Readjusting my 16 kg pack and eyeing up the (probably innocent enough) hill before me, I turned to my hiking partner Jemima and raised my eyebrows quizzically, “I think it may be time for another vigour tablet.” After she nodded solemnly, I rummaged around in the upper section of my pack before extracting a packet of home-brand Aldi lollies. Placing one daintily in each of palms, we shoved them in our mouths like the little ravenous hiker monsters we’d become before bursting out in uncontrollable laughter. The day before, Jemima had told me how when she was young, her (very healthy doctor) parents used to stash away lollies on their family hikes to coax the kids up the more difficult path sections. And from that their new name for lollies had emerged – vigour tablets. I’d found the whole thing ridiculously hilarious and had adapted the name immediately.
As with most adventures, this one had begun with a wombat. Or more specifically, the idea of a wombat. At the time I’d been living in Melbourne for about two months and was already starting to cover a pretty decent area of the state. And yet, despite all the outdoor hours I was clocking, I still hadn’t seen my first wombat in the wild. To put it mildly, I’m obsessed with wombats. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the fact that they resemble giant versions of my childhood guinea pigs. Maybe it’s that they’re very cool Australian marsupials with a long list of ‘fun facts’ (Wombat Fun Fact number #74 – they have a backwards facing pouch so that it doesn’t fill up with dirt while they’re digging their burrows.) Or maybe it’s the fact that their poo is square (true Wombat Fun Fact #31). Whatever it is, I love them with all my heart. But despite this, so far they were doing their best to avoid me. *sigh* Unrequited love.
While lamenting this fact one day at work to my colleagues, they all simultaneously suggested that I head on down to Wilson’s Promonary, where they assured me, I’d have a 100% chance of seeing one. Liking those odds, I decided to do the three day southern hiking loop of the national park. Unfortunately I hit a setback when every person I asked if they wanted to come, turned me down. (Lame.) On a trip home to Brisbane, I was lamenting this fact to one of my favourite humans Jemima over a cup of Stockholm Blend tea (*drool*) when I said to her jokingly, “JEM. Mate, you should come with me. It would be divine!” There was a beat of silence before she responded, “Yeah, maybe I could.” Before we knew it, she was booking flights to Melbourne and scribbling out gear lists. That. That is a friend right there. So much love for that woman.
Fast forward to the moment where we passed through the National Park gates in my car (which we’ve since dubbed Sybil, the Adventure Car). We’d been dancing our little hearts out to Halsey and CHVRCHES on the road trip, but once we entered the park, all that stopped and all we could muster were repeated ‘Oh my Gods’ in increasing levels of awe. Words actually fail me here, but all I can say is that the vegetation type is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen anywhere else in the world. I’ve also now been told that if you arrive at sunset you crawl along at a glacial pace dodging all types of Australian wildlife.
After signing into the visitor centre at Tidal River Campground we caught the free shuttle bus to the trail head (how’s that for service?!). After taking a number of dorky photos at the entrance to the walk, we were off!
That first day can only be described as pure bliss, in the most unadulterated form of the phrase. We wove through tall eucalypt forest, which merged into wet fern forest before being spat out at cove after cove. When we came to the first, we lay in the shade devouring our soup lunch before stripping and diving into the ocean – my first ocean swim since I’d been living in Victoria! The sky and the ocean were identical, clear blue and as smooth as glass. Wiggling my toes up at the sky, I inhaled deeply and thought that life honestly couldn’t get any better. Jemima and I continuously threw our hands up like the blissful idiots that we were, exclaiming, “WHAT IS THIS LIFE EVEN.”
And then there was the song. I can’t remember how it happened but it did. And it was hilarious. We almost drowned ourselves in the ocean with laughter. And it became our official anthem for the trip.
Wilson’s Prom (to the tune of Stacey’s Mom)
Wilson’s Prom, has got it going on.
It’s all we want, and we’ve hiked for so long.
Wilson can’t you see, you just are the Prom for me.
I know we can’t be wrong, cause I’m in love with Wilson’s Prom.
There’s no need to tell me.
Yes, we are the coolest.
Sealers Cove, Refuge Cove, Little Waterloo Bay, and a bunch of unnamed ones in-between. They were all crazy beautiful and I sent a continuous stream of thank yous out into the universe to whoever had made it their mission to preserve this crazy natural beauty.
Eventually we set up camp near Refuge Cove and after looking up at the stunning sky decided to cowboy camp, because, why the hell not. After inhaling a meal of Moroccan cous-cous, mushrooms and peas, we boiled some tea and after pondering the little bottle of whiskey I’d stashed in my pack as a surprise, poured some into our tea. It was in that moment that we had our second stroke of genius that day – we’d invented Whisktea.
With bellies full and fingers warm, we crawled into our sleeping bags with nothing but the stars above us. Down on the most south eastern part of the Australian mainland, the sky put on a spectacular show, threatening to push me over the edge of joy to tears (seeing the stars unclouded of all the pollution makes me weepy every time!).
The next morning we woke up a little damp (the mist had rolled in at some point in the night), but it wasn’t long before we were up and at it, scrambling up to Kersops Peak, hoping to get a glimpse of the sunrise. Alas, the bushwalking gods were not on our side, and our scramble was rewarded with this stunning view…
I was quickly distracted though but the super abundance of wombat poo. There was so much, I was completely dumbfounded as to how I wasn’t tripping over the creatures left, right and centre. A sneaking suspicion has begun to grow… may be the wombats were working against me. The paranoia was creeping in.
The trail carried us back to sea level as we pressed the first footprints of the day onto the sand. We passed several coves which were unnamed on our map. As we came down to one, I inhaled sharply and said to Jemima, “This. This is Feather’s Cove.” My favourite book of all time is The Ghost’s Child by Sonya Hartnett and one of the main characters is a young man who is known as Feather. He has smoky hair and conversations with pelicans and lives on the beach. I knew for sure that I had found his beach. This beach.
When we reached Waterloo Bay, the only thing to do was to plunge into the icy waves, scream with the cold and sing at the top of our lungs. We also made friends with a starfish the colour of tangerines.
The rest of the day our legs ached in that special way that can only be felt from lugging a pack along a seemingly endless beach and up and over what we felt to be the mother of all hills. (Non-Aussies probably wouldn’t even classify it as a bump.) The mist began to part and revealed the silhouette of a lighthouse in the distance. Dropping our packs at a junction, we practically flew towards it and were rewarded with a chat with the super friendly lighthouse keeper. We craned our necks upward, trying to take in the bulk of the tower and pocked around the retired school.
When we got back to our packs, we found our zips and rubbish bag had been ransacked by pesky currawongs and I swear I could hear them chortling in the distance. Powered on soup we legged it to the Roaring Meg campsite where we made friends with our neighbours who graciously shared their chocolate. Legends.
The next morning we walked a little more in silence, the banksias overhead and grasses brushing our ankles. Magic happened when I rounded a corner to find a flock of yellow-tailed black-cockatoos feeding. They tolerated our presence for a minute before taking to the skies, their ancient screech calls ringing deep to our bones.
I was hungry for it all – the views of the ocean, the scattered traces of wombats, the crunch of crackers and singing The Lumineers songs into the bush. Soon enough though, we arrived back at the car and said our farewells to the Prom. It wasn’t until we were scarfing down ice-cream on the road trip back, hair full of salt, sweat and sand that we realised the wombats had managed to outsmart us. I guess we’ll just have to come back and give it another shot!