On the Friday before the Labour Day day long weekend Sue and I drove to the Daly’s in the Bega Valley in readiness to walk this year’s Cartophiles’ major trek; a four day, 50 kilometre hike along pristine NSW coastline from Merrica River to Mallacoota on the Nadgee Wilderness Walk.

The Nadgee Howe wilderness area was first set aside as an 11,430 hectare fauna reserve in 1957, and subsequently expanded to 18,880 hectares with the addition of Newton’s Beach and the Merrica River catchment area.  It adjoins the northern part of the Croajingalong National Park in Victoria.  It is a genuine wilderness area with no mobile reception, where walkers have to be self-reliant for food, water and shelter.  We were worried about water, so we carried about 14 litres of water between us, which made our packs quite heavy.

On Saturday morning, Ray & Patricia drove us to our start point, and we were on our way.  Well, after a cup of tea.
(click on the photos for higher resolution versions)

Kit packs up after our first cup of tea
Packing up after our first cup of tea
Sue at the start of the walk
Brown Snake
Brown Snake

 

The first part of the walk was quite easy, although Sue nearly stepped on a brown snake.  We reached Newton’s camp site for lunch … and didn’t go any further.  While Sue slept I explored the deserted beach and watched the pied oyster catchers.

Newton's Beach - the only footprints are mine
Newton’s Beach – the only footprints are mine
Making tea at Newton's camp site
Making tea at Newton’s camp site
Newton's camp site
Newton’s camp site

 

Day two took us to Little Creek, where we had a cup of tea before wading to the sand bar to keep going.  Another few kilometres brought us to Nadgee Lake where we had lunch.

Sue wades to the sand bar
Sue wades to the sand bar
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Hiking bare foot along the beach
Tea break at Little Creek
Tea break at Little Creek

 

The next 15 kilometres were through low heath and moorland that was alive with wildflowers.  Although the walking was hard the sights were spectacular.

Sue breaks through a patch of wildflowers
Sue breaks through a patch of wildflowers
Nadgee Lake behind me on the left, the ocean on the right
Nadgee Lake behind me on the left, the ocean on the right

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We camped at a fresh water soak called Bunyip Hole, just a few kilometres from the Victorian border.  That night we had our first rain.

Bunyip Hole
Bunyip Hole

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Day three was very windy.  We lost the track in the sand dunes on the border and walked an extra 4 km trying to find it again.  The wind was whipping up minor sand storms along the beach.  We stopped for a rest near the wreck of the SS Riverina, which ran aground in 1927.

Looking for the track in the sand dunes
Looking for the track in the sand dunes
The dunes come right down to the sea
The dunes come right down to the sea

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That night we’d planned to stop at Lake Barracoota, Australia’s largest coastal freshwater lake.  We had great trouble finding the path to it, so we ended up setting up a rough camp in a small patch of she oaks behind the dunes.  This was the real wilderness experience.  The next morning we set off along the beach again and after about 300 m passed the sign to the lake!

Sue shows her true colours before we set off
Sue shows her true colours before we set off
Sue climbs a dune to the wrong path marker
Sue climbs a dune to the wrong path marker
The right path marker
The right path marker

 

 

 

 

We were walking straight into the maw of a strong south westerly now and the going was hard with sand blowing in our faces and soft sand beneath our feet.  We were pleased  to turn off the beach an into the moorland … until we found ourselves wading through flooded moorland.  Once past that we climbed a fire trail through beautiful coastal forest.  The only dark part was watching for snakes; four times we came upon black snakes sunning themselves on the path.

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The wind whips up clouds of sand around us along the beach
Be careful what you wish for - off the beach and onto the flooded track
Be careful what you wish for – off the beach and onto the flooded track
On the track through the forest
On the track through the forest

At last we reached the shores of Lake Mallacoota where we rested in a sunny meadow while we waited for the ferry we’d booked.  Ray and Patricia met us as the wharf on the other side and, after a pleasant lunch at the Mallacoota Hotel, we drove back to Wolumla.

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This is a beautiful and varied walk with lots of flowers, bird life and views.  NPWS refers to this as the ultimate coastal hike, and while I don’t really agree with the hyperbole I do think it’s a walk worth doing again.  The isolation and adventure were a great escape from the pressures of modern life.  It was also lovely that it was just Sue and I alone together.

That was the last overnight walk scheduled for 2014.

Kit, 19th October, 2014