Saturday 26 April 2014

Pancake Creek; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Pancake Creek, situated in the Eurimbula National Park is a picturesque paddling destination which has something for every paddler. You can take off from either the Town of 1770 or from Turkey Beach via Rodds Peninsular.  The distance is similar from either start point - around 28 kms.

I'd recommend starting from Turkey Beach rather than the Town of 1770 to save yourself a potential 28 km slog into our SE trade winds with 20 kms of open beach which catches the swell around the end of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Good
Rodds Peninsular offered some excellent Rock Gardening opportunities along with Clews Point and Bustard Head.  The entrance into Pancake Creek is through deep water with no breaking waves.

We had two excellent surfing locations within 200 meters of the campsite.  There is a sand spit on the other side of Pancake Creek which had a breaking wave along its 400+meter length, offering 200+ meter rides.  As our trip coincided with the lower half of the tide cycle, we had breaking waves for the duration of our stay. The other break is very similar to Tea Tree at Noosa with a reef break on the outside of the point which works when there is larger swell around and a natural sand point break on the inside (as per the photo below - note camping would be on the headland itself rather than behind the beach).

We camped at the 3rd bay down from Clews Point.  This allowed us to rock hop around to the main campsite and to hike across to Aircraft Beach and the Bustard Head lighthouse (and on to the Jenny Lind Creek Lookout).

Pancake Creek is a well known fishing spot, containing an inshore reef, rocky outcrops, a natural harbour, yabbies, oysters and good fishing.  There is a constant stream of sea turtles, dolphins, reef sharks, rays and other wildlife visible from your campsite.

The Bad
MIDGES and MOSQUITOES.  Come well prepared and you can minimise your interactions with these ubiquitous monsters.  Our trip was in Autumn but the days were still hot so we were covering  up with deet, long sleeves, long pants and head wear whenever we were on shore.  We camped at furthermost official campsite which caught more breeze than the inside campsites, but the monsters tried to carry us away.  Maybe a winter trip would minimise the relentless effect of these bugs.

Tides will rule your paddling in Pancake Creek around Neap and Spring Tides where the tidal difference can get up to 4 meters.  Our campsite had a sand platform with sea grass (hence the proliferation of sea turtles) which was exposed through the lower half of the tide cycle, requiring a long portage - but not insurmountable.  We were able to paddle against the tide as we were only dealing with a two meter tide difference during our stay.

The Ugly
The campsites and tracks are not maintained regularly by the National Parks.  There are no facilities and the majority of human users must enjoy wallowing in human excrement because behind every campsite is a field of crap.  I was appalled at the rubbish people were leaving behind and the lack of decency they had in burying their own excrement.

The tracks were littered with beer bottles and UDLs as they led away from the main campsite.  Not to mention people killing fish and leaving the rotting carcases on the beach putrefying - rather than either eating or catching and releasing.

There is a fresh water well behind the main campsite - I wouldn't go near it with the amount of excrement leaching into the water table.

Sea Kayakers don't need to camp at the main campsite.  There are multiple options which could allow remote camping around Rodds Peninsular.  Look for the fresh water seeping through the beach and in the rocks as there is plenty of fresh water available if you know where to look.

An exposed campsite will minimise the effect of camping with the midges and mosquitoes.

You have remote camping, boat only access, surf, rock gardens, oysters, great fishing and reefs in a picturesque location - in short a fantastic destination for sea kayaking if you can deal with the bugs.

Please note there is an excellent article in an online upstream paddle publication which goes into detail regarding the tide heights for getting into Jenny Lind Creek via Chinamans Creek and for short-cutting across crocodile country from the bottom of Pancake Creek to Turkey Beach (around 13-16 kms but you need the highest tides to achieve this short cut - noting that this cuts out paddling around Rodds Peninsular).  I'd advise reading in detail or your exploration may come to this....

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