Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


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Preparing for Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse – 11-13 March 2014

“A maximum two night stay applies to Lightstation accommodation” is first in Victoria Park’s list of Things To Remember when planning a trip to Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse. (They also helpfully point out that there is no minimum stay.)

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse - photo taken prior to 1942 (not sure who by)

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse – photo taken prior to 1942 (not sure who by)

Fortunately for us there is accommodation available otherwise we might not get to the lighthouse. To date we haven’t included camping with our hiking expeditions. Our multi-day hikes have all been with guiding companies who take away the worry of accommodation and food; you just have to bring clothes, minimal toiletries and walk from A to B.

Our desire to see the lighthouse at the most south-easterly point of mainland Australia has prompted us to take the next step in self-sufficiency.

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse, BOM weather station & Rodondo Island

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse, BOM weather station & Rodondo Island – March 2014

Food, shelter and water. Vic Parks would take care of the last two once we arrived at the lighthouse, but food was our challenge on this trip. We knew we’d been somewhat spoiled with both Cradle Mountain Huts and Ultimate Hikes previously. Both use there freshly-made, high quality meals as a marketing point. Cradle Mountain Hikes advertisesumptuous meals, freshly baked bread,  a glass or two of Tasmanian wine” which, from our experience, was every bit as good as it sounds (if not more so – read more here). Ultimate Hikes spell out their options more fully on their website, but in summary “A three course dinner…[with] A selection of New Zealand wine, beer and soft drinks are available for purchase“. It’s similar in design to Cradle Mountain Huts, but produced on a much bigger scale (as previously discussed toward at the end of my Milford Track Day 1 post here).

Having enjoyed gourmet food out in ‘the middle of nowhere’ before (and having read and heard unflattering reviews of pre-packed hiking/camping food that outdoor shops sell) our self-imposed challenge was figuring out how could we do fresh-ish (if not exactly gourmet) meals for ourselves.

This is what we’ve come up with:

Hiking food - plenty for two nights away, I hope!

Hiking food – plenty for two nights away, I think!

Keeping in mind that the kitchens in each cottage at the lightstation are “fully equipped with stove, oven, microwave, fridge, cutlery and crockery”, we can take some items we wouldn’t otherwise.

Here’s the plan for 3 days and 2 nights:

Breakfast
– Cereal (weetbix for me with a few sultanas, Stephen prefers other cereal) in a ziplock bag x 2 each
– powdered milk (for me) in a ziplock bag
– 1L UHT milk (for Stephen)
– Honey straws (optional)

Trail Snacks
3 x mini ziplock bags each (one for each day) comprising:
Wallaby Bites – fruit, nut & grains coated in dark chocolate – Australian owned & made. (Found with gluten free products at our local IGA supermarket & organic shops)
– Australian Dried Apricots (Stephen’s not a fan of  Turkish apricots – whether it indicates style or country of origin)
– Australian Pecan Nut Halves (we think Riverside taste the best – they’re in the cooking ingredients section of our local IGA)
– Australian Macadamias (I’d hope there aren’t any imports on our shelves!)
– Australian Dried Apples (Incredibly hard these days to find dried apples not from China. These were also at our local IGA, though they weren’t easy to find)

Hiking snacks

Lunch
– Mission Wraps (this time it’s wholemeal, but mainly because we couldn’t find a Spinach or Tomato flavoured pack). Why wraps? Because bread squashes and crackers break.)
– Spicy chorizo
– Sun dried tomato
– Kraft cheestick wedges
– fresh apples
– lunch wrap (we planned to make the wraps at the cottage before-hand)

Dinner
We’ve tested this concoction at home and hope this will be enough for two nights:
– 1 x 250g pk Israeli (pearl) couscous
– 1 x spicy chorizo
– 1 x 100g dehydrated garden (green) peas
– 1 x 100g pinenut kernels
– 1 x 150g semidried tomatoes
– 1 tbs paprika
– 1 tbs oregano
– 1 tsp ground cumin

Hiking food - dinner for Wilsons Prom lighthouse - Hopefully enought for two nights?

