Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freycinet Peninsula

Walking along a picturesque beach, followed by a picturesque beach to camp at. Swim at another picturesque beach, followed the next day by another picturesque beach to camp at. Who could ask for more?

Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania

What more is there to say? The first day we negotiated the edges of the Hazards - a collection of mountains named after a ship not their hazardous nature - to Hazards Beach. From here we walked a couple of kilometres along the hard sand - careful not to walk too high on the beach so as to crush the bird eggs or indeed the sand-coloured baby birds if there were any - to Lugunata Creek campsite. Just short of here we had finally caught up with the two parents and seven year old girl we had briefly spoken to in the carpark. The girl was running ahead of the parents and gaining some extra mileage with her wanderings, so I think she would be just fine on her first multi-day hike.

We walked inland to Cooks Beach where we found the clearest of waters as the waves crashed across the pure white sand. After a swim, who could resist, we sat on the beach and read as the sun set before us.

We started day two with a short 1 hour return walk to Byrans Beach, can you beleive it, yet another picturesque beach? This one was off the main track, but the campers there looked just like car campers. Big tents, shade covers, toilet tents and shower tents, and lots of washing strung up. Were they all wandering around naked somewhere, or perhaps, more likely, they had come here by one of the several boats anchored along the sheltered beach. Their camping style stood in stark contrast to that of the previous night where twenty or so campers set up camp, having carried their tents and gear in on their backs.

Returning to Cooks Beach, we began our arduous climb from sea level up 579 metres of Mt Graham. From here, in the hot sun, we had a postcard view of the isthmus joining the end of Freycinet Peninsula to the Hazards and the mainland. Ont he left was yesterday's Hazards Beach, and the right, the famous Wineglass Bay. It was a slow steady descent down to Wineglass Bay and our campsite. The long descent put somewhat of a dent in the seven year old's enthusiasm. She had discovered the hiker's secret: maybe just maybe we prefer the hard ascending hikes to the long descending ones?

The campsite vibe here was a little different. There were numerous boats anchored in the sheltered bay, but this time none were camping. However the campsite was strewn with rubbish and empty bottles, and the toilets were, what shall we say, feral. After we had set up camp, a young couple walked off the beach and into the campsite, clearly having walked the short one and a half hours from the carpark, the distance we would complete the following day. "Where's the bin, I can't see it anywhere," the girl was overheard to ask the guy. "Let's ask," he replied. Mmm. There isn't one. Is it too much to ask to carry out what you carried in, after all, it is a lot lighter without the contents. We later saw them heading off in the direction of the toilets with a bag of rubbish, complete with the toothpaste box from their newly purchased toothpaste. Needless to say, they returned empty handed. The eco toilets they have at the campsites throughout Tasmania are very good, they are waterless and just require one to empty a scoop of rice husks from an adjacent bin after you have finished your business - this controls the smell. Here at this campsite through, the rice husk bin, one of those plastic bins we all used to use kerbside in the '80s was overflowing with rubbish, the rice husks long buried. It was disappointing.

During tea we were visited by several paddymelons - a kind of wallaby us South Australians had never heard of before our visit. The young ones can be just as brave to approach us. Later we sat on the beach listening to the gentle lapping of the waves before a late rain shower saw us retreat to our tents to make some hot chocolate.

The following day we made the short hike back to the carpark via the beach on Wineglass Bay and the Wineglass Bay lookout. Many people make the short return hike to the lookout, or venture further to the beach, or the loop via Hazards Beach and return via the Hazards. These day walkers greatly outnumber the multi-day hikers, and several kids were heard to ask about our large packs or my curious trekking poles. I wouldn't have objected if they carried my heavy pack for a few hundred metres, but no offers were forthcoming.

The end of a three day hike and heavy rain in the carpark as we packed up the car ensured we gave up on any ideas of climbing Mt Amos for an even better view of Wineglass Bay. Again, we chatted to the parents with the seven year old child. It doesn't seem to matter how slow you walk, just as long as you keep going and going - they were never much slower than us fast walkers. There's a lesson there somewhere I'm sure.

