Sunday 10 December 2023

Great South West Walk. Victoria, Australia. 250km, 8 days.


The Great South West Walk.

Is it great?  well it's.... pretty good!  
And yes this mostly flat, easy 250 kilometre loop path designed for walking is located in the South West of Victoria, Australia.

You get a terrific variety of natural environments to explore; the trail passes through dry forest, hugs the winding, green Glenelg River and slogs along the wild coastline of Discovery Bay.
Add in a couple of National Parks, pertrified forest remains and stupendous views all round.

There's a shit ton of wildlife and great camping spots on the trek and conveniently sited shelters with water tanks and dunnies every 15 to 20 kilometres.

I first walked the GSWW in 1999 as an over confident tourist fresh off the plane here in Aussie.  
It was my first hike over 200 kilometers and kicked off a 25 year obsession of wandering long trails and working as little as possible.


You can jump on the GSWW anywhere there is road access but the 'official' start and finish is the Portland Visitor Centre.  

I walked counter clockwise, knocking over the inland section first however you can head West if you like, whatever floats your boat.  
Either direction works.

I flew Launceston to Melbourne, Skybus into Southern Cross Station, grabbed a gas cannister from one of the outdoor stores in Little Bourke Street and took a pre booked Vline train and bus to Warrnambool and Portland, respectively.

The train journey takes 3.5 hours, bus is 90 minutes, they are timed to link up together and thanks to the current stunning deal courtesy of Vline the cost is a paltry $10.  

That's it, a maximum of $10 per person, capped for travel with Vline, anywhere in Victoria.  
Yip, you may encounter 'interesting' types and have loud annoying nonsense blaring from mobile phones drilling into your ear canals while slumming it in public transport, but it's $10.  

I travelled the same route in reverse after the hike.  Vline bookings here

And of course you can drive your own vehicle and park somewhere for the duration of your walk. 

Map sourced from Google Maps

Map sourced from GSWW website


I initially carried 5 days food with me.  
I picked up a parcel containing another 4 days worth of supplies at the Nelson Post Office which is at the half way point.
I took 8 days to hike the GSWW so that worked out great.  

Most people I encountered were taking 14 days to walk the trail so I guess they started out with a weeks worth of supplies and sent themselves another week to collect at the Post Office.  
Or they just tolerated insanely heavy packs.

There are a few motels and caravan parks in Nelson, a pub with a bottle shop and there is fast food takeaway at the General Store/ Post Office kiosk, no supermarket options.

Put something like this on the package:

General Delivery
Nelson LPO
Estimated collection November 24
26 Leake Street

*Hours are 9 -5       Monday to Friday
                 9 - 12    Saturday
                 Closed   Sunday

Or if you are 100% sure of your itinerary and have pre booked accommodation in Nelson you can ask if your hotel will hold a parcel for you. 

I smashed a delicious lunch of fish and chips and salad at the Cape Bridgewater Cafe on day 7.

Cafe website.


I was genuinely blown away by the diversity and proliferation of native wildlife on this walking path.

I encountered: 

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, 
Swamp Wallaby,  
Flies, flies, loads of flies,
Gang Gang Cockatoo,
Black Cockatoo,
Blue Tongue Skink (photo above),
Rufous Bristlebird,
Pied Oystercatcher,
Hooded Plover,
Tiger Snake,
Red Bellied Black Snake,
Flame Robin,
Crescent Honeyeater,
Fur Seal,
and more colourful birds and reptiles that have slipped my memory.

In addition to the legitimate native fauna I occasionally sighted fox and feral cat lurking about.


The Friends of the Great South West Walk maintain and promote the walk.  

They do fantastic work and their website is far more informative than my ramblings if you are seeking specific information on the GSWW.  Website.

It's a simple trail to follow with solid signage and markings.  
Dirt bikers and mountain bikers churn up the inland portion of the track so it's highly visible.

