This 3 ½ day walk through the Lower Glenelg National Park is part of a much longer walk known as the Great South Western Walk (GSSW) which makes a 250 km loop stretching between Portland and Nelson in the South West pocket of Victoria. Nelson is the home to the mouth of the Glenelg River which starts its 350km journey in the Grampians ranges, which was ironically where we had intended to walk but were unable to do so as sections of it were still closed due to bush fires in January. Nelson is where we started our walk.
Our walk took in four distinct features of landscape, those of coastline, plantation forest, native wood and riverbank. The untamed beach and the orderly pines, the dense native wood and the fluid river; each contrasting yet complimentary to the other. And so, rather than day 1, day 2 and so on I’ll account for our walk in terms of the landscape we passed through, the first being coastline.
As we stepped of the connecting boardwalk onto the beach the sultry clouds had passed and in the bright sun all became vivid and distinct from one another. The gently arcing beach of Discovery Bay narrowed to its vanishing points ahead and behind us as we settled into our stride and the initial burden of a full pack. We were on our way.
Out of the infinity of the beach objects appeared growing incrementally. Islands of rock cast in seas of sand and water loomed like teeth, sharp and resistant to the forces that wore them. Small flocks of birds went lightly about, one eye on their business and the other on our approach as our pace gradually quickened with the days sanguine mood.
To be lighter of spirit was my primary aim. I had come away on this trip feeling the need to de-clutter my brain and this beach walk was offering me an opportunity to do so. Drawing my attention to the immediate, I noticed two patterns in the sand; one was made by the recent fall of heavy raindrops and took a form similar to the bubbles in soft drink, the other was an unblemished wash left by the seas receding edge. The contrast of the two, one busy the other still, became an analogy for my present state of mind. I had come here cluttered and restless but gradually that clutter was falling away, the fizz was becoming a quiet hum.
I walked along this boundary line for some time until new forms caught my attention. At the water’s edge lay strewn heaps of seaweed, like Medusa’s hair but washed with a galaxy of sun glistening pin-points. Another type of seaweed appeared like giant straps of glossy leather, twisted, rubbery shavings, thick to touch. It seemed that the sea had spat them out, as it had other things, impossible tangles of ropes, abandoned buoys, (one reminding me of Wilson, Tom Hanks Cast Away companion) and a bottomless plastic crate holding nothing but rising sand, on it’s rim clung a colony of crustaceans.
And so it was over the length of the beach and along the dune track we followed for a while, one thing after the other presented its curious form to my growing imagination. I did in fact feel child like, in delighted curiosity at the otherworldly forms around me. I realised I felt elsewhere from the everyday, happily lost in the shifting sand of dune and beach and in closeness to the seas hidden world.
Gradually the weather changed. The increasing wind stirred up feisty white horses from the sea, whipped up sand grains and generally blustered. If the beach was a playground then the happy-go-lucky children had left and the restless teens had arrived with moody weather not far behind. The skies darkened and the wind intensified. We put on layers, tied our hats down and pushed on. Reprieve came when the track veered into the dunes and beyond to Lake Monbeong where in shelter the wind only whispered.
We found a superb camp close to the lake and here we lulled in the days dignified recline, the pound of wind and sea all but a murmur. Shelter affords the possibility of two contrary worlds to exist in close proximity. So to does a book. Whilst my companions chatted I stepped into the desert world of Robyn Davidson’s book “Tracks” and like her lost myself in another world until the days light ran out.