Cya Later South Australia

We only had a couple more places to visit before entering our 3rd state, 2nd really because we saw almost none of Victoria, and the first was Coober Pedy. As a huge fan of rocks, I also have the guilty pleasure of watching Outback Opal Hunters almost obsessively and therefore felt that I knew most of the town and what it would be like, I couldn’t have been more wrong. As we made our way through the piles of dirt that make up the opal fields the collection of buildings that materialized in front of the van made us feel like we were traveling back to the late 80s to a bizarre mining theme park. We set up the van at the free campsite behind the old mining museum and were lucky enough to get the only site shaded by a tree. Because the owners of the museum were so kind to host a free camp we paid the $15 entry fee and spent the next couple of hours walking through the mine and then learning about underground homes. Matt went back to the camp to relax while I walked down the road with my fossicking kit and dug around in the dust for another few hours. The correct term for looking for accidentally discarded opal in mine heaps is noodling and as it turns out I’m not much good at it, I didn’t even find a bit of potch (colourless and valueless opal). What I did find was an absolutely massive gypsum crystal which must have weighed 4kg and another smaller stack, probably about 500g worth. Matt was less than impressed when I rocked up in camp with them.

The next day we explored the town starting off with the underground catholic church then the underground bar, an underground display/museum which was filled with, of all things, South Australia Roads and Transport propeganda. After a morning of exploring we were getting a bit hungry and ended up having waffles for lunch at a tiny cafe run by a dutch couple. During the afternoon we visited the local IGA which was absolutely fantastic, I swear the supermarket was better stocked than half the shops in Tasmania and we bought 4 wheels of cheese that had been discounted to 99 cents each . Our final activity that day was to visit the small Kangaroo Sanctuary where we cuddled a beautiful little joey and learned about how the animals were rehabilitated and cared for.

There was one more spot we had to visit before we departed, Crocodile Harry’s Nest. Unfortunately, Harry passed away in 2006 but he left the legacy of his amazing home and legendary exploits in the town. We walked around his “nest” marveling at the sculptures he’d made and the artworks pained directly onto his walls as well as his impressive collection of signed women’s undergarments.

Our final destination for South Australia was a bit off the beaten track located just outside a station called Arckaringa. We parked up at the homestead for the afternoon and enjoyed a shower in the saltiest water I’ve ever experienced outside the ocean. I washed my hair for the first time in 6 days and it honestly felt cleaner before I got under the water. Oh well. Just before the sun went down we took out the picnic rug and some of our discount cheeses and went and watched the sun go down over the Painted Desert, a beautiful sandstone formation created 80 million years ago.

South Australia had one more surprise for us, between the desert and the border we saw what must have been 100,000 budgies. Matt was kept very busy avoiding the huge flocks that seemed determined to fly directly in front of the car.

Campsite Reviews

Old Timers Mine Campsite – Another spot that is basically a campsite in a car park. We’re starting to really appreciate places we can stay for free after all the less money we spend the longer we can travel. $Free – 6/10.

Arckaringa Station – The sunrises and sunsets were absolutely spectacular here, a perfect base to visit the desert. $20pn – 7/10.

Goodbye Tasmania

Goodbye Tasmania

It’s going to take a while for it to sink in but after over 2 years of planning, saving, and waiting I can finally write the words that I’ve dreamed of for so long…we’re on the road.

Our last week in Hobart was surprisingly busy as we needed to pack up the house, clean it from top to bottom for the new tenants, arrange cancellation of the power, internet, and various insurance that is no longer relevant, and finish packing the van. Because of all the cleaning we ended up moving in to my parents place earlier than intended and spent nearly a week together while making the most of their hospitality and functional washing machine (ours broke last month). We also settled in our pets which my parents are looking after for us while we are away. It is such a relief to know that the birds and Mr Babbington (my dog) are in good hands and will be loved and cared for during our trip. We could not be more grateful to them for it.

On Friday we checked the van and moved another load of things that were culled back to our house for storage. I have a feeling that we will end up getting rid of some more stuff as the trip progresses, the van is absolutely chockers. In the afternoon mum and I walked around Knocklofty to say goodbye to my bird friends and that night we popped down to our favorite pub for our farewell party and enjoyed some drinks and food with our friends and family. Our get together coincided with the Matildas playing the quarter final match against the UK so we all had a fantastic time cheering them on!

We finally departed for our lap on Saturday morning, although the first drive (Hobart to Launceston) was one we’d done many times before it felt weirdly liberating to leave Hobart behind and be heading north. Matt had arranged our second departure party in Launceston and we enjoyed yet another night of good food, drinks, and friends. We parked up in Gerald (Matts brother) and his wife Danalea’s street for the night and had a very good sleep. The next morning Matt commented on how soft the bed was, getting nice sheets and a doona that wasn’t $15 from Ikea has made a big difference to the comfort level in the bed.

After breakfast we packed up to drive to Matt’s parents house in Burnie. On the way we stopped at the Tamar Island wetlands so I could get my Big Year (a bird watching challenge) off to a good start. There weren’t a huge number of birds around but I managed to tick off Chestnut Teals, Black Swans, Royal Spoonbills, Purple Swamp Hens, and Native Hens. We didn’t spend as much time there as I would have liked because we needed to be in Burnie before lunch to give us enough time to check out Gunn’s Plains Caves.

Matt’s parents and brother made us a delicious lunch complete with a blueberry cheesecake and then drove us through the spectacular valley roads to Gunns Plains Caves. The cave system was discovered in 1906 when a local man, Bill Woodhouse, was out shooting possums and lost one down a hole. He followed it down and found the spectacular limestone cave that tourists can visit today. Because of the large amount of rain that has been falling for the last few weeks in the area the cave was quite damp and had a healthy creek flowing through the center. Our tour guide Trish explained that the formations were created by the water coming through the rock and that the cave was one of only 6 in Australia that had a permanent creek flowing through it. We didn’t see any cave critters but really enjoyed the incredible formations such as the Wedding Cake, Dagger, and Crispy Bacon.

