Capes & Bays: Mallee Camp to Portland (21.7km)
It was my last day on the GSWW. I was incredibly proud of walking this far, until then I never had been hiking for more than a week. It also made me really happy to finish with such great weather conditions. In fact, it was so hot that day, I tried to leave as early as possible.
Before packing up though, I got up really early, walked over to the cliffs and watched the sun rise behind Lawrence Rocks, a great way to start the final day of my walk.
Breakfast was cut short, I wasn’t in the mood for cold cereal and milk powder, so I just had the last one of my chocolate bars and hoped to be back in Portland before running out of energy.
In the morning hours, walking was beautiful, but it quickly got very hot, so whenever the track left the shore to head inlands, it was difficult and risky. Some sections on the final day were crossing bushland and I encountered quite a few snakes, including a tiger snake I almost stepped onto. Barely noticeable in the grass.
The biggest attraction on the last day was probably the Enchanted Forest, a patch of forest that simply looks very special, almost like from one of the Lord of the Rings movies. Apart from that there were several viewing platforms along the track.
The closer I got to Portland, the more I became part of civilisation again. At Yellow Rock there were a handful of surfers, and people watching. Further down the track you can’t help but notice the large aluminium smelter near Point Danger. It makes a lot of noise and the track leads all the way around the smelter, making the most of being so close to Portland.
At Point Danger there is a Gannet colony, which is actually just part of the much larger colony at Lawrence Rocks. At some point they ran out of space there and started a new colony at Point Danger. Due to barriers (to protect the birds), you can’t see anything unless you have a pair of binoculars, or a 500mm lens for your camera. After the great experience with gannets I had at Cape Nelson, I felt a bit underwhelmed and walked on.
Closer to Portland I could see huge smoke clouds on the horizon, probably from bushfires. It made me feel lucky about the timing of my walk. One or two more days out there in really hot conditions might have been a problem.
With a few drops of water left in my bottle, I arrived back at the Portland visitor centre. First thing I did was buying two cans of chilled coke from a nearby kiosk. What a feeling!
There were heaps of people in Portland on that day, because they were holding a popular tuna fishing competition, as I was told. From everywhere people were coming with their boats.
I signed off at the visitor centre and walked over the Holiday Campground, hoping my car was still there. It was. So I booked in for another night and then went to get a really good meal in town. I probably lost 10kg during the two weeks on the trail.
The following day I drove back to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road. Looking back it was the greatest hiking experience I had in Australia so far. Challenging enough, plenty of wildlife to see, well organised and maintained track, beautiful scenery. I also really liked how progressive the region around Portland is, with wind parks powering several thousand homes — a good example for other regions. I hope to be back one day.
Wildlife seen: Australasian Gannet, Echidna, Tiger Snake, Black Wallaby.