The weather forecast was for humid rain.
It basically means, once you are wet, you stay soaked and sodden as the humidity doesn’t allow for anything to dry.
We have just completed the Three Capes Track in Tasmania and thought I would share my experience with you. Even though I have mostly written about my walking adventures on various Caminos across Spain, I do actually walk in other places. So for old times sake, here is another travelling story.
The Three Capes Track is a much lauded, multimillion dollar project of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service which only opened on the 21st December, 2015. The money crunchers only predicted that 3000 people would walk the four day/three night trek in the first year, but my ticket says that I am number 10,085. Apparently the 10,000th person walked two days before us. At $500 a person, they are well and truly on their way to the cost redemption.
The brochure touts “carefully conceived, lovingly crafted”, the 46km track is a mix of boardwalks, gravel pathways and many thousands of stone steps. Noone should get lost if they just stay on the path. With only 48 beds per cabin, there is only ever a maximum of 48 on each leg at one time. Lucky us, we have our full quota.
We began on the 28th December in drizzling rain catching our Grayline Coach out of Hobart to Port Arthur, ninty minutes down the road. Michael and I had woken early to watch the Sydney to Hobart yachts entering Constitution Dock. It was amazing standing next to the race record holder Perpetual Loyal as she sat motionless with bottles of Bolinger on deck.
The drive down to Port Arthur was filled with gruesome stories of the regions convict days by Nigel, the unflappable and highly entertaining coach driver. By the time we exited the vehicle, all I wanted to do was beeline for the booking desk and leave. Having been to Port Arthur before and experienced the heeby-jeebies of this haunted town where two hundred years earlier, only the worst of the worst convicts were interned, the vibe is less than friendly. After booking in and receiving our parks ticket and guidebook, we bought our last meal from the cafe before walking down to the boat that would ferry us over to the start of the walk.
Alas all is not as it seems, for although the walk started just across the Bay at Denmans Cove, for the next hour we were “treated” to an exhilarating ride in wet and windy weather on a jetboat. Even though we were all prepared for rain in our wet weather gear, we were handed bright orange, floor length plastic jackets that tasted of salt. In between viewing only the inside visor of my raincoat, we would stop long enough to emerge like a turtle and watch the bird life and seacliffs before again retreating under the coat for protection. It was with great relief when we landed on the beach and exited the boat like soldiers going to battle. As it was still drizzling, the rain washed away the salt in no time as we started our ascent to the first cabin at Surveyors, 4km up the track.
Arriving wet and bedraggled, that is when I acknowledged the day’s forecast. Absolutely nothing dried until the sun came out on day 3. Even though we hung things up over the fire or over every dry surface, the dampness evaded every fibre of our belongings.
The cabins are award winning designer glamping. The bunk beds were clean and comfortable with memory foam mattresses to rest those weary bones after a days walking. The communal kitchen and dining room were equipped with gas stove tops and kettles a plenty, with a scattering of pots and pans to rehydrate all those dehydrated packets of food that most of us carried. There were enough seating for all of us and a small selection of games to entertain and amuse the bored. The drop toilets are set well away from the cabins- good for the olfactory senses but a tad too far when the weather turns foul. There were a few grumbles and suggestions were offered from most of our group. A light in the cabins would have been useful being the main grievance.
So Day 1 ended with a glimpse in between bouts of rain and hovering mist, towards Cape Raoul- actually not on the track but included as one of the three capes. We were told that our room selection would be the same for the next two nights. We lucked out and were paired with a fantastic couple from Melbourne – Trevor and Jenny. Same demographic and years of travel experience. They were the perfect cabin buddies.
Day 2 arrived in a drizzle. Donning our still wet clothes we ventured out for the 11km trek to the next hut, Munro. On a clear day, the views are said to be spectacular. Reminiscent of my first day on the Camino, we trudged through the rain and fog stopping only twice to take photos of architectural benches too soaked to sit on and a view we later learnt was Arthur’s Peak. As part of this experience, the Tassie Parks people have included various encounters to enjoy along the way. Matching up with the guidebook, you can interact with the environment or learn more of the local history, flora and fauna, as you walk the track. Unfortunately it is ill advised to get the book out when it is raining cats and dogs, so we read up about each before leaving for the day. Great concept in better weather.
As we had reached Munro by 10.30am and with nothing else to do (with a forecast of more rain to come), Michael and I left in the heavy mist to walk the 14km return trip out to Cape Pillar but this time without a laden backpack. Our thinking was that at least it wasn’t raining now, just heavy mist that might lift as we approached the Cape. Not our day. Heavy mist shroaded everything including the spectacular Blade that we had no hope of seeing. I was able to see one wall of dolerite cliff but I’m not sure what it was as we had left the guidebook behind. It was wonderful walking without a pack. We had covered 25km on Day 2 and our legs were well and truly feeling the assault.
Day 3 arrived with a clap of thunder followed by a torrential downpour. As we were watching the misery from the communal kitchen, the rain lessened, the mist lifted and we spied something that sent us all in a frenzy. We saw the sea below us as the view slowly cleared revealing a rugged coastline. Everyone packed their bags quickly to take advantage of the sunshine. As we had already covered the first 14km of todays scheduled walk yesterday (making yesterdays trek a massive 25km in miserable conditions), we left Munro and headed for Retakunna just a short 3km away. With our friends thinking the same thought, we used every bit of available rail space that was basking in sunshine at our new hut to finally dry our gear. Still wanting to walk a little more, I asked if anyone else was up for adventure and wanted to climb up to the top of Mt Fortescue for a short hike. This was to be the first stage of day 4’s walk. I left alone. The view out to Cape Pillar was spectacular but the climb up the 783 stairs was excruciating. And to think I get to do it all over again on Day 4.
Last day turned out to be the best in weather and terrain. In 14km we passed through a variety of woodland and forests as again I summited Mt Fortescue and walked beside the edges of the dolerite cliffs. The views that we had been missing from the start of our journey were breathtakingly stunning. Michael’s fear of heights well and truly kicked on as I straddled cliff edges to get a better look (and photo).
We were to be picked up by the 2pm shuttle at Fortescue Bay so we left early enough to allow for time to walk to the end of Cape Hauy. This was a two hour detour off the path that was mainly steps up climbing. Amazing to view from a far but torturous on weary legs. It was well worth the pain.
So the journey ended with a 30min drive back to Port Arthur where we were met but the lovely Tania who drove us back to Hobart. We wined and dined last night on more food than we had eaten in 4 days. As we stood and watched the fireworks we said goodbye to the past year and welcomed in 2017 with a bang.
Happy New Year folks.