Our last day in Tasmania was beautifully relaxing. I did some work on my cross stitch, vacuumed the van, packed up, and spent some time walking on the block and enjoying Matt’s parents garden. Matt decided that he wanted a hair cut and asked his brother to do it and create a mullet for him. I’ve put in a photo for your entertainment as it may well be one of the rudest hair cuts I’ve ever seen. It’s very funny but if people don’t want to come and chat with us I will know why. We left at about 5pm and drove on to a very empty Spirit of Tasmania at 6, waving farewell to Tassie and heading with our fingers crossed towards Victoria for our transit to South Australia on Tuesday morning.

Weekend on the West Coast

Weekend on the West Coast

I know I keep saying it but I can’t believe how quickly this trip has snuck up in the last 4 months. Today marks 30 days until we leave and I could not be more excited to hit the road even with the uncertainty of the current COVID situation. Matt and I have put in a few massive weekends of preparation work and with 4 weeks to go I am proud to say that we are basically done. We’ve had some great luck with selling our cars, both went for more than what we thought they would and sold so quickly. The Mondeo went in 4 days and my Ford Festiva was sold in 5 hours which increased our trip savings by $7,000. We also picked up a new spare wheel and two new spare tyres for much less than we anticipated and paid off all of the bills for our rental properties for the next 12 months. To reward ourselves for our efforts we organised one last long weekend away in the van with my mum and dad (who have recently picked up a van of their own). The trip was originally going to be a few days away in Derby, enjoying the trails for the last time in a while but the massive East Coast Low put an end to that and so we drove in the opposite direction.

If you’re not self contained (or happy to spend a weekend digging poop holes and doing bush wees) there aren’t a huge number of campsites available out west which helped decide where we would be staying. Matt and I have no interest in caravan parks, the Queenstown oval site is still closed, and the couple of places we set up on our trip around Tasmania last year weren’t amazing. We therefore ended up deciding on the seaside town of Trial Harbour.

The drive from Hobart to camp was a long one with steep hills and winding roads that made travelling in two vans (one stupidly high (ours) and one so old all the horses have escaped from the engine (mum and dads)) very slow going. We stopped in New Norfolk for petrol, Lawrenny Distillery for a delicious spirit tasting session, and then Derwent Bridge for lunch. The weather had cleared up nicely until we turned off for the coast finding ourselves surrounded by fog and drizzle “Welcome to the Rainforest don’t Complain about the Rain”. The campground at Trial Harbour was surprisingly busy given the time of year with 4 other people already parked up when we rolled in. We found a semi-sheltered spot with a view of the sea and set up our awning and had a cuppa. Mum and I went for a walk along the beach where we met one of the local residents and her very cute dog. After a quick chat she ended up inviting us to the annual local Seafood Cook Off.

Back at camp we relayed the invitation to Matt and dad who were both keen to attend anything involving fresh Tassie seafood so at 6pm we walked into town and wandered the two streets until we found the community hall. It ended up being a fantastic evening with amazing food. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much abelone in one sitting! Mum and dad donated a bottle of wine as part of the people’s choice prize which went down well with the locals. We even got an invitation back to the 2022 event which I’m sure mum and dad will be attending. We went to bed with bellies full of seafood and listening to the ocean on the rocks.

We woke on Sunday morning to find that the drizzle had continued for the rest of the night and our camp had turned into a mud puddle. Fortunately one of the only grassed sites was vacated as we had breakfast so we packed up and shifted the vans to a much better spot. Matt used the side awning to extend our awning to cover a bigger area which worked really well. When the rain started to ease off Matt and dad sorted out their mountain bikes and rode off to tackle a section of Climies Track. I wasn’t feeling very energetic (aka I didn’t want to get wet and cold) so I stayed at camp with mum, we read books, drank tea and went for another walk up the beach where I found a decomposing whale tail and some interesting shells. When the boys got back we were all sitting under the awning having a few beers and I noticed a couple of people up on the rock overlooking the camp. I poked around a bit and found a hidden walking track up the hill. It only took a few minutes to reach the top and the views over the town and ocean were amazing.

That evening was spent playing way too many rounds of Monopoly Deal, going for another beach walk, enjoying yet more beers and I cooked up a chorizo pasta out of my camping recipe collection.

Monday came all too soon and neither Matt nor dad could be convinced to call in sick so we could stay another day so we resigned ourselves to packing up. We had another bit of gear fail during breakfast and for a change it wasn’t due to user error like our first stove (that I got run over) or our water tank (that Matt somehow punctured). A few weeks ago we’d bought a griddle for BBQs, cooked breakfasts etc which has a known fault of cracking and unfortunately we’d managed to buy one of the dodgy ones and it cracked along the right side almost to the middle of the plate. Since that incident I have taken it back to BCF who replaced it straight away so here is hoping that our second one will last more than 2 meals.

Back on the road it wasn’t long before we pulled off so the boys could go mountain biking again at Oonah Hill, my CBF had followed me so instead I walked up the track with my wildlife photography lens and took a few photos of the lads as they went past. On my way back down the hill I was stoked to spot a pair of Southern Emu-wrens in a bush on the side of the track. These birds are pretty rare in Tassie and I’d never seen one before so I was very excited. I’m having such a good year for bird spotting first with a ground parrot and now this. We stopped in at the Empire Hotel for lunch and I did a bit of retail fossicking and bought a nice piece of quartz, something green and black and some peacock ore. Our last stop for the day was Nelson Falls before we made our way back home.

Trial Harbor Campground – What an absolutely incredible spot. Right on the sea under some stunning mountains with a waterfall and creek running around the back and an amazing lookout a short walk away. The toilets were clean and the other campers quiet and considerate. My only gripe about this spot was that a lot of the sites were either way too muddy or too wet to set up in. An unfortunate side effect of the West Coast I guess 7/10.

I’m happy we got to go away one more time before we left as it gave us the opportunity to try a couple more pieces of gear (the new bedding, side awning, my clothes packing system, UHF radios) and I’m feeling really confident about our departure. The organisation, lists and timelines have worked so well to get us to this point. Next post I’ll be on the road! Take Care.

