The bucket list overflows

4/09/2016 04:34:00 pm

I love walking and being outdoors, and I love the idea of camping and being away from other people, but I absolutely refuse to poop in a hole. And I'm pretty bad at weeing outdoors. There's always a surprise gust of wind, or an unexpected ant.

It makes options for long-distance hiking a little difficult.

We had planned to be in Japan right now, smack bang in the middle of cherry blossom season, but Dubai (and its associated temporary loss of staff travel benefits) complicated that plan. And so, what to do with a week of leave already planned, and a life in the desert fast approaching?

My mum had sent me a link last year about a new walking track that was opening in December, and when I first read about it I said, "We should definitely do that walk", just as one might say wistfully, "We should definitely go to Antarctica before we turn 30," or, "When we move to Dubai I will finally be able to have a puppy." That is to say, I wanted it to happen, but was fairly sure that life would conspire to get in the way.

So I booked it.

With a planned finish date 3 days before Rob's flight out.

It seemed like a great idea at the last hurrah, some peace and quiet. It didn't seem like such a great idea when, four days out, just returned from a weekend in the Northern Tablelands to drop off the bunnies and leave essential documents at our assorted parent's houses (14 hour round trip), we were still stuffing junk into boxes and carrying large pieces of furniture down all those damn stairs and dealing with shady people encountered on Gumtree who think they're doing you a favour by repeatedly calling/texting to aggressively offer $20 for a blu-ray player. The price is non-negotiable!!

Anyway, tensions in our aparto were running high, is what I'm saying....and so it was with mixed feelings that we embarked on our little adventure...

Image courtesy of Three Capes Track

The Three Capes Track

Day 0

The departure times from Port Arthur are such that you could probably catch a flight to Tasmania and start walking on the same day, but I can't make plans to start something on the same day as a flight in case disaster strikes. Flying on standby has so ingrained in me the possibility that I won't make it to my destination on time that even when travelling on real, confirmed tickets, I cannot quite be convinced that I don't need a 24-36 hour buffer. And anyway, I've always wanted to visit Hobart.

We walked from home to the airport with our packs at 5am. It's only 6km and it seemed like good practice since we were completely unprepared. I haven't walked any great distance with a bag since 2008, Rob since 2003 at least. Probably should have worn our proper walking shoes though, since I got blisters on my curly toes before even starting the adventure, and Rob did something to his foot that made it hurt to walk. Off to a good start.
If you've never been to Hobart, go. It's really nice. If you've never been to MONA, go.... you'll never be the same again....

Day 1 - 4km 

You start with a short walk, only 4km, but it involves a rather steep hill and whilst pausing about half way up, desperately trying to get my breath, I started to get reeeeally worried that if this was the easy day I was most likely going to die from some kind of cardiac event on day three (as you will see, those fears were a little overblown).

Before starting the walk though, you must don a fabulous red spray jacket, and take a boat from Port Arthur to Denman's Cove.

The boat trip is quite wonderful, taking you right out to the edge of the southern ocean at the base of Cape Raoul (the third cape, since the walk itself would more appropriately be called the Two Capes Track...)

We took the early morning boat and thought ourselves lucky when we saw a single little seal, waving at us in the distance.

The afternoon group got a pod of dolphins in addition to the solitary seal. The dolphins swam with the boat for 20 minutes. The group that started three days after us couldn't take the boat trip because the swell was too rough to land in Denman's Cove; they got inserted by helicopter.

But we saw a seal, so there's that.

Our food supplies for the walk were as follows: 2 apples, 200gm trail mix, 600gm pasta, 6 tins of tuna, 12 muesli bars, some porridge, UHT milk, 1 jar each of peanut butter and Nutella, and a loaf of white bread (3 slices/day each, except on the last day because we had been so good with our rations that we got 3.5 slices each!)

Friends, we were put to shame. On the first day, on arriving at Surveyors Hut, we were surrounded by people drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers. And cold cuts. It was like being at a garden party, but we were sadly underdressed. I ate all of my trail mix, even though Rob kept saying, “Don’t eat all your trail mix”. But I love snacks so much!

We had our thermos though, and we always do when out walking, and people were totally jealous that we were drinking tea in the middle of nowhere. I could definitely tell.

Surveyors in the dawn light. Yup... nice enough.

Day 2 – 14.6km

It's on day 2 that you realise just how close to the cliff face the path takes you. The sea cliffs are dolerite, and they're spectacular.

Every time I stood on a rock edge like this, especially with my pack on, I worried that I would be blown away...
It was a pretty easy day of walking, but there was something off about my pack suspension all day, and the shoulder straps ended up bruising my collar bones and making me feel a bit trudgy and pathetic.

We had heard that Munro Hut is good for animals, with a resident echidna called Mr Prickles, but that was sadly incorrect. Consistent with every trip to Tasmania I've taken, ever, the sum total of my wildlife sightings was a single possum sheepishly walking along the boardwalk between the kitchen and the sleeping area, and vast quantities of wombat poo.

You know what else has square stools...? 
The deck at Munro is pretty much the first thing you see on approach to the site and we stopped and just gaped for a few moments, but the real money shot is the helipad.

Cape Pillar at dawn. That is all. 
I sat up there whilst the moon rose up over the ocean that night, with just the sound of the ocean smashing the cliffs below, and the rustle of unseen creatures in the undergrowth.

My first attempts at night shots turned out ok!
I sat up there whilst the sun rose, and chased away the moon. Just breathtaking.