Download Google Earth KML file of Freycinet Peninsula hike
Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Freycinet Peninsula
Sunday Monday Monday Tuesday
28/12/2008 29/12/2008 29/12/2008 30/12/2008
Carpark to Cooks Beach Cooks Beach to Bryans Beach and return Cooks Beach to Wineglass Bay Wineglass Bay to carpark
Distance 14.0km 5.9km 12.9km 4.5km
Moving Duration 2h57m 1h5m 3h34m 1h4m
Stationary Duration 1h1m 1h 1h50m 22m
Moving Average 4.7km/h 5.4km/h 3.6km/h 4.2km/h
Overall Average 3.5km/h 2.8km/h 2.4km/h 3.1km/h
Oodometer 173.5km 179.5km 192km 196.8km

There is limited water available on the track. There are rainwater tanks at Cooks Beach Hut, although an older tank there was infested with crawlies of some sort. There were creeks on Day 2, as marked on the map, and no rainwater tanks at Wineglass Bay campsite.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cape Pillar Track

Sheer cliffs fell 280 metres away to the sea below from the Blade and Chasm Lookouts. Both exposed promontories rise sharply above the surrounding landscape.

Cape Pillar Track, Tasman National Park, Tasmania
3 day hike
Thursday 25 December to Saturday 27 December 2008

Beyond the two promontories lay Tasman Island, complete with lighthouse and 3 houses set high above the sea, the island surround by high cliffs. All I imagine, is abandoned, probably complete with furniture since the day the lighthouse was automated.

We spent 3 days in this section of the Tasman National Park. On Christmas Day we set out from the camping area at Fortescue Bay loaded with 13.5L of water between us, a special Christmas dinner and some wine. We found a very un-shy echidna on the trail, which Tim made a vid of.

It was a hard climb in the hot sun to Cape Huay junction, where we dropped our packs for the walk out to the Totem Pole and Candlestick on Cape Huay. It was so huge, this freestanding pillar of stone, it was difficult to capture on camera.

Back on the main track, it was a hard slug up the overgrown track to Mt Fortescue at 490m above sea level. Beyond the peak we reached Wughallee Falls where we found a rather unprepared hiker. His tent was set up on the narrow track beside the falls, despite it being clear that he knew the campsite was only 150m further and had ample camping spots available. When I returned the following day for a wash, I collected his rubbish, it would have been nice to have seen him again to return it to him. It had taken us 6 hours to reach camp, we had left later than planned, so we ate a late tea and went straight to bed pledging for a lie-in the following morning.

Leaving our tents set-up, and our packs behind, we set off on the return walk to Cape Pillar. It was beautiful, although really we only kept seeing the same thing again and again just from a closer viewpoints. A comment on the walk registration book at the junction amused us, "not enough trees across the path, please add more." Some track maintenance of the Fortescue Bay to Tornado Ridge section was certainly in order.

On the final day we hiked out for just 1.5 hours across the flat swamp back to Fortescue Bay and the car, from where we visited Port Arthur before heading up to Coles Bay for an overnight stay in the caravan park.

Download Google Earth KML file of Cape Pillar Track hike
Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Cape Pillar
Thursday Friday Saturday
25/12/2008 26/12/2008 27/12/2008
Fortescue Bay to Retakunna Creek Retakunna Creek to Cape Pillar and return Retakunna Creek to Fortescue Bay
Distance 13.2km 18.0km 7.3km
Moving Duration 3h46m 4h37m 1h29m
Stationary Duration 2h11m 2h30m 17m
Moving Average 3.5km/h 3.3km/h 4.8km/h
Overall Average 2.2km/h 2.5km/h 4.1km/h
Oodometer 124.7km 142.7km 150.0km

There is limited water available on the track. There was water in Retukunna Creek, but brackish. We filled up with water at Lunchtime Creek. There are no water tanks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Overland Track: Entry #3 (of 3)

The five of us - Tim, Kate & myself and Andrea and Theo - have camped together for the previous 4 nights, and we have climbed Mt Ossa together. We have been doing everything together.