I carried the official map below, hardly needed it, never got lost. 
There are digital GPX files online if you want to download them onto your phone and an official guidebook for sale via the GSWW website too.

Great South West Walk shop.


I free camped wherever I wanted.  That's just me and how I hike.

When I walked the trail the official shelter sites were chock full of large groups of school age children and older walkers constantly talking about gear, but you are encouraged to utilise these sites and pre book them on the Parks Victoria website here.


There are not many streams or natural resources to draw on.  
I filled up exclusively at the shelter sites from the rainwater tanks.


Portland is located on the Southern coast of Australia, producing a moderate, maritime climate over the surrounding area.  I hiked the GSWW in November, before the Summer heat kicked in.  

I wore shorts and long sleeve shirt, sandals on the beaches and hundreds of very friendly flies on my back.

There were a few days of rain but it never felt truly cold.

There are a couple of hours of road walking on the first day heading North along the coast, then it's fire trails and single track through regrowth forest to the Glenelg River.  
Some great cliff top trail sections lead to the small coastal town of Nelson and then you are searching for the firmest bits of the sand as the GSWW leads you along Discovery Bay.  

Try to time the tides right for these couple of days.

It's choose your own adventure at the dune buggy camping area of Swan Lake: head inland up to Mt Richmond National Park or continue chugging along the coast to Cape Bridgewater.  I went the Mt Richmond route, filled up my water bags at Tarragal Camp and camped near the Bridgewater Lakes.

Petrified forest and windfarms greet you as you meander into Portland, the trail keeps you off the roads for the most part.


I was following in the footsteps of my 24 year old self as I re-hiked the GSWW.  

Not that there was a whole lot of nostalgic navel gazing and contemplation- I barely remembered the GSWW and I was just keen to get another hike in after my month long romp on the Sheltowee Trace in Kentucky.  

The Good:

A mostly level, well marked, attentively maintained pathway accessible to anyone that can walk upright.  

Crazy amounts of enchanting wildlife hanging around and a changing landscape.  
Bit of bush, bit of beach, a nice balance.

A loop track is always easier on the transport logistics.

The Not So Good:

I encountered far too many very large private school outdoor education groups on this hike.  

Dozens of kids encamped in every single shelter taking up every single square centimeter of space.  
Morning, noon, night- whenever I rolled through a shelter to grab some water; 20, 30, sometimes 40 school kids.  They were mostly kind of polite but always visibly relieved when I explained I was just passing through.

Lucky I was never planning to actually stay in one of these campsites, that would have been my idea of hell.  
However all of the other walkers I met said they camped overnight with the kids.  
And the yelling, and the chaos, and the mess. 

I get it, the next generation needs to be exposed to the outdoors in order to cultivate connection to our wild places.  I'm not convinced throwing young people out in large, rowdy groups and taking over whole public shared areas is the correct means for this instigation.  But I hate large, rowdy groups in remote places anyway so that's just me.

My advice is to check the booking system carefully if you plan to stay at one of these shelters and see how many others are booked in for a particular night too.

Outside the Portland Visitor Centre at the 'official' start/ finish of the GSWW, nearly 25 years after my first trot around the loop.

Blast from the past! The visitor centre doesn't hand out completion certificates anymore and I'm quite amazed I still have this one.

March 1999, note the heavy old school water filter.

Who's this dude dressed in itchy polypropylene with the 100 litre Macpac Torre backpacks? 😁

Saturday 18 November 2023

Sheltowee Trace Trail- Kentucky, USA. 343 Miles/ 552 Kilometres


Gigantic rock formations and easy trails.  
Serious solitude and clean, clear air.  
Welcoming locals, quiet campsites.

This is the relatively unknown and untrampled Sheltowee Trace Trail, one of the most relaxing, chill long distance walks I have completed.

The Sheltowee threads it's way up and down the State of Kentucky from the Northern Terminus near the University town of Morehead, spilling over the Southern border into Tennessee and the splendid Big South Fork Recreation Area.  