Egg in the Snow

Egg in the Snow

It has been a long time coming but Matt finally got his wish to muck around in the Delica in the snow. With a promising forecast we headed off to the closest most accessible snow at Mt Field NP (kunanyi is closer but the road always ends up closed way before the snow).

On our way up the road towards Lake Dobson it really did look like we weren’t going to get anything but rain and then suddenly around a corner it turned into…

We kept heading up the mountain and reached Lake Dobson where we parked and met a few other adventurous people. The snow was absolutely incredible and by far the best I’ve ever seen in Tasmania, it was a dry white power and bizarrely not especially cold. We mucked around, went on a walk, built a snowman and then attempted to head off. Unfortunately this is where things started to get a bit complicated as the entry to the car park was getting clogged with traffic, mostly AWDs that really shouldn’t have been there. On our way out of the car park we had to move 3 people and dig out one of them. In the process of stopping we also got “stuck”, I say stuck in inverted commas because had we not needed to stop we wouldn’t have become stuck and also it took me 2 minutes to dig us out which is very different to the 3 hours in a clay bog hole we had last weekend.

Anyway, we continued to make our way down the mountain freeing a few more people and advising others to turn around as we went. Once we were out of the snowline it was much more easy going and were next to the fire in the National Park Hotel in time for lunch.

I felt a bit frustrated when we were on social media a couple of hours later and the local news pages had started reporting on the story of people getting stuck. The articles were all directed towards anyone going up into the snow and needing to be rescued was an idiot rather than; someone should have been policing the road and making sure only high clearance 4WDs were going up there, that the awesome 4WDers were spending a good portion of their day rescuing people without the correct gear and, that everyone got home safe and sound. I really hope there isn’t any kind of generalised consequence eg. shutting the access road, because some people didn’t think their actions through.

Enough of that rant. On the way home we stopped at the raspberry farm and got some syrups for our soda water. We were both really happy with how The Egg performed in the snow, as it seems with most 4WD obstacles it managed it was ease and we can tick off another terrain we have experience in. Matt is already working out the itinerary for the next snow day.

Easter in the South East

Easter in the South East

We’re definitely getting to the pointy end of our trip countdown (116 days) so while we are still loving getting away in the van the holidays are becoming more and more focused on adjusting our set up and working out what we need to pack for The Big Lap.

There have been quite a few changes in our lives since I returned from Three Capes in October last year. In January we ran the COVID-19 gauntlet and picked up our van from Brisbane after 16 months apart. It felt very strange to be in a different state, almost criminal, but we immensely enjoyed our time on Fraser Island and then high-tailing it through NSW, ACT, VIC and then finally home to Tassie. The additional upgrades to the van turned out fantastically. When we got back from the trip Matt also finalised his finishing date of work as the end of July. His company is giving him leave without pay for the duration of our adventure which will give us a lot more stability when we get back. Because they are being so considerate we are working with their preferences so even though I was really keen to leave this month we have pushed it out. That in turn has meant that for what feels like the 20th time I’ve redone the itinerary, oh well. We’ve now broken it into a mini internal lap of the desert in August-November and will then commence a lap of the coast. The final piece of news I have is in February I resigned from my job! It was making me unbelievably miserable and stressed so I just thought bugger it, gave 12 weeks notice and figured I’d spend 3 months off work at home being a housewife and doing some trip preparation. The lovely company I worked for ended up finding a replacement for me much faster than anyone anticipated so I got paid out 7 weeks notice and 2 weeks annual leave. This big chunk of cash inflow allowed us to hit and then surpass our $70,000 savings target. Big tick, so financially we can leave any day.

That brings us nicely up to the Easter long weekend. We had decided (before I resigned) to take leave on the Wednesday and Thursday before Easter so we could make the most of a decent 6 days away. I was trying to pick somewhere that wouldn’t be completely crowded and we ended up choosing the Huon Valley region of Tasmania which would also allow us to take The Egg to the most Southern road on continental Australia and give us time to walk to the most Southern Point.

Day 1

On Wednesday morning we packed up the van, grabbed our new awning tent and started the journey south. The drive down to our campsite for the night wasn’t particularly far so we made the most of the journey first stopping in at the Port Huon Trading Post (a mediocre looking take away joint) which my dad assured us had amazing savory treats and then making our way to Cairnes Bay where we pulled out our new coffee machine and tucked into our lunch/snack overlooking the river. Dad was right, the home made pastries were fantastic and driving past you would have never guessed it, if you’re in the area pop in. With full stomachs and slightly buzzing from our first real coffee made out of the van we continued around the coast and stumbled upon the Huon Aquaculture Farm Store. Matt is an absolute salmon feind as seen on our Gordon River Cruise trip so of course we popped in. The shop had a wonderful variety of products and we walked out with two packets of cured salmon ($7 each) and a pot of the trout dip ($9). If fresh fish is more your style you can get whole trout or salmon for $18/kg and $17/kg respectively which is just ridiculously cheap. Further along the road I spotted a beautiful white sand beach called Little Roaring Bay. We stopped in because it looked like the perfect place for a paddle. I pulled off my shoes and happily walked towards the water with a couple of locals looking on in reflectively what must have been amusement. As soon as the sea washed over my feet I turned around and went back to the shore. It was like sticking your foot in a bucket of ice. Brrrrr!

Matt wanted to do a bit more exploring around the area but I knew the campsite we were heading for was a popular one and it was about 2pm already which forced our hand to drive the final few km to Cockle Creek. On our way in the free campsites outside the national park were filling fast so I was a bit worried that Boltons Green might be full already. Fortunately because it is a small site and needs a parks pass we managed to get one of the few spots that remained. It was at this point Matt realised that he hadn’t filled up the water tank correctly and we had about 1L of fresh water (whoops). Luckily there was a tap in the campsite even if the instructions were to boil the water first. We grabbed a beer each and went down to the beach with our camp chairs to enjoy a beverage and a bit of sun.

