The delightful stretch of coast between Lakes Entrance and Mallacoota in Victoria’s far-east has a fascinating Robinson Crusoe story that just might inspire today’s walkers and campers exploring the area.
The Sydney Cove was one of our earliest documented ship wrecks when it was beached on Preservation Island back in 1797. Perhaps there had been previous ones along this coast but nobody lived to tell the tale so they were lost to history. But with this particular incident a band of ship wreck survivors travelled in their long boat across Bass Strait as far as 90 Mile Beach to a point estimated to be about 20 kilometres west of present day Lakes Entrance. Their boat foundered and broke up, leaving them castaway yet again. But this time it was on the mainland rather than an isolated Bass Strait island. Still daunting, but they knew the settlement of Sydney was just 600 kilometres up the coast. A straightforward walk you might think? Well, yes, but in 1797 this was unknown territory, completely unexplored and filled with dangers both real and imagined for these hapless castaways.
Now in many ways these guys were pretty lucky, apart from surviving a wrecking on two occasions. Consider that if you are going to be washed up on any piece of Aussie coast, this area is the place where you would want it to happen and the seasonal timing was not too bad either. February to March is a cracker of a time around these parts, way better than a Bass Strait winter. Not that they would have felt lucky but at least down in the south east corner they were not dealing with crocodiles, stone fish, jelly fish or energy sapping humidity.
To add to the benefits were the large sections of easily traversed coastline with long beaches and a few rocky headlands, well watered areas with plenty of streams for drinking water, a few sources of seafood, plenty of shelter and pleasantly warm weather. They even ran into a few friendly groups of Aboriginals who helped them with a bit of tucker and advice for getting around some of the trickier headlands and over rivers. Sure they’d have been feeling a bit under the weather, castaways on the other side of the planet from familiar home turf. But this is one of the most human friendly pieces of real estate on the continent and when you are washed up on the driest continent on earth you are doing OK if you just happen to be on the stretch that is one of the best supplied with fresh water. All handy attributes for the modern day visitor as well I might add.