You are in the green tunnel of the Daniel Boone National Forest for the most part with an occasional State Park and short road walk thrown in to break things up. 
Signage and trail maintenance is excellent and your fellow hikers are non existent. 

I tackled the Sheltowee with my girlfriend Fiesty Hippie over the months of September and October 2023.

Map sourced from

Map sourced from

Getting to the Trailheads:

Cranston Road- Northern Terminus.

We flew to St Louis, Missouri and picked up a rental car which facilitated collecting supplies and getting organised for the hike far easier than running around on foot or utilising public transport.  
The drive to Lexington, Kentucky via the I64 is around 550 kilometres.  (Note- we could have flown directly to Lexington but I was keen on a slow, multiday road trip driving through Illinois and stopping in Indiana for a night)

We dropped the car off at Blue Grass Airport and were shuttled to the Northern Terminus on Cranston Road by lovely trail angel Denise, driving time is about 90 minutes.  
We paid Denise $100 USD.  

There is Sheltowee signage, parking for 5 vehicles and not much else at the Northern Terminus.

There is no public transport to the start of the Sheltowee Trace at either end of the trail so if you don't have friends or relatives in the USA willing to drop you off then contacting the wonderful Sheltowee Trace Association and asking nicely for some help to arrange a shuttle is your best bet.  
That's what I did and Lucy was super cool and efficient chasing down Denise for us.

There is extensive information under Shuttle Services.

I am surmising that a taxi or Uber from Lexington could be an option as well.

Burnt Mill Bridge- Southern Terminus.

This is the Southern end for now- the trail is being extended 10 miles or so to the small town of Rugby, Tennessee.  

We arranged a pick up and shuttle to Knoxville Airport to pick up a rental car upon completion of the Sheltowee with friendly local Tiffany.  Cost $150 USD.

There is parking for around 20 vehicles, trash cans and primitive bathroom facilities at Burnt Mill Bridge.

Resupply and Trail Towns:

We resupplied in the following Kentucky towns, North to South.

  • Morehead.  Mile 25 / Kilometer 40  - on trail

Supermarkets, hotels, fast food.

  • Red River Gorge, Slade.  Mile 87 / Kilometer 140 - on trail

Small tourist minded convenience store, laundry, hotel in State Park.

  • Linda Lago RV Sites.  Mile 104 / Kilometer 167 - 1 mile off trail

Camping, cabins, hot food, basic supplies.

  • McKee.  Mile 141 / Kilometer 227 - 2 miles off trail

Supermarket, Dollar General, Air BnB's, fast food.

  • 49er Truck Stop.  Mile 177 / Kilometer 285 - on trail

Gas station supplies, diner food.

  • London.  Mile 202 / Kilometer 325 - 16 miles off trail

Walmart, many hotels, fast food.

  • Holly Bay Marina.  Mile 205 / Kilometer 330 - .5 mile off trail

Small store with snacks and hot food.

  • Cumberland Falls State Park.  Mile 223 / Kilometer 359 - on trail

Free Wifi, food kiosk.

  • Whitley City.  Mile 254 / Kilometer 408 - 4 miles off trail

Supermarket, restaurants, post office.

  • Bandy Creek Campground.  Mile 312 / Kilometer 502 - on trail

Free Wifi, basic supplies and beer at the camp store.

Flora and Fauna:

The woods of Kentucky are very lush, very green. Very pretty. 
We walked under Hickory and Beech trees, Oaks, White Pines, Yellowwoods, Maples, Yellow Poplars and alongside Dogwoods and Holly's.  
I was constantly on the look out for poison ivy and poison oak and fortunately only got licked once while falling over like a dickhead.  I treated the impending blisters with hydrocortisone cream and pretended I wasn't scratching like a loon when the itch got too much.

Ticks were a non issue on our hike.  We treated our shoes, packs and tent in Sawyer permethrin, checked each others filth encrusted bodies at the end of the day and had no dramas.  Chiggers on the other hand gave our legs a bit of a hiding.  

