When it comes to recommending activities for visitors to Tasmania, the Three Capes walk has quickly risen to be in my top five list. Well, for affluent hikers anyway. At roughly $495 for a three night walk, it is out of the price range of most of my friends. Not that the experience is bad value for $495, its just that $495 is a lot of money.
It is worth pointing out that the creation of the track has led to some areas of the Tasman Peninsula, while not completely blocked, harder to get to. There is a possible argument that restrictions have been put in place to stop the spread of Phytophtora. If that’s the case, they are it is not made clear.
If you are willing to put up with the restrictions, there are upsides. Thanks to fee payers, the trail is now one of the most sculpted and well maintained tracks in Tasmania. Possibly Australia. The new huts also provide a reliable and conveniently spaced source of fresh water. While I was there, the hut staff were more than happy for us to fill our water bottles. Hopefully this stays true.
What budget campers can do:
One of the hardest parts of doing this hike was just finding information online. I really get the feeling that Parks have not gone out of their way to provide information on self directed walks, just plenty of links to the paid experience.
So where can you stay? There is one campsite on the peninsula, Wughalee Falls. You do not need to book, and can camp for the cost of a normal Parks Tasmania pass! Wughalee Falls campsite is roughly dead centre of the Peninsula and provides a great base for exploring. Sure, it could have done with a view, or a reliable water source, or not be 300m down a valley, but otherwise It’s pretty nice. Hikers can also stay at Fortescue bay, which is a small extra cost. But great if you need an extra night or have to camp for an early start in the morning.
There are two main restrictions. Hikers are not permitted to travel west to see the first hut, Surveyors. Hikers are also asked not to travel
South down the coast from Cape Hauy without a 22lr ammo for safety purpose. These are not over-restrictive restrictive and basically dictate that walkers head south to Cape
Pillar and then North to Cape Hauy.
I feel I should make special mention of the spectacular huts. While I was pleasantly surprised by my first sighting, I quickly realised that I was looking at the toilet block. The real hut was 50 meters away round a corner of the track.
The complete Package. Attempt at own risk!
It is also possible to do the complete walk while adhering to the one way traffic rule. After you take the turnoff for Fortescue Bay take a right toward Stinking Bay. The last hundred or so metres will be walking or 4WD only. From there you are free to continue to walk from the very start of the track as per paid walkers. Please note I have not done this myself. I’ve and come by this knowledge second hand. But let me know if it worked out for you!
The whole Going Down Crew after Dove Canyon.
“He’s been down there a long time…” Gab was staring at the rope stretched taut over the cliff. I have to admit I had been snoozing in the afternoon sun. I opened my eyes, the canyons shadow was now at my feet. Nick had been down there a long time.
We had been exploratory canyoning in Tasmania since boxing day and were well into our third week. We started with modest expectations. How many good things could there still be left to explore? Even in Tasmania. Haven’t humans gone everywhere? We all canyoned for different reason and for me, the attraction lay in this exploration. Mountains are obvious, rivers are easy to find. But canyons are the last to get explored. Normally skirted by walkers and explorers, there are so many still to be explored.
Our first stop was Dove canyon, the only commercially operated canyoning operation in Tasmania. The folks at Dove had provided us with whitewater canyon training. Dove was originally scouted via Helicopter as a potential kayak route and later taken up as a commercial canyoning route. It was fantastic, with features so like a water park it is hard to believe they were naturally occurring. Such A good omen for what we could expect from the area our collective expectatins lifted.
Unlike the folks at Dove, we didn’t have a helicopter. Nick hadn’t put it in the proposal. So what we had to find our canyons were maps. Of the thousands of creeks in the North West of Tasmania, we started focusing on those with marked waterfalls, decent gradient loss, steep canyon walls and easy access.
The three L’s of Exploratory canyoning.
LOTS of Bush Bashing
Exploration, it seems, is like opening Christmas presents. You can pick one up, shake it a little, look at the shape. But until you open it, you just don’t know. To open a canyon you need to get in and make your way down all of it. Only then do you find if it is a picturesque adventure or log choked bush bash. During our time in Tasmania, we got both.
