“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein
Published July 16th 2018
A walk and ride on the wild side
Much as I appreciate our metropolis with its many comforts and conveniences, nothing beats breaking out of the city at weekends to head for the hills - or the coast. A nerdy love of poring over maps has helped reveal a few destinations which, if not exactly undiscovered, are clearly off the tourist radar. One such gem is Five Mile Track, in Tarwin Lower.
The Track is hard to find, but not impossible with the help of satellite navigation. There's a yellow "Road Closed" sign positioned discouragingly at its start, together with a (fully-open) metal barrier which looks like it's there for effect more than service. The "road" used to be accessible by car but hasn't been maintained, so would now present a challenge for even a 4WD to negotiate.
My OH and I had tried driving down the track a few years ago in our trusty AWD but turned back after a few hundred metres. Last month, we returned with hybrid bikes and Teenage Son Number Two, parking our car at the start of the track. The track is rutted and ridged, definitely not for small children or anyone hoping to admire a view of anything but the quaggy ground along the way.
We were obliged to negotiate submerged parts of the track (or "puddles" as my OH optimistically called them) in three places on our way to the camping area at its end. The flood water came half way up our wheels, and TSNT had a bit of bike wobble mid-puddle, so be prepared to get your feet wet if you go in winter.
The camp site is simply a small, grassy clearing between the track and the start of a footpath which leads to the beach. The site's fairly sheltered, demarcated by posts, and has no facilities. The beach path is off to the right as you reach the end of the track - it is marked, though you have to start off along the path before you can spot the sign, now partly obscured by coastal shrubs. We rode our bikes part of the way along the footpath, until soft sand and encroaching vegetation forced us to abandon our wheels and walk the last few hundred metres to the beach.
And what a beach. The tide was turning as we arrived so the Tarwin Lower/Liptrap beach was at its most impressive, with impossibly wide swathes of sand stretching into the distance in both directions. To the north lies Venus Bay, whilst an eight or nine-kilometre stroll southwards would get you to Morgans Beach and, beyond that, Cape Liptrap.
As you head south from Five Mile Track, the backdrop of undulating, grassed dunes gives way to rocky escarpments, at the base of which impressive mounds of pebbles and driftwood have accumulated at intervals, hoarded by the sea. We spied plastic crates, a mussel-encrusted shovel and other detritus washed up here and there, but the overall impression of the shoreline was of an ancient and pristine habitat unspoiled by human hand.
Morgans Beach has intrigued me for some time after reading how, fifteen years ago, public access from Cape Liptrap Road to this particular beach was suddenly, and controversially, blocked. Unless you're fortunate enough to own a parcel of the land bordering the beach, the only way of reaching Morgans Beach now are via a lengthy walk along the foreshore...or by sea.
On the day, we only managed a six-kilometre stroll on the sand: Morgans Beach was still a good way off when we turned back. Curiosity and spontaneity can only get you so far: faced with a rising tide, we listened to our rumbling stomachs (we'd come equipped only with water) and the sensible parts of our brains telling us it was time to retrace our steps/tracks back to the car.
My advice for any other nature-loving, energetic explorers out there, feeling inspired to travel in our tyre tracks: pick a fine day, pack a picnic and maybe some aqua shoes for those "puddles" - and enjoy.