After a rest I suggested we go on the hike out to Fishers Point. Matt being the avid cyclist that he is avoids walking like it’s the plague and he needed a lot of encouragement, particularly when he found out the walk was 2 hours return. I decided that it probably wasn’t wise to mention that the hike I had lined up for tomorrow was 4 hours and 16km long. If you decide to do the Fishers Point track my biggest recommendation would be to head off on low tide. We left just as the water started to go down and the way out involved a lot of rock scrambling and at a couple of points we lost the track completely. It was worth it though with views of the sea, crystal clear water and distant mountain ranges. The turning point is a very overgrown pilot station and lighthouse complete with random English garden plants like fuchsias.

That evening I cooked Pad Thai for dinner and we both settled down with our books and read. The campground was visited by some very cute pademelons and small wallabies which we enjoyed watching before retiring to bed.

Day 2

Feeling very well rested after our long sleep we got up and started to prepare for the big hike planned for the rest of the day. I was very excited as it has been on my walking bucket list for some time, Matt was less enthusiastic as I’m fairly sure it’s the longest hike he has ever done. I made up some rolls and snacks and packed my hiking gear while Matt cooked up bacon and eggs for breakfast. We ended up getting to the start of the trail just on 8.30am while half of the camp ground were still fast asleep. The forecast was a moderately warm 28 degrees and we wanted to be done before it got too hot.

The trail could be broken into 3 distinct environments/sections. The first 3km was a rocky but gradual climb up Moulder’s Hill that I found quite challenging due to my dodgy ankle rolling on every bit of uneven track. We overtook a couple of other walkers with kids along the way, saying g’day as we went past and also came upon a few hikers finishing the South Coast Trail.

The second section of track was almost entirely on boardwalk through a marsh/swamp area. The track was severely overgrown and in places the boards were broken or sunk into the ground which made it a little bit hazardous. I’d strongly recommend long pants or gaiters for this walk as in my shorts and hiking boots my legs were quite scratched up. The scenery was stunning and the flat terrain made walking pretty quick.

The final section was a forested area which went from sandy banksias into rainforest and then back again before a slight hike up a hill and onto the cliff area for a breathtaking view of the southern coast. I was amazed at the geology of the area as the black almost volcanic stone wasn’t something I’ve seen in Tasmania before. There were a number of warnings to stay away from the cliff edge with the reason becoming very clear as we climbed down to the beach and observed the collapsed edges around the point.

Knowing that it was probably going to be a long time before I was there again I managed to convince Matt to do the additional hike out to Lion Rock. The national parks website says that you can go down there and “marvel at what the wild ocean has washed up”, sadly the only thing I was marveling at was a coke bottle that looked like it had been at sea for years. Even in one of the most wild places on the planet rubbish turns up. I popped it in my bag and poked around the rock pools that were oddly empty. We spent a fair bit of time at the beach watching the massive surf and eating lunch before heading back the way we came. The return journey was uneventful apart from seeing a ground parrot in the marshland for the first time! Our walk ended up being a total of 19.1km which was well over Matt’s longest hike and very close to mine.

Tired but happy we returned to camp for the night. The one unusual occurrence being one of our neighbours couldn’t get their gas stove to work so we lent them ours so they could cook dinner. I’m a big believer in karma so hopefully if we ever end up in the same situation someone will help us too.

Day 3

Our third day on the road started out bright and sunny which was pleasant after the showers that came through yesterday evening. I made french toast and sat by the beach to eat breakfast. We had quite a bit on the itinerary so we packed up and hit the road. Frustratingly on the way out we were unable to locate the “End of the Road” sign to get a photo with Egg, I don’t know if we were both just having boy looks or what was going on.

Matt was very keen to do a bit of 4WDing, after all that is why we have a 4WD, and the nearest track was out to Southport Lagoon. The parks and wildlife sign at the beginning of the track had it rated as moderate/hard but honestly we’d driven on “easy” tracks that were more challenging than it was. This belief was confirmed when we got to the campsite and saw a guy in a small AWD parked up. The area was nice so we hung out down by the water and made a coffee.

Bear with me for a second because I don’t think I’ve explained the situation with the coffee machine or what a ridiculous ordeal it has been. Before we started going on longer trips we both thought that we would be able to live on Moccona and the occasional take away coffee during our lap. Please don’t ask me how, as two coffee fanatics with our own machine, grinder, and preference for high quality beans; we formed the opinion that a system of instant coffee would work…I don’t know. Anyway after driving down from Brisbane in January it became very obvious it wasn’t going to be a viable plan and we’d have to get a coffee machine. I handballed the decision making back to Matt and after a few months of research and looking into the space we had he decided the best option would be the Breville Essenza Mini and frother for the Nespresso system which was great except we couldn’t run it because our inverter was too small. Matt therefore also bought a new 1500w inverter and completely rewired our electrical system to make it work. It definitely ended up being worth it and we’re saving $9+ per day because while the coffee isn’t cafe standard it is a hell of a lot better than Moccona.

Anyway, back on the road we drove up to Lune River (my favourite fossicking location) and then along to the Mystery Creek Cave walk. On the way in we power walked like crazy as there was a big loud family entering the hike just as we were and we wanted some time in the cave alone. As we hiked I thought I heard a lyrebird but we didn’t have any time to investigate. The track follows an old tramway that was cut to both pull out timber for construction in Hobart and stone from a quarry that was used to construct the jetty at Ida Bay. Along the side of the track were discarded boots, plates, bottles and cups as well as machine relics and signs of logging. We crossed the creek, went through the quite impressive quarry, and then scrambled down into the gully where the gaping hole of the cave could be easily seen.

The cave was just incredible, it was massive with a creek running through and glow worms covering the roof like thousands of tiny stars. Mystery Creek Cave has reportedly one of the best glow worm colonies in the southern hemisphere and looking up I was inclined to agree. Exporation without a guide is restricted to the main cavern but of course Matt just had to go and have a look into the mouth of a couple of side passages where he found a massive cave spider. We spent probably 30 minutes walking around and I unsuccessfully attempted to capture the glow worms with my camera. All too soon the family joined us and the serenity was broken so we popped back out into the light and comparative warmth of the forest. 40 Degrees South has a very interesting article on Mystery Creek Cave which you can read here.

