Friday, January 4, 2013

SS Speke and Pyramid Rock, Phillip Island, Victoria. December 2012


abandoned stone building on helens head phillip island
Derelict stone building, Helens Head

Here we go. The first entry of the year! Are you feeling excited? Wondering what amazing things are going to be happening in the fiasco world? Lying awake at night dreaming of me wearing suspenders a beard?

Well, don't get too carried away, as the year's first post is a walk from last month and it's affected by 'kontinual neverending overblown blog syndrome' (KNOBS) Yes, there's no letting up in the length dilemma, as I aim to break new ground by writing an entry with 40 photos. Did you read that properly? I'll say it again. "EGADS! 40 IMAGES!!!"

The following walk at Phillip Island was one I'd attempted before, but failed miserably (shocked?). You can find it here in the fiasco archive. What's disturbing about that link is that the pictures are microscopic, which means it was written before I realised that big is better (how come I was the last to find out?).

There's also the problem that I may recycle the jokes, so I have to be careful about that as well. Feel free to check it out, but make sure you have your portable Hubble telescope for the photos. The only thing I can remember about that walk is that I thought I'd found Harold Holt's swimming goggles. I'm currently having them DNA tested against a pair of his Speedos which are on display in a Sorrento milkbar.

Anyway, the previous walk was a failure because I didn't read my walk notes that said it can only be completed at low tide. Guess what I did? Well, I was strolling along and then suddenly realised that I was out of luck with water pounding against a cliff. I've been meaning to get back and try again, but it's taken me two years to do that. My last walking post was about the George Bass Coastal Walk and initially I was planning to do a trilogy of ocean walks. The trouble is I've only got two, so you can call this one part of a bilogy of coast walks.

Now, you'll find this walk in the Glenn 'Guru of Good Times' Tempest's book, 'Daywalks Around Melbourne' and this particular stroll is named 'Helens Head and Pyramid Rock'. One of the highlights of the hike is passing the remains of the shipwrecked SS Speke that ran aground in 1906. I've been going to that wreck for the last 20 years, but usually I'd just turn around and head back to my starting point at Kitty Miller Bay. I'd never thought of continuing on to another coastal feature called 'Pyramid Rock'. The thing is, this walk is a one way job unless you've got someone friendly to do a car shuffle with. I was feeling out of luck, so I went on my own meaning I'd have to return over the ground already covered. That's okay, but I had to make sure I had low tide in my favour for the entire walk and I planned it perfectly on a hot Saturday afternoon. Low tide was at 1.50 pm and I was parked at the car park at Kitty Miller Bay at 1.00 pm. Phew! What a paragraph!

I leapt out of my car at Kitty Miller Bay with both feet first and back arched like an oversized ninja with full beach hiking attire. Long sleeve shirt, shorts, sandals and the largest brimmed hat in the Southern Hemisphere. It felt stupidly hot and I hadn't even started walking, but I was comforted by the blue skies and wispy clouds that can only mean one thing. Yes, I was armed and ready with the polarizer and I had every intention of abusing the crap out of it.

kitty miller bay phillip island
Kitty Miller Bay

I was off and racing. Well, going as quick as one can whilst hobbling over a million rocks which was a by-product of this low tide tilt. The start can certainly be defined as 'lumpy'.

rock beach at kitty miller bay
On the rocks of Kitty Miller Bay

The remains of the SS Speke is only a short distance away from the start. In fact it's just around that large bulging rock in the picture above. Just climb to the left of that outcrop like this...

climbing rock outcrop kitty miller bay


...and suddenly there's a bay in front of you. Here, I took a picture so you can see what it looks like from the nearby cliffs.


ss speke shipwreck at watt point
SS Speke at Watt Point

ss speke shipwreck

It's an interesting spot and supposedly the area is haunted. I was thinking that was the case as I approached the wreck and smelt a pungent stench, which is a sure sign of supernatural action. I felt mildly scared until I realised that it was actually the smell from my hiking shirt, as I was already working up a sweat. Anyway, I had the obligatory perusal of the remains.

ss speke shipwrect
SS Speke

Actually, all of this wreckage doesn't mean much does it? Are you scratching your head wondering what this jagged piece of rusting metal is? In order to give you an idea about what's going on, I've put in the hard yards for your benefit. A quick visit to my favourite picture resource at the State Library of Victoria and I had the photo I needed. Here it is...