Liberal coatings of Sawyer Picaridin insect repellent made no impact and my calves were nailed with bites.

No visits from Mr Bear and no racoon sightings which was weird.  
Actually not much in the way of typical Eastern State wildlife was encountered aside from copious amounts of scurrying squirrels, a few whitetail deer, an abundant birdlife and hundreds of spider webs strung across the trail at times.
Crawfish and frogs were seen often in the clear waters and we occasionally helped an Eastern Box Turtle off the trail into the scrub.

I reckon the hunting enthusiasts of Kentucky have possibly done too enthusiastic a job of annihilating the larger native mammals in the trail locale. 
Or they are just super shy.

Navigation and Resources:

I used the Farout App and the Sheltowee Trace guide on my phone.  
Loads of information on there from other hikers. Farout Sheltowee guide.

I purchased a T mobile pre pay Sim card for my phone in St Louis.  Coverage was spotty but most of the time there were a few bars on the high points of the trail when required, such as booking a room or chasing a weather forecast.

Again, the STA website is the best place to gather information.  STA website.

Jupiter's Youtube clips of his hike in 2019 are worth a watch too.  Jupiter 2019 Sheltowee Thru.

The Sheltowee Trace Association Facebook group was really helpful in answering my queries regarding ticks and shuttle services.


I had a blast camping on this trail.
The Farout guide lists some established sites suitable to throw a tent up but really anywhere on public land is fair game.  At times we would do a little 'chickening'; light clearing of leaf and branches to clean a space for our Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent.  

We often had a fire, sipped some skanky Fireball and chewed a gummie.  No issues with hunters or other trail users as there weren't any other people on this trail, we were alone every single night.

Worst case was when we were rained on by acorns being dislodged by squirrels high up in the canopy.  Big deal right!

Every now and then you stumble onto an established site complete with table, fire ring and wood stacked up which is a bonus.  


Depending on when you head out on the track the creeks could be flowing or you may be restricted to scooping from puddles.  The occasional spigot is listed on the guide and for the most part the water sourced from streams and creeks was clean and clear.  I filtered with a Sawyer Squeeze every single time.  
And no I am not sponsored by Sawyer, I just really like their stuff, it's what I used and it's widely available at REI and Walmart.

Weather and Landscapes:

September and October proved an optimal time for us this year.  Not too hot, not too cold, bit sweaty on the uphill climbs, mostly shorts and t shirt weather.  
Fiesty wore a $1 Goodwill dress and I bumbled around in synthetic running shorts and shirt most of the time.  A few days of rain had us hauling our jackets out of the bottom of our packs but we were blessed with stable climatic conditions for the most part.

I would classify walking the Sheltowee as easy. 

Aside from the churned up boggy ATV tracks strewn with garbage (shame on you Kentucky locals who desecrate your beautiful lands with beer cans and Arby's wrappers) the forestry roads and single track are mostly well maintained and conducive to really nice walking.

A few dilapidated bridges and also some missing bridges add a little adventure to river crossings and a couple of steep hill climbs worked me over, however it's a trail anyone could walk.

There is a chunk of road walking south of Heidelberg unofficially known as the 'dog walk section' where you can meet every variety of ferocious, unchained, off lead redneck canine possible.  
They race out to greet you with a mouth full of sharp teeth and a bad attitude for around a 40 mile stretch.  
I was forewarned of these pesky critters and had a small canister of pepper spray at the ready every time an angry dog intent on eating my nutsack charged at us.  

Fortunately we never had an serious problems and managed to shoo the rascals away but then again there were 2 of us and I am guessing that previous attacks on hikers running the gauntlet of Lamero Cruise Road and Crestmont Road has influenced local authorities to enforce these lazy owners of the dogs to restrain and contain most of them.

