and was now destined to reach the sea at Golden beach in Gippsland. 

After various routes and timings to get to Bairnsdale, ten of us gathered for a meal together and be briefed by Neil for our first walk the following day. Some of those who had walked the previous sections were unfortunately not able to make it for medical reasons.

This last section was 5 days walking from the Mitchell River NP to the beach (with an extra walk on the first day as a warm up and to make it up to 6 days of walking).

During the first night we heard a few drops of rain on our cabin roof, followed by a few more and then consistent rain. We got very wet on the first couple of walks, a novelty for us South Australians. In the newly named Colquhoun Regional Park on the Great Lakes discovery trail, we followed the historical tramway created to access a pink granite quarry. Afterwards we drove to Costick’s weir, built to create a reliable water resource after a devastating bushfire in 1939…and then to Stoney Creek Trestle Bridge. This is 247m long and 20m high, created from locally grown grey box and red ironbark and demonstrating early engineering skills. 

It was wet again as we set off to Billy Goat Bend in the Mitchell River NP (about 50km) …a great view from the look out and then a very steep track down to the river for a picturesque morning tea spot. We followed a track along the steep rocky slopes of the Mitchell river gorge to Deadcock Den, the Bluff look out and finally the Den of Nargun. Warm temperate rainforest flourishes in this area with ferns and mosses and Kurrajong. The area is significant for the Gunaikurnai people.

After a slow progress the previous day, due to terrain and weather, we had some catching up to do. In various combinations, we walked in relay from the Den of Nargun to the railway line, all starting from “the Fingerboards,” a point which marks the boundary between mountains and plains. A signboard shows an illustrated history of the area between 1840 and 1988, of mainly flat, open farmland and pine forest. For one relay team, their walk was longer than the others and definitely not flat. We know because they reminded us!

We met for morning tea before setting off for another relay segment until lunch, grateful for mobile phones to clarify confusing tracks. This section was mainly natural bushland with considerable ups and downs and gave us all a good workout. 

The following day we walked under the Melbourne/Bairnsdale railway line. The twelve tunnels are spectacular and prompted a pause for photography. This walk was light and easy, with sandy soil in natural scrub…screeching cockatoos, a wallaby and lots of mozzies. Neil was so organised that he provided a towel to protect us for a barbed wire fence crossing, (and an improvement over being zapped by an electric fence for some.)

On day 4 we walked more “relay” before leaving cars at a sandy entry to a walk alongside Lake Wellington, then inland to Plover Point, where we met the channel between Lakes Wellington and Victoria. After some ‘toe dipping’ in the channel we walked back to have a very mosquito bothered lunch at the Roseneath caravan park entrance. 

Sunday was “moving day” to Sale, with time in the afternoon for a trip on the Rubeena Heritage Cruise from the Port of Sale to see the old swing bridge in operation. Our guide, Ian, was a nonstop supplier of information about the area and its history. We were generously offered scones with jam and cream by the “other group” on the boat…all very amicable.

On our last day, we drove out to Seacombe, with various car arrangements, worked out with Neil’s usual flair. It was windy and the channel looked inhospitable. Walking was mainly flat and sandy, with healthy-looking banksia and an echidna not wishing to join us. Isobel demonstrated her “fix it” skills by temporarily mending Jim’s glasses with a penknife and half a band aid. We had an exposed and windy walk across the bed of dry and crusty Lake Reeve (the bleakness made us think about early explorers). We were glad to shelter out of the wind for lunch.  A last “up” over the sand dunes brought us out to Golden Beach with beautiful sand and sea colours and angular waves with nothing to stop them between us and Tasmania.

Jubilation, toes in the water, then mandatory photographs especially for those who have walked from Mt Bogon. Congratulations, Neil on all the organization. (And although some may not have been able to come, you didn’t lose anyone.)

And…back at the car, thanks to Neil’s organization and equipment, we celebrated with chocolate ice creams. 

Those who have completed the full walk are Neil, Andrew, Elaine, Isobel, Ruth and Ian.