Shows ship aground Allan Green 1878-1954 photographer ca. 1900-ca. 1954
SS Speke aground, Allan Greene 1878-1954

Apparently the twisted remains are the bow of the ship? I've no idea, but it sounds good. As I said earlier. being a coastal nut, I've been coming to this spot for years, but usually it's high tide where the wreckage is well and truly in the water. Here's some pictures from the fiasco archives, taken a number of years ago on a cutting edge 5 MP Canon compact.


ss speke shipwreck at high tide


On that occasion I was with Ben and it was a freezing Winters evening. Not content with looking at it from the dry shoreline, we decided to 'rock hop' out for a closer look. We made it, although the waves coming in looked a little dodgy...


ss speke shipwreck surrounded by water


...so we scampered back with the patent pending 'non rock hopping method'...


walking through waves


...and after making back I performed an epic fall to the rocks as darkness was upon us. Lucky Ben was there to capture my agony. My head has been cropped out for blogging anonymity, but I can assure you that my facial expression is similar to what one would look like if suddenly mounted by an amorous sasquatch.


lying on rocks after falling


That was then, but on my latest visit the conditions were a lot more sedate.


part of ss speke shipwreck


seaweed on speke shipwreck


It was time to move though, as I didn't want to be playing around with the tide later on. I was headed for Thorny Beach...




...which I'd never really seen at low tide. It's a wonderful beach that felt quite isolated and on this sunny day there was just a solitary fisherman.

fisherman on thorny beach
Thorny Beach

In the photo above, Helens Head (who was Helen?) sits in the background and temporarily blocks the beach walking. I headed inland to walk across the top by following a track which leads to an adjoining farm..


grass track on helens head

...and then continued up along a fence line, gaining height as I did so...

fence line on helens head

fence line on helens head

...until passing over the top of the cliffs.

grass top of helens head phillip island


Once cleared I had a tricky little descent down the other side. The walk notes say that the best way down is to walk to the end of the fence and then head right down a gully. I walked down that the first time and nearly broke my neck. This time, instead of going right I jumped the fence to the left and found a rough track down to the beach. It's a lot easier and someone has even marked it with a couple of wooden stakes to guide the way. I guess hopping the fence is going onto private land? Maybe, but it doesn't take long to get down and I can only suggest if a farmer without teeth approaches you firing a shotgun to 'get low and go, go, go'. Then again, is that what you're meant to do in a fire? I can never remember.

Anyway, once down on the beach I now had Wild Dog Bluff ahead of me. This is where I turned around the previous time, but I was flying now. I began to scramble around the rocks and whilst doing so, came across a few rock fishermen. It was interesting to watch them and I can see why a few get washed off rocks every year. This bloke really did wait until the last moment to make a dash for it when a sizeable wave rolled in...

rock fisherman running as wave comes in
"Run!!"

I shuffled around the rocks and reached Berry Beach. This was another lovely spot, but there were a few people on this one. I always feel a little bit intimidated taking beach shots with a whopping DSLR when there's scantily clad people around. When I carry that camera I always get weird looks which is off-putting. Then again, sometimes when I'm taking photos I've forgotten to put my pants on, so that might be a reason people stare. Who knows?

I headed off the beach to follow a cliff-top track to Pyramid Rock. The path started out as gravel...


gravel path to pyramid rock


...but soon ended up as a nice comfortable grass track. I'd been on the look out for feathers and the first one I found was quite pathetic in size for a photo. Oh well, this is as good as it gets.


holding small feather
World's smallest feather.

Strolling on I met my first walkers for the day. A family of four walking from the opposite direction and I stopped to have a brief chat.

The father asked, "Where have you come from? Is there anything worth seeing down there?"
I said, "No, not much other than the shipwreck of what at the time was the largest three masted steel ship in the world, deserted beaches, cliffs of volcanic basalt of which the platforms are filled with zeolite and calcite crystals from the Paleogene period and a place where rocks buried and compressed during massive earth movements during the Cambrian Period of 600 million years ago are called 'greenstones'."

He said, "Oh. Nothing worth seeing then?"
I said, "Yeah."

So, they turned around and we both walked in the same direction towards Pyramid Rock. I let them get a few hundred metres ahead and things were going smoothly until they suddenly slowed at an elevated timber track. I kept strolling and as I overtook the father I was somewhat surprised when he grabbed me by the shoulder and said, "Don't go any further!!"

I immediately stopped as surely there was something ahead that threatened my life for this dramatic action to happen? Oh yeah, being restrained was a good reason to stop as well.

He said, "I think I saw a fox earlier and you'll scare it off".
I said, "Mm. Okay."

He said, "When we passed earlier I'm sure I saw a fox, but I wasn't sure. It could have been a rabbit, but I want to confirm it's a fox before reporting it. I don't want to ring up if it's not a fox, but if I see it I can ring. If it's a rabbit, I might ring as well, but I want to confirm it's a fox, right?"
I said, "Yes."