In case it’s not enough we’re taking extra food. It’s not fun to walk on an empty stomach!

– Sunrice medium grain brown rice that can be microwaved in 90sec (I hope the microwave is working if we need it!)
– Safcol tuna pieces in foil pack (x 2)
– Continental Cup-a-Soup (2pkt)

(Post-walk note: We didn’t need the extra food. The couscous was definitely enough. Fortunately there is a spare food draw at the cottages. Although the contents of the draw in our cottage when we arrived were just half a dozen packets or so of packet soup and a couple of sachets of salt, the next guests having a gander may have been surprised to find the rice, tuna, and a couple of extra tubes of honey I didn’t use up on my weetbix. And in case you’re wondering, we’ve definitely had our fill of chorizo, salami, etc for a good while now.)

So for food, I think we’re doing ok. Which just leaves…

Drink
What’s wrong with water you ask? Well, nothing. But a glass of something else is enjoyable too.
– 1 x McWilliams Dry Red Clarsac Sachet 250mL ($3.50 from the bottle shop attached to our IGA. I don’t think I’ll be drinking much)
– 2L cask Banrock Station Shiraz Cabernet (No, Stephen won’t be lugging the whole 2L down, but he wanted something better than my unknown brand sachet option)
And because there’s every chance that I may get there and want something non-alcoholic, yet tasty
Ward’s Fruit Saline Effervescent lemon drink
– powdered chocolate drink

(Post-walk note: The saline effervescent drink was a lifesaver. If you’re contemplating walking to the lighthouse in one go like us, I would highly recommend taking some sort of hydrolyte/electrolyte/replenishing tablets or powder, just in case. The weather forecast was for mild conditions – instead it turned out to be pretty hot and I arrived quite dehydrated.)

So a two night limit is probably a good thing for us – who knows how much food we’d think we should take if we were able to stay longer!

Sunset colours the clouds at Wilsons Promontory Lightstation

Sunset colours the clouds at Wilsons Promontory Lightstation – two nights is just not long enough!!

Of course, there’s one more dinner and breakfast to plan for – once we return from our walk (we’ll be way too tired to drive ~3hrs hours back to Melbourne). We’re staying again at Black Cockatoo Cottages just outside the park for one night again after our walk (about 30min drive from Tidal River), so we don’t have far to travel. Even so, because the food will be left in the car while we’re in the park for a few days we need to take something that doesn’t require refrigeration.

(Post-walk note: We found out that the general store at Yanakie does a great take away fish & chip – with a very generous serving of chips. I’m not sure if they do it every night or not. Best to check ahead.)

So apart from food, what else do you need to pack when visiting the lighstation?

Parks Victoria doesn’t have a kit list – not even for novice do-it-yourself overnighters. Of course we have a pretty good idea of what to pack for ourselves, even though we only use our ~80L backpacks once every 3 years or so.

(If you don’t, check out this Ultimate Hike’s page on What To Bring. Keep in mind that Vic Parks won’t be supplying back packs and raincoats!)

Our room, almost packed

Our room in the Lighthouse Keepers Cottage, almost packed

What is provided at the lighthouse are bunk beds with pillows and pillowcases. If you want to use a doona you can pre-book and pay for one through the Visitor Centre prior to arrival, although taking your own sleeping bag is also on Vic Park’s list of Things To Remember. Either way, you must take your own sheet(s). Stephen and I both have compact sleeping bags (1kg & 500g respectively) and silk inner liners (at less than 150g, much lighter than cotton sheets! Dare I ask – who’d take those?), but we’re glad there are pillows provided.

To help care for the environment, guests are asked to bring phosphorus free shampoos and soap.

The lightstation is powered by diesel generators, so while power is available (with no discernible cut-off time), visitors are requested to help save power and keep lights turned off. To keep power usage down each cottage is filed to capacity before another cottage is opened for guests.