Back on the road we continued on to the Hastings Cave Visitor Center. Due to COVID-19 cave tours were restricted to 8 people at a time and of course were booked out for Easter but we were there for other reasons. Just through the entry is a thermal pool where for $5.50 per person you can swim in 29 degree fresh water and indulge in a hot shower. Refreshed and smelling much more pleasant we drove up and across to the Esperance River and found a nice little site next to our own private section of the water course.

Esperance River Campground was a nice reminder to both of us to take WikiCamps reviews with a grain of salt. The camping area is very extensive rather then the specific points indicated on the map and despite the 3 stars given and scathing reviews from previous people was just lovely. We had afternoon tea next to a beautiful river in the forest and watched the sun go down and the critters come out. The only downside was that there were a ridiculous number of European wasps, a problem we solved by putting up our awning tent.

Day 4

We woke up to some very intense wind which had continued on from the early hours of the morning. I’d been woken up several times by small branches being blown out of the tree behind the van and hitting the roof. Had we known it was going to blow a gale we would have camped further into the open. On the bright side the awning tent which we put up wet was now very dry.

Our plan for the day was to make our way over to the Hartz ranges following the forestry tracks and trails and stay at a free camp called Arve River. It was forecast to reach a very warm (for Tassie) 30 degrees with the wind getting worse as the day went on so we packed up early and headed off.

Everything started very well until about 5km into our trip, down in a little gully we were faced with a 4WDing obstacle. Matt and I both did a 2 day 4WD course a couple of months ago to prepare ourselves for the big lap so we weren’t too bothered by it. The track narrowed quite considerably with a rocky base, and a tilt to the left into a steep bank. We both got out and walked it, had a good look, and then set about doing some track building. I focused on the left hand side where the bank was really steep and Matt filled in the holes. I wanted to keep cutting out the bank some more but Matt was feeling confident we’d done enough so got in the van and gave it a crack. It could not have gone more wrong. Because of how narrow the road became he couldn’t take the line he thought he’d be able to and rode high on the right hand side. As the van started moving through the gap it tilted sharply to the left embedding the entire left hand side in the clay embankment which left the left front wheel and right back wheel completely airborne. We literally could not have done a better job of bogging ourselves for the first time.

It was just a nightmare because there was so much wrong, we had 2 wheels with no traction, the right front wheel was down on the slope and obstructed from reversing by a mound and the left back barely had anything to grip onto, the van was buried into the side, we had no water because we didn’t fill it at home but it also turned out our tank had a leak, we didn’t take the PLB with us because we were just mucking around in Tassie what could go wrong, we were in the middle of nowhere, and no one knew where we were. So many errors leading up to one big problem. There was literally nothing for it, we just had to get ourselves out. Our first focus was digging out the side which I got into while Matt removed the mound of clay behind the front right wheel. After a bit of digging we gave it a go but almost all the power seemed to be going into the airborne left back tyre. We moved the recovery boards around and tried to go but the wheel didn’t have enough weight on it to grip so it just spun on the track. I then started building up under the spinning wheel with rocks and sticks to try and add some traction but was frustrated in each attempt we made to reverse my sticks all sunk into the mud. We tried using the floor mat which got shot out like a magic carpet. After 2 hours of work having moved nowhere we decided to try and lift the van off the edge using the high lift jack. We had avoided it for this long because they are notoriously dangerous but we were out of options, we set it up and Matt started to crank and low and behold the van shifted, maybe 5cm to the right but enough to get off the remaining bit of edge I hadn’t dug out. Yay! We got in the van, tried again and didn’t move an inch.

By this point I was getting pretty anxious mainly because no one knew where we were so I hiked up the hill and called my dad and asked him if he knew anyone with a 4WD. Unfortunately he did not but I felt a lot better that someone knew where we were and that we were stuck. Reassured I returned to the gulley and kept working. Things definitely improved after we shifted the van. I added more sticks to my wheel and we found we got back 2cm to huge excitement. The right front hit the ground and started being semi useful, Matt dug out the left front more and cm by cm we started moving back until 3 hours after we got stuck we were free. I’ve included the before and after shots of the track because interestingly it became increasingly wet while we were stuck. Beyond relieved we hightailed it back onto the main road and into Geeveston where beers and lunch were consumed.

Absolutely exhausted we went into the forest to our intended campsite but found it was exposed to the severe winds that were plaguing the area. My nerves were well and truly shot by this point so we decided to go to Tahune Airwalk and see if they either had more shelter or an exposed area. We were in luck, paid our $10 fee and parked up in the massive open overflow car park. With next to no energy we heated up some water and washed the mud off with our camp shower, had a small wander around the hiking trails, cooked dinner and went to bed.

Day 5

For our last full day I had originally planned on hiking up to the top of Hartz Mountain but we were both tired, sore, and covered in blisters from the digging so instead we opted for a couple of very short walks one to Arve Falls and the other to Waratah lookout. I’m starting to lose track of the number of times I’ve planned and then failed to climb Hartz Mountain, it would seem it is not meant to be.

We had an uneventful drive down the river to Franklin and set up in the riverside camp area where we met some friendly travellers and a couple of long term campers including a bloke and his daughter that had been living there for a while. I can’t remember his name but you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer guy, he had some wonderful stories about his life, growing up in the NT and mustering cattle. He offered us a cup of tea and I told him I’d make him a coffee in the morning with our machine. We also met a family living in a massive bus. Their two sons ran a business making rock necklaces which they then sold at markets. With the money they had made they bought a trampoline/mat for gymnastics and showed me all kinds of amazing tricks

That afternoon Matt and I walked down to Frank’s cider house and grabbed a 4 pack to take away and then headed back to the campsite where we caught up with my mum and dad who had bought a van of their very own just last week! It’s a great little van with a heap of space and unlike ours allows one to stand up when inside. Mum gave me an awesome piece of Serpentine and Stichtite which she picked up at the closing down sale of a gallery for $10! I already had a little piece at home which I got in Queenstown for $5 but this was so much better. It’s my new favourite for sure. We had afternoon tea together and then mum and dad headed back to Hobart while Matt and I stayed in Franklin, had dinner, and watched the bandicoots bounce around.