I looked around and as it appeared foxless I was released from the strangers grip and moved on. Mind you, I was walking a lot faster than before to escape these lunatics. I must mention that the reason for this interesting event was that there are signs along the way advising people to report foxes, as they're a pest to the wildlife on Phillip Island. I hope all of this makes sense.

A short distance later I reached  a carpark which was jumping with people. Pyramid Rock is an outcrop off-shore and it was certainly drawing a crowd on this sunny day. I went to the surrounding lookouts for obligatory photos.

pyramid rock phillip island
Pyramid Rock

The fun and games in conversations hadn't stopped though. I took my day-pack off and was surprised to see a million flies buzz off from the exterior. This drew the attention of an Asian bloke who said,

"Wow! Look all of the flies on you!!"
I said, "Yeah I know. That's because I've developed chronic diarrhea and I've accidently shat myself so badly that it's gone halfway up my back."
He said, "Wow!! You're the amazing crapper man!!"

Okay, I just made all of that up. Shall we go back to the start? Once upon a time on a dark and stormy night...

He said, "Wow! Look at all of the flies on you!!"
I said, "Yeah I know. I've been walking, so they're probably attracted to my sweat?"

He said, "How far have you walked?"
I said, "Umm... About eight kilometres so far."

He said, "WHAT??? EIGHT KILOMETRES????!!!!"

I've never seen a man so stunned by such a short distance. It felt like I'd just told him I had strolled down from Sydney on the same day. He was still shaking his head at my incredulous news when he asked me to take a group photo of the people he was with. I took his camera and they all lined up on the lookout with Pyramid Rock behind them. It was pretty obvious what he was after, but he wanted to make sure I hadn't just come down in the last shower.

He said, "Put us at the side and make sure you get Pyramid Rock in the background. I want to see the rock in the picture".
I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've got it".

I took the photo and just to stir him up a little I let them all approach me and just when he reached for his camera I put my hand up stopping him and said, "No. Go back. I'll take another one". So, they all strolled back to their positions as before and I took a second photo before handing the camera back. See? There's always some entertainment when out walking.

The more important thing about all this is that I could see something odd on Pyramid Rock itself. There was a blue object on the top of it and I assumed it was an ancient boogie board that beached itself there approximately 600 million years ago. Here, I'll show you in this extreme fuzzy crop...

blue object at top of pyramid rock phillip island
The mysterious blue object.

Drama aplenty. It was time to head back and get around Wild Dog Bluff before the tide cut it off. There was minor excitement of a low flying helicopter...

westpac rescue helicopter


...and a wallaby (not a fox) hiding in the long grass. It was actually an exposure miracle for me, as somehow I successfully focused on the wallaby instead of the grass in front of its face.


wallaby behind long grass


wallaby behind long grass


Then I slipped back down to Berry Beach and approached Wild Dog Bluff. On the way though I found some treasures from the deep. Firstly I was so close to finding a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. Maybe next time I can find the rest.


holding arm of ray-ban sunglasses


Then I spotted some sizeable bones in the rocks. It looked like a radius and ulna together and I wonder who they belonged to. Dog? Cat? Seal? Dolphin? Human? Yowie? Who knows, but have I mentioned the saga of how Ben and I found some human vertebrae on a Phillip Island beach a few years ago? That was interesting, as it was on a beach where two people had been washed off rocks a few months earlier. Don't worry, I handed it to the police rather than use it as a paperweight. Here was my latest bony find on the rocks...

ulna radius bones on beach rocks


I had to keep moving though as the tide was coming in, so I left the bones behind. It was two hours and fifteen minutes since the tide had turned and it had already reached a point where I had to do some scrambling to avoid getting wet. The fishermen I'd seen earlier had either left or being washed in, as they were no longer on the rocks.


rocks at wild dog bluff
Wild Dog Bluff

I successfully made it around, but I wouldn't have wanted to leave it a lot longer. Some large waves were rolling into the rocks around me.

wave breaking on rocks


I now had a calm walk back to my car. I walked back over Helens Head and passed an old stone farm building along the way.


abandoned stone building on helens head phillip island


The one thing I found annoying wearing the shorts and sandals approach was how itchy my legs were from walking through long grass. See, like this...


standing in long grass with shorts on


I seemed to have dozens of little cuts in the skin from the sharp grass. It was traumatic, but at least I had some nice views of Thorny Beach as I began to descend down to it.


waves on thorny beach
Thorny Beach

The insane itchiness on my legs was calmed by walking in the shallows of the beach.


standing in shallow water with sandals on

waves on thorny beach


A Sooty Oystercatcher squawked loudly at me as I passed...


sooty oystercatcher

...and I passed the Speke shipwreck again.

rusting metal of ss speke shipwreck

ss speke shipwreck


Then after walking around Kitty Miller Bay I was back at my car. The walk was done! This post has been a long haul, but before finishing up, here's my GPS route for the day.