As the first group to enter a place there is no book to tell you what equipment you need, how much water there will be nor even whether you can walk to the top of the canyon. Exploration required training, equipment and a lot of sweat for what was sometimes a very small return.
We were heading into the unknown. When Nick started his abseil on a 60 meter rope, he didn’t expect the cliff to be over 90 metres. He only found that out when he was, well, literally at the end of his rope. Due to the slope of the cliff wall and the water, he was out of sight and unable to signal to us. The first person to be where he was, dangling over an abyss, this was true exploration.
Whether Nick appreciated his fleeting moment of pure exploration or just sunk into hysteria (It should be mentioned that Nick is scared of heights), we will never know. Prusiking back up and penduluming over to a ledge, he was finally able to use the drill he had dutifully carried for weeks. Now all we needed to do was to make sure we could pull down the 60 meter rope he had used to get to the ledge so we could continue. Continue and not spend the night on a cramped, cold ledge.
The canyon, which we later dubbed “My special place” was the pick of Canyons for the trip. Its high flow through unusual rock in a dry area made it totally unique. It was an open canyon down a cliff-face overlooking tableland, presenting stunning views all the way down the canyon.
“My Special Place” Canyon
There were many beautiful moments and exciting abseils among the three weeks of exploration. In my opinion, there were three new canyons which I would deem to have been “discovered” and that I would be proud to suggest to people. While many others while sharing their beauty were not enough to justify the work to get to them. But our standards were pretty high.
On our final day, we geared up to explore one last canyon that Nick’s father had spotted from Google maps. We nicknamed it leviathan. A waterfall so large it could be seen from space. Packing all the things and leaving early, it seemed to be a perfect way to round off our Tasmanian Exploration adventure.
Leviathan from Google Maps
Unfortunately that was when the Tasmanian forest fires started. The fires almost surrounded us that day after 40 flared up overnight. They would eventually burn down as much as 11 000 Hectares of World Heritage Area., the majority of which will not grow back. One fire scoured through an area where we had explored two of our three new canyons, and the fate of their rainforests remains unknown. While we’d been excited to be the first to see some areas, we had never thought for a second that we might be the last.
Just another reason to get out there and explore.
Its 1:00am in a small cabin in the Tasmanian wilderness. Nick lies on the floor covered in blood, a circle of black candles and runes form a perfect circle around him. Jess stands over him, smiling, casually playing with her cleaver. “Seriously” I think, “what the hell are we doing here?!”
Nick’s nervous face.
One of my favorite images
Redheads are souless, dont give them meat cleavers.
We are half way through the 2016 Tasploitation challenge. Our footage is almost collected; we are up to our final scenes revealing Jess for the flesh-eating succubus she really is. As she verbally unloads on her unfortunate victim ( also fiance) I wonder a little as to how she is so good at this. We certainly were not organised enough to have a script, she is not a horror fan and I only had time to give her the briefest description of what Lovecraft horror was. But there she was spouting a tirade on cannibals, Tasmanian history, old gods and scaring the crap out of us. More so Nick, who was lying under her casually held meat cleaver (we were also not organised enough to have a prop meat cleaver). I can only put it down to the fact that she was enjoying it on a lot of levels.
One of our most useful devices it turns out was a spray bottle for Nick’s face.
The Tasploitation Challenge is a 48 hour film comp where participants are given a sub genre of horror a line of script and a prop. Then its up to the team to make a six-minute film. We lucked out a bit getting Lovecraft as our subgenre. While I was the only one with film experience so to speak Nick and Jess came with some unexpected skills. Nick is a self-confessed rope nerd and was able to aid in several scenes including my hanging (which I am never doing again) and a long home-made slider which came in handy during our pivotal scene. And Jess, well-being a natural red-head is sole-less and therefore a convincing cannibalistic succubus (Oh man, I hope she doesn’t read this).
The source of the evil. The Pickled Frog hostel.
This bag smells terrible!
Our take away from this experience was that dialogue scenes are much harder than I thought. Sound is still as hard as I thought. Watch out for the wide-angle lenses for catching light stands in the shot. But most importantly, never let the cast put a hessian bag on your head and hang you from a rafter… Just don’t do it.