Guests do not need to take cleaning products (detergent, sponge, scourer, tea towels), toilet paper, cutlery or crockery for use at the lightstation. I’ll put more details and photos about staying in the cottages in my next post.

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse on a mostly clear night

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse on a mostly clear night

Keep in mind, you don’t have to be crazy about lighthouses to enjoy being there. There’s also sunrises, sunsets, wildlife, cliffs, passing ships, fascinating history…. it’s most definitely worth the walk.

: )

See also:

Wilsons Promontory Lightstation – March 2014 (Part 1) – Tidal River to the Lighthouse via Oberon Bay and Telegraph Track
Wilsons Promontory Lightstation – March 2014 (Part 2) – Lighthouse tour, accommodation options, exploring Eastern Landing
Wilsons Promontory Lightstation – March 2014 (Part 3) – Return to Tidal River via South East Walking Track and Waterloo Bay


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One Tree Hill & the 1000 Steps, Dandenong Ranges National Park – 2 March 2014

Just because you’ve done something once before, doesn’t mean you can do it again – without directions, at least.

Which is how we came to be walking by some very nice houses on Kia Ora Parade (with some other locationally challenged walkers) wondering which turn we should/shouldn’t have made to get to the 1000 Steps. But lets rewind a bit and I’ll explain…

It’s not long now until we’re off to Wilsons Prom to walk down to the lighthouse. My office day job provides, as you might imagine, ideal training for a 20-24km hike (probably to be repeated 3 days in a row, unless we’re too knackered on the middle day). The slightly downhill 3km walk home of an evening has also really helped to boost my confidence.

Even so, we though a bit of extra practice wouldn’t go astray.

We’ve been meaning to go back to One Tree Hill and the 1000 Steps for quite some time. The last first and last time we were there was before the ‘new’ Lyrebird track was (re)opened. Today seemed like a good day. Pity neither Stephen or I remembered to pick up Glenn Tempest’s “Daywalks Around Melbourne” in case we couldn’t remember which track to take, based solely on our memories of our walk from a couple of years back.

This section of the Dandenong Ranges Nation Park must be one of the most visited of Victoria’s parks. The 1000 Steps car park at the bottom of the hill (Fern Tree Gully end) is very large, but always full. I’ve never been by and not seen cars parked for hundreds of metres up the sides of the road.  As suggested by Glenn Tempest, we have always (that is to say both times now) parked at the top at the One Tree Hill car park. Compared to the crowd at the bottom, it’s like hardly anyone seems to know about it. And yet it’s only about 100m (if that) from the end of the 1000 Steps track. Go figure.

Dandenong Ranges NP - car park at One Tree Hill

Car park at One Tree Hill

A small section of the 1000 Steps Car Park

Just a small section of the packed 1000 Steps Car Park (not the clearest photo, I grant you)

Just going up and down the 1000 Steps (or Lyrebird) track with half of Melbourne’s population (well, not quite half) is not our idea of a great afternoon, so we like to extend the walk so we can look around, enjoy the bush and get to clock up 10km without collapsing (as I think could be on the cards if we did the same distance just going up and down the ‘Steps).

So after finding a park (not hard), changing into our hiking boots (there’s a convenient seat nearby), we walked to the top of the hill to start our walk along Tyson Track. It’s pretty steep going down, even if it doesn’t look it in the photo.

The bush down the western slopes of One Tree Hill is drier, with less understorey than in the lush and protected gullies, and with grasses as the majority of the ground cover. Numerous tracks crisscross the park. Some follow a level grade as much as possible, and some tracks are very steep (through not as steep as the Telecom Track in Walhalla, thankfully). The tracks are generally wide, gravel-surfaced and well maintained, and it’s not unusual to come across a number of other walkers or hikers and there are signs of mountain bike riders using the tracks, too. In fact, this section of the National Park reminds me of Toohey Forest, just south of Brisbane.