Day 6

All too soon the holiday came to an end and we found ourselves packing up and heading back to Hobart. In Huonville we stopped at the carwash and sprayed the effects of the bogging event off the paintwork and headed home. We both had a fantastic time and even more importantly learnt a lot. There have been a few more to do’s added to out list of things to complete before we head off.

Campsite Reviews

Boltons Green Campsite – Absolutely stunning campground on the edge of a sheltered bay looking across to mountains. Very nicely maintained drop toilets, fresh (boil first) water, mix of sites of various sizes. Free camp however you’ll need a national parks pass to stay there 8/10.

Esperance River – We couldn’t stay at the best spot on the river because it was already taken by a guy with a caravan but we did find a very nice site further along the road. No amenities at all where we were but toilets and a shelter can be found further down the road. Free site, very peaceful 7/10.

Tahune Airwalk Campground – Our unplanned stay when our first plan changed due to severe wind. $10 per night, free WiFi near the cafe, clean toilets, and access to the nature walks after hours. Because we needed to be away from trees we positioned ourselves in the overflow car park but there were some other nicer areas towards the Hang Gliding. In the white water rafting shed out the back we found power points, running water, and two sinks that we made the most of. Staff were lovely and helpful 7/10.

Franklin Camping Ground – Right on the river this spacious and flat grassy area was $10 per night. Technically it can only support self contained vehicles (which we are not) but there was a toilet available and bins so we were just careful with our very small quantity of grey water. The caretaker is a lovely man, the views were stunning and we met a lot of nice people here 7/10.

3CT – The Final Push

3CT – The Final Push

Distance – 14km
Story seats – 14
Weather – Purely Tasmanian, hot/cold/windy/mist, 5-20C

Our final day of the walk started like all the others, it’s interesting how quick we’ve settled into a routine. The 3 slower walkers (myself included) also happen to be the earlier risers so we get up, make ourselves a coffee and breakfast before the other group emerge. We roll up our sleeping bags, wipe down our mattresses #COVIDSAFE, repack our backpacks and then off we trot.

It wasn’t long out of the plains of Retakunna before we hit the steepest and longest climb of the 3CT, Mount Fortescue. Last night the ranger had told us not to get worked up about it because it looked worse than it was but let me tell you after 3 days of solid hiking it was pretty damn hard. Fortunately my legs, which yesterday evening were worse than useless seemed to have recovered and with a couple of story seat breaks we managed the climb with the second half of our group catching us just as we got to the top. Mount Fortescue was really interesting as it was a rainforest environment (something we had not expected to see on this hike) complete with huge ferns and ancient myrtle trees. It was quiet, dark, and mossy.

After regrouping we began the downhill run to the track junction to complete our second Cape of the walk, Cape Hauy. The reason it is called 3 Capes but only 2 are walked is the plan was originally to make a 6 day walk incorporating Cape Raoul but it wasn’t to be. I’m happy to still count it was we did get an amazing view of it from our first camp. The path continued through the rainforest for a time before climbing out into a more normal eucalypt forest with views of the cliffs along the way. The weather was highly changeable and I felt like I was constantly adding and removing layers as we went.

We reached the track junction right on schedule and stopped in the clearing to have lunch. This was the first point on the track that there was unfortunate evidence of other people, an orange peel left on the ground, toilet tissue spread through the bushes. I’d like to be able to blame tourists but since the borders are closed and the rubbish was fresh it was clearly locals doing the damage. I’d like to think my fellow Tasmanians would have more respect for the environment. If you’re bushwalking please don’t forget if you pack it in, pack it out.

We left our backpacks in the clearing, put on our day packs and headed out to tackle the 2,500 stairs out and back to Cape Hauy. It was hard going but at a leisurely pace and stopping to look at the Leek Orchids and numerous skinks it was manageable. I was pleased that I managed to get to the very end and nearly took a sneaky peak over the edge. This walk has bizarrely made me much more comfortable around cliffs, maybe I’m just getting used to them.

On the way back I took the lead, I think mainly thanks to my cycling quads and glutes giving me a big advantage when it came to uphill stair climbing. I had a sea eagle fly over my head and just as I was nearing the top a beautiful little echidna popped out of the bushes and started eating ants out of the stairs in the track. My friends caught up a few minute later, just in time to see Mr Echidna waddle into the bushes having eradicated the stair of ants.

The final section of the walk went very quickly with only one story seat and a photo stop to complete the journey. The 3 faster walkers rushed down to Fortescue Bay for a swim, I tramped along in the middle of the pack, not super keen for a dip. I made it just in time to strip down to my undies and jump in the water making it just up to my thighs before the sting of the freezing Tasmanian sea was too much. 50% of our group fully submerged themselves. So hardcore!

On the bus ride back, eating a block of chocolate carried the entire way, we reflected on the time we’d spent on the walk. The general conclusion was there were too many amazing moments to have a favourite and it was a fantastic experience. None of us wanted to go back to work but instead would have loved to continue for a few days.

For me personally I think the walk gave me a lot of perspective on my life and what I want to do with it. At the moment both Matt and I are really money driven so that we can go on our trip around Australia and have enough set aside to reestablish at the end and that’s ok for now. But living out of a bag on my back for 4 days and feeling the best I have all year made me appreciate that there are other kinds of wealth than financial and perhaps the 9-5 multi home owning slog isn’t really for me. I have a feeling that living 12+ months out of a van is just going to condense those desires.

Do I recommend the Three Capes Track? If you’d asked me what I thought when they’d just finished it I’d have ranted at you about the privatisation of the wilderness, about how Tasmania should remain untouched and unspoiled. But now, having walked the track for myself, witnessed the beautiful buildings, the pristine track, seen the caretakers put in so much effort to look after the environment and instill a love of it in people that would otherwise been unable to access this part of Tassie, 100% I support it, and even with the $495 price tag I would do it again. I have no criticism it was just spectacular.