The Overland Track, Tasmania
6 day hike: this blog entry the 5th, 6th and 7th days
Sunday 21 December to Tuesday 23 December 2008
Kia Ora Creek to Pine Valley Hut to Narcisus Hut to Cynthia Bay

We had lunch on a tent platform at Windy Ridge Hut, a one-point something million dollar hut that no-one seems to stay at, instead having lunch there. From there we walked halfway to Narcissus Hut before taking a sidetrip to Pine Valley Hut. From Pine Valley we hoped to climb the Acropolis, some of our eager members hoped to walk that afternoon, allowing time the following morning to explore the Labyrinth. By lunch my feet had declared climbing the Acropolis that evening as a non-option.

As it turned out, the hike of 1.5 hours off the main track was exhausting and Pine Valley Hut couldn't come soon enough. The walk out to the main track the following day we found to be quick and easy - a sure sign of how exhausted we were the previous afternoon. The campsites at Pine Valley Hut were small and sheltered, with rain forest soaring high above us and a creek meandering through the campsite.

The morning of the 6th day, Tim, Theo and myself set off to climb the Acropolis as the girls had a well deserved sleep-in. The Lonely Planet guidebook said it was a 4 hour return walk, but the sign in the hut said it was a 5 to 7 hour return walk. We didn't have heaps of time, so decided to be back at the hut within 4 hours. The ascent to the midway plateau was very steep, and we reconsidered if we would still have time to make the peak from there. We decided to cross the plateau and reassess the situation. The Acropolis loomed closer, and with Tim's optimism it seemed to be close enough to achieve. There were a few difficult sections, but all in all it was easier than Mt Ossa had been. Again the peak was a plateau, and we had magnificent views of Mt Geryon and down to the Labyrinth. Despite the wind, we made our obligatory contribution to XXXXXXXXXXXXX (more details later) and returned to Pine Valley Hut. The final descent was steep and very hot, so I quite enjoyed my splash around in Cephissus Falls. We made it back to the hut in 4 hours and 4 minutes, where Kate and Andrea had prepared lunch.

The hike to Narcissus Hit was quite easy and flat. After confirming our ferry booking for the following morning via radio-speak in the hut, we set up camp beside the river. There were no tent platforms tonight, and despite the river it was a hot shadeless campsite. Once again Andrea got to see a snake as it crossed out campsite.

The following morning we walked the 300 metres to the ferry for the short trip to Cynthia Bay, where we all ate breakfast in the cafe before the bus trip to Hobart.

Alternatively, visit the Overland Track website to view the official Google Earth kml file. Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Overland Track:
Days 5-7
Sunday Monday Monday Tuesday
21/12/2008 22/12/2008 22/12/2008 23/12/2008
Kia Ora Creek to Pine Valley Hut Pine Valley Hut to Acropolis and return Pine Valley Hut to Narcisus Hut Narcisus Hut to Cynthia Bay
Distance 19.3km 6.5km 8.8km 300m (the rest by ferry)
Moving Duration 4h47m 1h53m 1h51m
Stationary Duration 1h13m 1h24m 24m
Moving Average 4.0km/h 7.3km/h 4.8km/h  
Overall Average 3.2km/h 1.9km/h 3.9km/h  
Oodometer 96.2km 102.6km 111.5km  

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Overland Track: Entry #2 (of 3)

It was some climb to Mt Ossa, 4 hours return, and we weren't quite sure which mountain it even was. Was it this one in front of us (it was huge), or was it one looming behind somewhere?