This was the best sunrise I've ever seen. I haven't seen that many because I'm rarely awake so early...but still!

The toilet block is right behind you, which does sort of spoil the mood, so just keep facing forwards!

For dinner we had pasta and tuna, but I'm happy to say that everyone (not just us!) was schooled when the group of 6 Mosman mummies pulled out a 2kg butterflied shoulder of lamb and whipped up some cous cous. I've never seen so much Lululemon athletic wear in my life, and I've never seen people make whisked custard and fruit for breakfast whilst hiking. Schooled, I tell you.

Day 3 – 17km

Public liability as a concept is very different in Tasmania. We were told by the ranger at Munro, “we’re trusting you guys not to be stupid”. She did also mention that 17 people died last year taking selfies and implored us, “Don’t be number 18”.

On day 3 (or if you’re super keen like a number of others in our group, you do this walk on day 2, just in case the 14km from Surveyor’s isn’t enough for you), you leave your pack at Munro and do a return walk to The Blade. It’s famous for a reason, but unfortunately my photos don’t do it justice because the entire time we were standing on the precipice of unstable rock hundreds of metres above the sea, devoid of barriers, in a high wind area…I was just thinking… “Please don’t die. Please don’t die”. But also I was thinking, “Well, at least if this thing gives way we’ll hopefully get crushed by rocks before we hit the ocean.” I was a bit scared.

The Blade looks down on to Tasman Island, and if you aren’t having a panic attack you can get what the boat operator described as “the most epic selfie you’ll take this year.” I didn’t get the selfie because I couldn’t bring myself to lift my arm above my head in case the wind caught me (although Rob tells me that whilst we were up there, there was hardly even a puff of breeze) and somehow caused the entire pillar of rock to crumble beneath me. In fact, I didn’t even want to stand up, I just wanted to cling to the narrow spire with my hands and knees and never let go.

Which is unfortunate because, wow, it was breathtaking. The whole walk out to The Blade was breathtaking. The Three Capes Booklet is called “Encounters on the Edge” and this walk is why. It’s wild, and exposed, and you look out on the ocean and it really does feel like there’s nothing between you and Antarctica except a whole lot of turbulent water.

On returning from The Blade, we picked up our packs once more to backtrack past Munro on to the final hut, Retakunna. We had walked out to The Blade with day packs, and on retrieving our big packs I bent down to start repacking everything to continue walking. It was a little drizzly and we were out in the open, so Rob wanted to move under cover nearer to the kitchen. As a result, true to form, with my pack on my back and day pack on front, unable to see my feet, I took about two steps forward before wiping myself out. Straight down I went, with a resounding SMACK, because I had missed the stairs right in front of me. I blame Rob.

Apparently most the accidents happen around the huts; the stairs and steps aren’t always where you’d expect, so at least it’s not just me… The track itself is beautiful underfoot – when it’s not boardwalk it’s gravel or stone. At first I thought the dry-boot concept was a little precious (surely if you’re going walking you can at least get your feet dirty), but one of the rangers explained that it’s actually to try and prevent the spread of root fungus, Phytophthora (aka die back).

We stood right on the tip there, of the tallest outcrop of rocks: The Blade. 
There are a couple of boot-washing stations along the track, including right at the start of the walk. Parts of the National Park are fungus-free, and that’s a big deal because some Australian native species are particularly susceptible to the disease. I was so pissed when one of the Mosman mummies, not wanting to waste a precious 30 seconds waiting for the two walkers in front of her to do their boots, snapped, “My shoes are immaculate” and then side-stepped the boot-washing station and stalked off through the undergrowth, leaving behind only a faint cloud of Chanel number 5.

Day 4 – a big bloody hill - 14km

The book says it’s gentle and you won’t really notice the climb. That is incorrect. But you know what, we made it to the top after about an hour, and the walk was absolutely beautiful, through two pockets of true rainforest.

It’s amazing on this walk the variety of landscape and forest that you pass through. In the space of just 45 minutes you can go from deep in the rainforest to exposed dry forest on the edge of the cliff face, with nothing but the ocean out ahead.

Actually, it’s really just amazing. I think I’ll leave it at that and let the last few pictures see us out.

The path to Cape Hauy is like three very steep hills squashed and then stacked on top of each other. As we went down and down and down, it started to make a lot of sense why the people we'd seen coming back up up up weren't looking so flash....

Luckily it is incredible. Unlike the rest of the walk....

This bit is famous (the spindly bit, The Totem Pole, in the background). Some guy many years ago was rock climbing on it, and there was a rock-fall but his girlfriend managed to pull him to safety. It might not sound impressive, but once you see how tall these damn cliffs are, and how wild the ocean is, it will hit you. 
I mean, it's ok.... I guess? No wait, it's AMAZING. Sorry, minor typo there. 
And then, just when I was starting to think that the only wildlife I was going to see was a bird with some red feathers on Day 2, a sea lion! Having a great time!! There were two in fact, you can sort of see the other one at 11 o'clock - he was much bigger and much faster, and was very snappish with the seagulls who were trying to get at his fish. The other guy was so chilled, he was just rolling around and making a scene. We stayed and watched them for about 5 minutes and he showed no sign of moving along. 
And before you know it, four days have passed. You've walked a long way, and the path comes to an end. And the track opens up on Fortescue Bay. You can put down your pack, and bathe your sore toes, and whilst you wait for the shuttle to return you to Port Arthur, you can tick another one off the bucket list.

By the way, nobody paid me to write this post. But if you like the way I write and the photos I take, you're totally welcome to pay me to write about something else. 

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