If these posts have inspired you to try it for yourself, all the information and bookings can be made at www.threecapestrack.com.au.

3CT – Munro to Retakunna

3CT – Munro to Retakunna

Distance – 19km
Story seats – 14
Weather – Cloudy, light wind, 14C

Day 3, the big one. We set an alarm last night so that we’d wake up in time for the sunrise over the ocean. 5/6 of us jumped out of bed and headed for the helipad where we saw the sun come over the horizon and bathe the sea cliffs in a golden glow. It was utterly breathtaking and I felt like I was on the edge of the world. We ate breakfast enjoying almost the same view from the kitchen hut and then organised our day packs which we’d be taking for most of the hike.

I was feeling pretty nervous about today because I have a fairly major fear of heights. Looking off anything over a couple of storeys sends me into dizziness and panic. It’s fair to say we had a few stops on the way out to Cape Pillar for me to do a nervous wee…or 5. Our walk started in wet eucalypt forest and emerged onto the accurately named hurricane heath where we mounted the longest boardwalk section of the track (over 2km). At the other end of the boardwalk we discovered that it had been designed by local Aboriginal people to look like a snake slithering over the landscape. We learnt about the rare Eyebright flower, global warming of sea currents, a very special She Oak which is endemic to the Tasman peninsula, the birds and the bees, and the impact the winds have on the landscape.

The last story chair was particularly appropriate because as we came over the hill the weather turned and a mist started to brew up. Lucky for us because we’d had a bit of an early start we were able to walk down the other side and away from the worst of the weather. The further we walked the more spectacular the views got especially of the incredible Tasman Island. We read about the stories and the hardships of the people that lived on the island and worked the lighthouse to ensure the safe passage of ships. I couldn’t get over the strength and courage of the lightkeeper families, just getting from the sea to the top of the island would have been a huge challenge, let alone living on a windy, isolated rock alone for months on end.

All too soon we reached The Blade and despite my best efforts (crawling) I only managed to get 1/3 of the way up before my brain would let me go no further. Hannie and Callum went bravely on and were soon joined by the rest of our group who caught up with us just in time for lunch. I sat on the blade and enjoyed watching the clouds appearing to wizz up the cliffs and into the sky.

Once everyone was safely off The Blade we continued on our way, skirting the cliff edges and enjoying the wonderful views and scenery. At the turning point we contemplated lunch but ended up heading back to the Seal Spa story chair where there was more to look at and more shelter from the wind. A couple of boisterous scrub wrens joined us, hopping around and waiting for any dropped food.

After what seemed a very long hike we made it back to Munro, slung our packs over our exhausted backs and slowly walked to the cabins for the night at Retakunna. The spot was nice enough with plenty of bird life and Mt Fortescue lurking in the background but it was my least favourite of the huts. Annika and I cooked up our dinner or fried rice and dehydrated crumble and custard before we turned in for the night.

3CT – Surveyors to Munro

3CT – Surveyors to Munro

Distance – 11km
Story chairs – 10
Weather – Sunny, light winds, 15C

We emerged into the sunlight of our second day bleary eyed and feeling a bit worse for wear. 5/6 of our group didn’t have a particularly good sleep which probably comes from being on a foreign bed, in a sleeping bag, with a blow up pillow. I managed to locate a coffee pot in the second kitchen and went about making a brew. There were a few seconds of panic this morning when it appeared that we’d be unable to caffeinate due to a forgotten Aeropress.

The hike started pretty rudely with an ascent of Arthurs Peak. Unladen it probably would have been an easy climb but with an extra 15kg on my back it was a workout. As we walked I thought in retrospect that it would have been good to do some training with weight on my back, my legs were on fire and I was relying very heavily on my general strength from cycling to get me through. We still enjoyed it, it was honestly hard not to with the number of flowers, little creeks, and the occasional view out towards the ocean. We stopped at all 4 story seats learning about scats, fire, and the “messy” Tasmanian forests.

The first stop after the hill, Jurassic Crack, offered us views back towards Mount Brown. While sitting at the lookout enjoying the amazing coast we saw 3-4 humpback whales frollicing, and I spotted a pod of dolphins playing the the swell. We spent ages just looking out over the ocean taking it all in and trying with various levels of success to use the 2 sets of binoculars we brought along. As we walked back down the hill I spotted a mountain dragon sunbaking on a stone, I called everyone over to have a look and as we were bending down it decided to run full speed directly at one of my friends. It was very amusing.

We followed the coast around the edge of the cliffs passing through a couple of unexpected patches of wet forest that are caused by the sea cliffs sucking up cold air, condensing it, and keeping these isolated areas damp and cool. The path continued and the forest opened onto the low windswept heath that was absolutely covered in stunning wildflowers as far as the eye could see. Another critter was noticed off to the side of the boardwalk and we all stopped to have a look. My first thought was that it was a rat (gross) but on closer inspection, and it allowed us to get ridiculously close, we realised that it was an Antechinus!

Eliza brought out the Jet Boil at ‘Where the ‘ell are we?’ and we learnt about the initial bushwalking team’s attempts to cut a path through the cape between 1965-67 while having tea/cuppa soups. We spotted yet more whales and quite a few different birds. For my lunches I bought tuna packets with a variety of flavours/additions. They were pretty heavy (260g each) but absolutely delicious and just what I needed to fuel the walk. I can definitely recommend them.

Further along the trail we found ourselves once again surrounded by trees and enjoyed our last two story seats ‘Love in the Woods’ and ‘The High Life’. The high life seat prompted us to try and create our own Haiku poetry while we sat looking up the the birds in the canopy. I can’t remember mine exactly but it went along the lines of…

Callum climbs a tree
I hope that he does not fall
A branch is broken

I’ll probably stick to photography hey.

After what felt like miles but was only probably 1km we reached Munro and what a spot it was. The cabins were arranged around a more centralized communal area, there was a hot shower, heaps of sunny decks, and a whale watching platform complete with binoculars. A few of the groups were doing some yoga, others were lying in the sun, we opted for a stretching session, showers, and a dinner of spag bog before turning in for the night.