The Overland Track, Tasmania
6 day hike: this blog entry the 4th day
Saturday 20 December 2008
New Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Creek

After climbing 150m from the main track up towards Mt Ossa we asked a passing tour guide who was bring his group back down. Yep, we couldn't see it yet, it lay behind the distinct mountain we could see before us. We had to go up, where we could re-evaluate.

"We've only climbed 300m, we still have 200m to go," I said to the others. "Yeah, we've climbed 300m, only 200m to go," replied Tim, ever the optimist. On we climbed up this mountain through a gully between two larger pillars of rock. It wasn't easy, I gotta tell you I was scared when I looked down. At the top of this formation I sat admiring the view. "I'll climb up there," I said, "it looks easy enough. From there we can see how much further it is to the peak." By this time Andrea and Theo had caught up with us, and Tim and Theo set off up the next ascent. I asked someone coming down how much further it was - I hate asking that - and it quickly became apparent that it was Mt Ossa that lay before us. So I raced up after the other two guys, climbing up through the snow patches, to reach the summit of Mt Ossa. The summit is a plateau, hence our reasoning as to why it wasn't Mt Ossa.

It was such a clear day we could see everywhere, and this being Tassie's tallest peak at 1617m, we were rewarded with views of peaks everywhere. I made a contribution to Theo's friend's website - a website Theo and his friends had all put in together for to pay for the programming and set-up costs as a birthday gift. Perhaps more on that later.

The descent was quick, just 45 minutes, and despite how scary the ascent was it was easy to return back down. We arrived at camp at 6pm at Kia Ora Creek, our tent platforms placed overlooking the creek with the sun setting on a distant rock face. After a refreshing swim - the waterfall was icy cold - we all ate dinner together and talked with the park ranger Jenny.

Alternatively, visit the Overland Track website to view the official Google Earth kml file. Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Overland Track: Day 4
New Pelion Hut to Kia
Ora Creek
Distance 14.4km
Moving Duration 3h45m
Stationary Duration 3h36m
Moving Average 3.8km/h
Overall Average 2.0km/h
Oodometer 76.8km

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Overland Track: Entry #1 (of 3)

It's the buttongrass. And the water. I'm sure of it. This is what makes this place so special. Almost fairytale.

The Overland Track, Tasmania
6 day hike: this blog entry the first 3 days
Wednesday 17 December to Friday 19 December 2008
Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Lake to New Pelion Hut

The Overland Track, it's a Designer Trail I tell you. Well, that's what I thought on the first day anyway. A shuttle bus to the start, boardwalks and graveled pathways, all through swamp, lush rainforest, lakes and mountaintop panoramas. But it ends, in mud, amongst the remnants of thirty year old rotten timber walkways. Water is everywhere it seems - always in abundance on the muddy track - but also in streams and lakes. For a South Aussie, it is at first unnerving only carrying 1L of water, but it seems everytime my drink bottle came close to empty another source of wonderfully clear water appears.

The view of Cradle Mountain on climbing to Marions Lookout is quite something, after a hard ascent the mountain suddenly appears before you. We were very lucky with clear skies, bad weather is common here it seems.

Day 1 ended at Waterfall Valley Hut, where we camped on the timber platforms above a waterfall. Andrea (pronounced On-dri-ah) and Theo, who we first met on the bus from Launceston, camped with us. Whilst we chatted, a couple of small spotted quolls explored our tents. None of us were too sure about how to set up our tents on the timber platforms with the cables instead of tent pegs. The strategically placed cables, and sometimes not so strategically placed, weren't so easy to master. How to keep the tension so the tent would remain waterproof if it rained. Luckily the first night it didn't, and by our second night we had learnt a bit because it not only rained, but snowed. The snow was special, it not so much fell as floated down onto our tents. At 4am when it started, I didn't care too much as the possums had been busy searching out food. But waking again later to a tent burdened with snow, I snuck a look to confirm my suspicions.

The view at the end of day 2 coming down to Windermere Lake was breathtaking, the yellows and purples. We saw two wombats, one crossing our path quite undisturbed by us.