I love dogs but not these arseholes.  
They wouldn't stop me from hiking the Sheltowee again but it really shouldn't be an issue, even in the back blocks of Kentucky.  
Obviously it's the owners that are the root of the problem, the true arseholes.  
But in any case you have been informed.


This was my first hike in the States since before the pandemic thing.  

Quite a bit has changed.
Prices for everything are far higher; food, hotels, fuel, rental cars.  
The word is that there are far more people on the popular trails, hence why I chose to go wander where most don't.  Crowded trails suck.

Some things haven't changed.
Southern hospitality and people wanting to help me on my journey is still mind blowing amazing, I mean it.  
Kentucky has some of the kindest trail enthusiasts in the country, thank you legends!

This was the longest timeframe I have hiked with another person; we took a cruisey 28 days to complete the Sheltowee with 2 zero days thrown in there.  
I was forced to compromise my ingrained hiking habits that hankered for long walking days and higher mileage and slow down, enjoy the woods and another persons company.  Sweet!  

The Sheltowee Trace is a fantastic walking path, totally recommended and thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you trail angels and STA members for your kindness and helping us on our way. 

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Cooloola Wilderness Trail, Queensland. 88km. July 2022


The Cooloola 'Great Walk', is located within Great Sandy National Park in Southern Queensland.

Utilising the established campsites gives you an easy 20km a day mileage with a variety of spectacular and changing coastal landscapes.  Definitely suitable for beginner hikers and those looking to take it easy and cruise.

This point to point trail is accessible by public transport and requires pre booking of overnight campsites to ensure overcrowding doesn't occur.

I jumped on the Cooloola with a companion in July 2022 straight after my thru hike of the Heysen Trail and thoroughly enjoyed this more touristy, well groomed track located between rivers and sand dunes and swampy marshlands with the Pacific Ocean roaring in the East.


Starting locations are Tewantin (Noosa) in the South and Rainbow Beach in the North.

Both would be fantastic starting or finishing points, however I chose to go Northbound and spend a few days kicking back at Rainbow Beach afterwards.

Before I caught the Premier Motor Service bus from Roma Street Station (Brisbane) to Tewantin I jogged to an outdoor gear store in Fortitude Valley and scooped up a gas cannister.  
Bus departed at 2pm, arrived at Tewantin shops 4:30pm, cost $34 per person.

We stayed at an BnB for the night and paid for the hosts to shuttle us out to the Noosa River ferry which is about 5km away.  

You cross the Noosa River via a vehicular ferry, cost $1 for pedestrians. Information here.

Wander up the road for a few kilometres and you're at the Southern Terminus.

To return to Brisbane the Premier bus from Rainbow Beach to Brisbane is $34 also, depart 7:40am, arrive 12:30pm.

Map sourced from Google Maps


I printed the free map on the QPWS site here.  The trail is blindingly obvious, no issue getting lost.  Keep the ocean on your right for the most part if you are heading North and enjoy the beautiful flora..

Map sourced from: parksqld


Pre booking camping sites is done on the QPWS site here.

You will have to create an account first.

Enter the region you are chasing- Southern Queensland Country, then choose Cooloola Great walk and starting date and your campsites are displayed according to vacancies.

We stayed at each of the following for one night each:


Price was $6.85 per person.

Rain water tanks and long drop toilets are provided at each site, plenty of flat spots away and spread out to choose from.


The track winds around over sandy hills, on duck boards through boggy wet areas and under magnificent towering trees.  There are frequent ocean views and a crazy amount of native wildlife bouncing about.  Nothing too strenuous from memory.


This was a fun wind down hike with my girlfriend after 40 solo days wandering South Australia's Heysen Trail.  
Although I couldn't get used to sharing a campsite with other hikers every night and the short walking days frustrated me a tad, this was a trail I had on the tick list for years and I would absolutely recommend it.

The Sunshine Coast is crowded and popular for very valid reasons and the Cooloola is a brilliant way to escape the crowds and meet like minded folk while exploring a delicious chunk of protected coastline.