As you can see the posts are not going to be any shorter this year. Oh yeah, what did I say about 40 photos? Well, I lied, as there's 41 so far.

In finishing up I must mention the whole 'shorts and sandals' routine. At the start I was worried about sunburn on my feet, so I liberally coated them in sunscreen and then reapplied a couple of times during the walk. The trouble is it was bloody hot though and the end result was my feet got sunburnt! Have a look at this. Strap marks and all...

sunburnt feet
Cook on 180 °C for three hours until done.

I loved wearing the Teva sandals on a hot day. The only problem was sunburn, sand getting under the straps and the odd bit of debris between my foot and sole which was annoying. The solution next time? There's something that solves all of those problems in one hit and you already know what that is. I'm going back in time to the blister fiasco on the first failed attempt on the Great South West Walk.  Yes, the white socks will be back again for the next sandal walk..

white socks worn with teva sandals
As manly as can be.


12 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos! You caught that crashing wave at the right time. Hard think about hot and sunny as it's cold and rainy here (but snowy in the mtns he-he!)

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    1. Thanks Linda! I hate to say it, but the wave shot was a fluke! I just saw the wave at the last second and just shot quickly as it hit. That's always the way though with those sort of photos isn't it?!

      Lucky you with the cold. We're sweltering here! The 41 C (105 F) we had here yesterday has cooked my brain a little :)

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  2. Great photos. Pretty cool shots of the wreckage. Thanks for taking me along on this *virtual* trip

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    1. Thanks Andy. It's a nice walk and even on this sunny day I hardly saw anyone, which is surprising as Phillip Island is so busy over the Summer! I think coast lovers would like this walk.

      I was lucky with those clouds and sky for the wreckage photos. I've got similar ones of the same thing in Winter and they're pretty plain!

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment!

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  3. You have some fantastic photos here (no wonder you posted 40, er, 41 of them). I love the way you framed some of the shots.

    S&TT

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    1. Hi S&TT. Thanks for talking up my photos! I must admit they came out a lot better than the previous visit that's on the blog! One day I might like them enough to print some rather than leaving them on a hard drive!

      Framing and composition is the key to nice pictures isn't it? I'm always thinking of that when taking photos. Sometimes I get it right, but a lot of the time I'm way off. Lucky for digital cameras!

      Thanks for dropping by!

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  4. Sandals and beach-hiking: never again for me! As for the 8km, that's more than a lot of people walk in a month, so you deserve to put your sunburnt feet up for a bit.

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    1. I remember you had some trauma with those sandals. Was it on Moreton Bay Island? I do know what you mean. The sunburn and then the sand grinding in under the straps. That's why the socks would work. I think! My next coastal hike in Summer will be the unveiling of the socks and sandals package!

      Yeah, I don't think of the theory that some people don't walk at all. When I read about blokes doing 31 miles around Manhattan, that's when I think I'm barely doing anything!

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  5. hey greg, funny as! and the photos are really great. i've done some of this walk and never spotted those excellent derelict stone buildings - how far along your return walk did these things pop up? awesome mate - keep on bloggin'!

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    1. Hey there, thanks for dropping by! I loved this walk and I had a perfect day for it. Well worth doing if you can get all the way to Pyramid Rock. Just coordinate it with the low tide!

      That stone building is in the farmland on top of Helens Head. It sits in a paddock near the fenceline. I was going to hop the fence for a closer look, but it's an electric fence, so I wimped out. Knowing my luck I'd hit it :)

      The walk would also be fine if you've got someone to pick you up at the end rather than turning around like I did and walking back! Have fun if you try it. Remember over Helens Head go left to get down to the beach rather than the notes which say head right into a gully. You'll appreciate my advice :)

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  6. Not meaning to rub it in (like Moreton Island sand under sandal straps) but I just realised I've been shortchanging myself with that Manhattan walk - it's actually 32 miles, plus a mile each way to and from the start point!

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    1. You do realise 32 miles is 51 km? I think that's about 20 km more than I've ever walked in a day. Well, on the GPS in the last few years. There might be something longer about 20 years ago, but I don't think that really counts! It's a crazy effort, but for a thru-hiker like you it would have been a walk in the park!

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