Something I’ve never seen in Toohey’s Forest though is one of these fellows, who was just to the side of The Boulevard (track) as we tried to find our way back up to Belview Terrace.

Echidna

Echidna in defensive mode

Having descended from the top of the hill, walked some streets while slightly ‘locationally challenged’, climbed almost the whole way back up again while doubling back due to a poor choice of track at Himalaya Road, we eventually found the path we originally intended to be on (Belview Tce).

Slightly surprised at the appearance of a police 4wd coming up the track (yes, the paths are that wide and no, I doubt they’d need to put it in 4wd to get up that track… well, maybe to get around some of the corners lower down) we continued down hill again until we reached the 1000 Steps car park and picnic ground. There are public facilities there and even a cafe now.

Cafe at 1000 Steps/Fern Tree Gully picnic ground

Cafe at 1000 Steps/Fern Tree Gully picnic ground

Now, I understand and fully support the principle that what you take into a national park you should also take out. That’s good, proper and the responsible thing to do. But when you buy something at a cafe, you would expect them to have a rubbish bin, wouldn’t you? Apparently not in this case. Again, I understand why – they don’t want to attract birds/possums/rodents etc and encourage unnatural habits – but there’s not even an inside bin. Which isn’t to say that the cafe staff don’t dispose of rubbish left on tables by people who ‘didn’t see’ the signs… Anyway, we took our rubbish with us – it’s not like there was a lack of space in our backpacks!

And so here we were. The infamous 1000 Steps (of which I hear there are somewhat fewer than 1000 – I wasn’t counting though). Last time we battled our way up the old, narrow,  steep, slippery track with half of Melbourne’s population who are trying to get fit and a couple of bus loads of tourists on top of that. What was the new track going to be like?

Start of the 1000 Steps

Start of the 1000 Steps

I think I’ve been told that groups preparing to walk the Kokoda track come here to train. Have I mentioned that the old track is steep? The recent works done around this lower end of the park really emphasise our history on the Kokoda Track. There are information plaques along the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps track – but with the human traffic it can be hard to take it in. Having large, dedicated areas down the bottom that you can read before or after your climb seems a good idea. It also gives you something to reflect on while you’re struggling up the hill.

Kokoda Memorial at the start of the 1000 Steps

One of the new Kokoda Memorials at the start of the 1000 Steps

And here it is – the spilt. Lyrebird (new 1000 Steps) on the left, the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka the ‘old’ 1000 Steps) on the right.

1000 Steps vs Lyrebird Track

Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (aka 1000 Steps) vs Lyrebird Track (aka the new 1000 Steps)

We came to try out the new path, so that’s what we chose. I was surprised at the number of people still heading up the old path. It hasn’t been wet lately – I wonder if that makes a lot of difference? You won’t catch me going up there in the wet. Even with a handrail, those old, mossy, sloped steps do not make me feel safe. In comparison, the steps of the new track – though not as wide as we’d expected – are level, deep and moss free.

The new path is 700m longer than the old one (2.5km vs 1.8km), although both are rated as ‘Steep’. And since you get a choice between stairs and path on the Lyrebird Track, after a short while I found the track was definitely easier! As long as you keep to the one line and be aware that you’re sharing the path, it’s pretty good. But still quite a way up. And these signs along the way don’t help. I’ve no idea what they’re measuring. The track is 2.5km long, but the post at the top says 15oom… it’s not elevation – the top of the track is not quite 500m above sea level.

Mission accomplished we left the sweaty masses behind and wandered up the last 100m (if that) of the track back to the One Tree Hill car park. By this stage lunch on top of the hill was sounding really nice (we only stopped for a quick snack at the cafe below) and as previously mentioned, there are open and sheltered picnic tables as well as BBQ’s and facilities up top here too.

Full circuit

Full circuit

Unfortunately I’m still having issues with embedding our Garmin details, but if you’re interested in a good walk around the Dandenongs, please check it out here – and don’t forget to take a copy of your walk directions with you!

: )