Tassie’s west coast has a real gem in the mighty Gordon River. This river, despite being harnessed further upstream to produce hydro electric power, still retains its magnificent regal character in its lower reaches. Flowing serenely for many kilometres, it finally empties into Macquarie Harbour, a large, shallow body of water roughly 34 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide at its widest point. The Gordon is renowned for its reflections, with cruise vessels taking tourists up the Gordon from Strahan several times daily.
But to visit this river alone by kayak is far better
Leaving Strahan I headed south on Macquarie Harbour, straight into a headwind. 32km later I was still paddling into a headwind! The forecast didn’t mention that.
I landed on Sarah Island for a look at the convict ruins. Sarah Island was a major boatbuilding site during the days of penal settlement. It is sobering to think of the privations that these people suffered in this harsh climate.
I left and found a quiet bay to erect my trusty Mont Epoch tent and settle down for a quiet night. The next morning I paddled the last few kilometres across Macquarie Harbour and slipped into the mouth of the Gordon. The tide was ebbing and there was a solid current to paddle against as I made my way upstream, the wind slowly died away until eventually I was paddling on a mirror, green with the reflections of the rainforest crowding down to the edge of the river. Sublime!
A seal was working its way up and down the river, hunting for trout, snorting loudly as it surfaced. Then, as I drifted along during a rest, a platypus swam directly towards me, only realising that something strange was ahead of him when he was a mere 3 metres away. He dived with a plop!
I eased past Heritage Landing where the tourist boats turn around, knowing that the best part of the river is further upstream.
This time though, my destination was only a short 17 kilometres further upstream, Eagle Creek campsite. I arrived in the early afternoon and once again, set up camp in a beautiful, solitary and peaceful location.
Another quiet night, I rose before dawn and watching the sun slowly finger it’s way down across the treetops, bringing magical light onto a scene full of peace and calmness. The reflections were flawless as I quietly sat and are breakfast. A pretty good way to start the day.
Packing the kayak, I slipped back into the water and glided across the reflections, heading back downstream. The peacefulness was complete as I quietly paddled but it wasn’t long before I was back at the mouth of The Gordon with Sarah Island in the distance ahead.
About 700 metres from Sarah is Grummett Island, a small rocky island capped with dense scrub that was used initially to house the women at the Sarah Island settlement. It was later used as a natural prison for the very worst convicts, sometimes as many as 60 on a very small island. Apparently murders were common….
I had read that the women lived in a cave on the island. I searched until I found the entrance to the cave. A ½ metre wide entrance went back for about 5 metres before opening out into a 2 metre by 6 metre cave with a sloping floor. Not exactly home sweet home.
Leaving the island, I continued on to Double Bay on the western side of the Harbour, 38 kms from Eagle Creek. This is a very sheltered bay with a nice sandy beach. A good place to be. I could hear the waves pounding the west coast….10km away.
Setting up camp was the first priority, then I sat back and enjoyed the solitude.
That night was really warm, and I appreciated the brilliant ventilation of the Epoch. It has the best ventilation I have ever seen in a 4 season tent.
The 4th day was good weather again with the forecast indicating good sailing conditions for the run back to Strahan. 21km and some good sailing later, I landed back at the beach in Strahan.
Another good trip!
By Geoff Murray
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Choosing a new tent is one of those moments that calls for serious research. It's a big decision, and a potentially risky one, if you get it wrong you may have to live with the consequences for a long time. I live in Tasmania and love exploring wilderness Alpine regions, especially winter camping.
So, my non-negotiables in a tent are it being waterproof, that's #1, then weight and space. Ok, looks play a part, but they are a bonus :)