Day 3 was longer at 17km. The view of Mt Oakleigh held us spellbound all day as we walked in a large arc around it. There was a lot of mud on this day, so our new gators were well used. They are so hot and uncomfortable which is why I hiked they whole Heysen Trail without any. Eewwk. But they are practical in the wet.

Tim and I went for a swim in Douglas Creek near the Old Pelion Hut. It was about a 20 minute walk from the new hut, maybe shorter if Tim hadn't worn his crocs there. The trail to the old hut was in very bad condition, but new timber materials lying stacked around indicated it was soon to be replaced. I think perhaps Tim needed the 4WD crocs we saw the park ranger Matt have earlier in the day. The swim was cold, but well worth it.

Again we camped with Andrea and Theo, the spotted quoll providing more amusement. The quoll soon lost interest in our tents, and upon hearing a group of guys playing hackie in the distant, it climbed upon a log to get a clearer yet distant view. Very amusing to watch.

Alternatively, visit the Overland Track website to view the official Google Earth kml file. Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Day 1-3: The Overland Track
Wednesday Thursday Friday
17/12/2008 18/12/2008 19/12/2008
Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Lake Windermere Lake to New Pelion Hut
Distance 11.8km 11.0km 14.6km
Moving Duration 3h20m 2h35m 3h41
Stationary Duration 1h48m 1h04m 1h49m
Moving Average 3.5km/h 4.3km/h 4.0km/h
Overall Average 2.3km/h 3.0km/h 2.6km/h
Oodometer 36.8km 47.8km 62.4km

Monday, December 15, 2008

Walls of Jerusalem

Pure Tasmania. Who can argue with that? Tim tied his cup to the outside of his pack so he could drink from any stream that took his fancy.

Walls of Jerusalem, Tasmania
2 day hike: Sunday 14 December to Monday 15 December 2008

One stream did taste awfully like rocks, but the rest were refreshingly cool and good, indeed pure. Accustomed to hiking in South Australia, we asked someone at the hostel the night before we left about the availability of drinking water at campsites. He had taken a similar route through the park just days previously, and assured us there was plenty of water. But quite frankly, we didn't get it. Water, everywhere? Nah mate you've got to be kidding. Seriously though, it truly was. Pure water, everywhere.

The hike from the car park to Trappers Hut and the junction wasn't too tough, despite the 600 metre ascent. I was finding it harder than I expected though, thanks to a lingering bout of influenza of which the effect of fatigue I was still feeling. I guess it created a level playing field as it brought me back to Kate's speed. Sweet justice.

From the Y-junction the views were magical. It's hard to explain, a path winding through towering cliffs with streams and lakes, ferns and moss. Likewise, the Pool of Bethesda were magical.

We camped at the end of the marked trail at Dixons Kingdom Hut. For tea we ate a pasta meal and mash, and experimented with making custard without the aid of the instructions. Needless of say, despite adding more milk powder we established that it was somewhat inedible. But what to do with it? We couldn't leave it in this pristine environment, but hey Tim did his duty. This place was so beautiful and pristine it didn't even feel right to piss anywhere.

The following morning we bush bashed following our Lonely Planet guide instructions, occasionally coming across a path to lead us, only to lose it later. Lake Ball was the perfect swimming lake with grassy edges and a rock and moss lakebed. Pity it was still so cold. Later, from Lake Adelaide the walk got quite muddy as we hiked through swamp. Gators were definitely on the shopping list for when we returned to Launceston.

Download Google Earth KML file of Walls of Jerusalem hike
Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

Stats Walls of Jerusalem
Sunday Monday
14/12/2008 15/12/2008
Carpark to Dixons Kingdom Hut Dixons Kingdom Hut to carpark
Distance 10.6km 14.4km
Moving Duration 3h12m 3h41m
Stationary Duration 2h27m 2h11m
Moving Average 3.3km/h 3.9km/h
Overall Average 1.9km/h 2.4km/h
Oodometer 10.6km 25.0km