Hiking the Three Capes Track – Port Arthur to Surveyors

Hiking the Three Capes Track – Port Arthur to Surveyors

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein

The Three Capes Track booklet begins with that quote which at the time of opening it seemed corny but sitting at my desk having just completed the 48km hike it feels much more poignant. Certainly the modern world with creature comforts of pillows, hot baths, and refrigeration has its appeal but I can’t help but wish I was still out in the wilderness with my only worries my aching feet and the occasional tiger snake.

While sitting in Dunalley with my friends, eating pies for lunch and about to embark on our walk I asked which of us came up with the idea of doing a multiday hike. They think it was me but I’m not certain enough to take the credit. Whichever one of us did deserves a pat on the back for helping me get through 2020. Each week I’d look forward to our training hikes, and always be watching my countdown timer to the big event. We could not have timed it more perfectly, with the hike discounted to $360pp (from $495), the whales migrating, the spring flowers, and the border to the mainland not opening until 2 days after our return

The walk starts from the convict site of Port Arthur, and while our Three Capes Track (3CT) passes allowed us to enter for free we didn’t have time to look around. Instead we boarded our Pennicott Wilderness Journeys boat and then took an amazing 1h cruise around the cliffs, past Crescent Bay and then across the mouth of the harbour with views of the incredible coastline and what was to come. We spotted a sea eagle, cormorants and long nosed fur seals before we rounded the headland and entered Denmans Cove where we were dropped off on the beach, timing our exit from the boat with each wave. It was an easy stroll up the beach to the commencement point, making sure we were sticking to the hard sand to avoid the Oystercatcher nest in the middle of the beach.

We began walking south, back along the coast we’d just seen from the ocean and through eucalypt woodland and coastal heath. It wasn’t long before we encountered our first of 40 story points that are scattered along the track. These rest spots, often including a bench or chair were a good place for us to have a relax and learn about a topic specific to the area. Our first one, Dear Eliza described the difficulty and sadness convicts experienced while trying to communicate to their families and loves back home. I somehow ended up being the dedicated reader for the entire trip, even though one of our party is a teacher…

After stopping at our second story seat Waving Arms we rounded the coast and dropped down to the last place we’d be at sea level for the walk, Surveyors Cove. Some cheese and dip was extracted from a pack and we sat around watching the ocean, listening to the black cockatoos fight, and watching cormorants (maybe even a few that we saw on the cruise) dive into the shallow water and pop up with a fish. With a belly full of cheese we climbed up the stairs, into more forest and then into scrub before finding ourselves at the Surveryors camp.

The cabins on 3CT were outstanding. They blended in with the environment beautifully, had all the creature comforts that you would need (kitchen, mattresses, USB charging ports), and each had a ranger that would greet you and run over the plans for the next day as well as answering any questions that you had from the walk. Because of COVID the daily walker groups were restricted to 36 which meant despite only having 6 in our party we were able to spread out in our own 8 bed cabin.

For dinner we made the most of the BBQs and had sausages and burgers with salad while watching the sun set over Cape Raoul.

Distance – 4km
Story chairs – 2
Weather – Sunny, light/no wind, 16C

Day 9 – Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Day 9 – Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

One of the things I love most about travelling with Matt is how I can rely on him and he on me. If one of us is having an off day 99% of the time the other can pick up the slack so things work out. Well today we both had an off day and while the consequences weren’t disastrous it made for a bit of a messy last day on the road.

After breakfast and a quick side trip for me to take some photos of the morning mist sitting on the mountains around the lake we popped into Queenstown and had a coffee at the very cute Tracks Cafe. There were two things I wanted to do in/around town before we moved on. 1. Visit the town of East Pillinger via the Kellys Basin track which is another of Tasmania 60 great short walks and 2. Go to the museum and look at the rocks. We decided to go hiking first and check out the museum after lunch.

The drive out to the track head was a short 42km that nearly took an hour, we did not anticipate the road quality was as poor as it turned out to be or that to get to the start of the walk we’d need to navigate another “4WD only track” which was completely achievable in a massive 2WD van. I’m starting to think these 4WD track only signs are attempts to stop unprepared tourists getting stuck in the middle of nowhere rather than actually needing a 4WD to do them. Anyway, conspiracy theories aside we reached the start of the walk close to lunch on to find that is was in fact not a short walk, but instead a 4h return hike. Whoops. Completely unprepared in winter to hike 4h into a place with no phone signal instead we walked maybe 20 minutes along the track, turned around, and made some noodles for lunch in the car park. From what we did see it looks like an amazing walk and we’ll definitely come back and do it another time.

After lunch and driving back into town we checked out the museum. Entry was $5 a head (cash only) which was great value. The best part by far was looking at the mineral specimens but there were some very cool photos of the mines being constructed and the railways. I also picked up one of the original core samples from Iron Blow that some old mate found while he was walking around the Queenstown hills.

Our planned stop for the night was the Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel. As we drove into the highlands spots of snow began to appear on the road and we started to lose light. We reached Derwent Bridge with mounting excitement for a hot meal and a beer but found nothing but a closed building with a for sale sign out the front. I tried to call a mobile number on the door with no response. Hungry, cold and getting tired we decided to keep going and see if we could find somewhere to stay in one of the hydro towns. It was pretty creepy driving through fog, snow, and nearly complete darkness as town after empty town rolled by. At 7pm we’d driven through the entire highland lakes area and found ourselves outside a pub in Ouse.

We could not be more grateful to the lovely woman at the Lachlan Hotel that took pity on us, poured us some beers, cooked us a couple of awesome steaks (which were served on fried bread for some reason) and then sent us up the road to the Bethune Camping Area where we had a very peaceful sleep. A complete mess of a last day but still a lot of fun.

What a great holiday.

Campsite Review

Bethune Camping Area – We arrived after dark and left before we’d even had breakfast so I’m not in a position to review this one. Nice large grassy area next to a river.