At the end of it all I was truly relieved when Jess and Nick said they had fun. I find often friends do not know what they had signed up for when they help me with projects and quickly regret their helpfulness.
The team has already decided to be back for the 2017 challenge. I said I would stay down in Tassie after the Christmas break. Jess has promised to watch more horror. And Nick promises not to be eaten until then.
The Hunter of the Dark from jasonmacqueen on Vimeo.
The Arthurs at sunset.
In the South West Wilderness, surrounded by kilometers of rain-forest, rising above the already impressive Western Arthur’s stands Federation Peak. Just like it has done for thousands of years. You can get to it. But you’re in for a hard slog.
From the first time I saw it while flying to the start of the South Coast I knew I wanted to stand on it. An urge that grew the more I learnt. The fact that Edmund Hillary declared it the only mountain in Australia worth climbing, that half the people who attempt to climb it are turned back due to weather, or that it is known as one of the hardest walks in Australia.
It’s a reputation that is well deserved. Getting to Federation peak was a hard slog. The track is steep, but you expect that from a mountain range. It’s muddy all the way up the ridgeline, but we knew that. There are guaranteed to be all types of rain/hail/storm/sweltering sun, all par for the course in Tasmania. There are long days, mosquitos and leaches but still nothing out of the ordinary. It’s still all standard operating procedure for Tasmania. What took the biggest toll was how overgrown the trail was. Kilometers and kilometers of ducking, weaving and hurdling. A marathon obstacle course.
For our approach we were blessed with fantastic weather, the storm only setting in as we reached the base of Luckmans ridge. It came through in waves finally settling into a full thunder hail storm. We spent a cold night on campsites of the Arthur’s ridge line. That night I found the limit of my current camping equipment just before falling asleep. Looking around, I saw that everything from floor to ceiling were wet. Luckily my triple bagged sleeping bag was the last thing to stay dry.
The next day we continued along Arthur’s ridgeline to Federation Peak. By then the hail had stopped but low clouds still stopped us from seeing down into the valleys but made for dramatic glimpses of the range. There ridgeline featured plenty of tricky sections though mercifully not overgrown.
A break in the clouds on the way to Goon Moor Campsite.
I mentioned earlier that only half the groups that reach the peak are able to complete the final summit. While weather is one of the main contributing factors, it is easy to see that exposure to height and difficulty in finding the correct rout also cause problems for groups. The final leg to Federation Peak is incredibly exposed. Simply by looking over your shoulder you can see straight down 600 meters to Cockroft lake. You are in fact looking down at the tallest cliff in Australia. It is suggested by most guidebooks that groups use ropes, but we were “relatively” comfortable soloing. Our choice was somewhat reinforced when returning from the summit. Another group was heading up planning to use ropes and harnesses. While they were arguably safer, they spent more time on the pinnacle and its exposed weather only barely making it back before sunset.
It is possibly because of our success in summitting that I was not mentally prepared for the walk down. While it takes about two days to summit Federation Peak it is around the same time to come back down. But how hard can walking down a hill be? Well, so I thought. It’s a good reason to pay attention to the track notes. For the next two days we wound down and around the Mossmans ridge slogging through days of overgrown track.
We couldn’t help but think that the reason for the trails being so overgrown is to keep walkers on easier tracks like the overland or even the South Coast. I certainly cannot think of many people who I would recommend this walk to outside a walking/mountaineering club. For a mountain that is only 90 km away from Hobart is surprisingly hard to get to.
But if you like the idea of standing on top of the tallest cliff in Australia, surrounded by what can only be called a vast wilderness, then it is a hell of a walk.
The feeling that you get from staying in Waterhouse Island is hard to explain. It’s small enough that you know you are on an Island but large enough to have plenty to explore. But you know you have the Island to yourself. It hosts pristine beaches in the leeward eastern side and rugged rocky shores on the western side. The island itself is mainly grassland due to the consistent westerly winds. It’s also easy to forget just how much life there is under the waves. snorkeling anywhere around the island reveals teeming and curious sea life.