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

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

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

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