“All that glitters is not gold. All who wander are not lost.” William Shakespeare
The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service have, for some time, been working on an ambitious project known as the Three Capes Track. This multi-day coastal trek will take in the towering sea cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula, including Cape Raoul, Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy, and will have a boat leg across Port Arthur Bay, and finish at Fortescue Bay.
My friend Mary and I were keen to explore the Tasman Peninsula while it was relatively unknown and somewhat wild, so we set off on a New Year’s weekend (a couple of years ago). On day one, we walked from Fortescue Camping Ground to Retakunna Creek via Cape Pillar Track. It was a short walk, taking us about three-and-a-half hours, climbing gradually across Consolation Hill and Tornado Ridge. The final half an hour was downhill to our beautifully located campsite, our base for two nights.
The campsite was alive with the sounds of nature – bird calls, creaking trees, a gentle breeze rustling through the bushes, and the trickling water of a nearby stream. We also had the company of pademelons and possums, as well as a few mosquitos. There were lots of fallen logs and branches scattered across the campsite, a sign of the remote (and unmaintained) location.
The following morning we woke to a delightful chorus of birdsong – sweet chirps, raucous cawing, and even a laughing kookaburra. We took our day-packs and headed for Cape Pillar. It was a strenuous hike through some muddy sections and densely overgrown sections; we’d found the wildness we were looking for.
We were also using a Lonely Planet guidebook, which suggested the return walk to Cape Pillar would take 5-7 hours. We later decided that they must’ve had some sort of super-human complete this hike (or at least not your average hiker). We left our campsite at 9am and didn’t get back until 6.30pm (for a walk of about 15km). We aren’t the quickest walkers in the world, but we’re not that slow either.
We passed through Bare Knoll campground, which is also a lovely spot (but without water), and then Lunchtime Creek (where there is a water supply). We climbed a ridge and then entered rainforest on the side of the wonderfully named Purgatory Hill. We also hiked into Corruption Gully, before climbing to Hurricane Heath. This was an exposed rocky area, which had cairns marking the route. We stopped for lunch near Perdition Ponds; incredible permanent lakes situated 300 metres above the ocean.
I totally loved the names of the locations and have to admit there were a few times where I really did think I was in purgatory. There were some very muddy sections through The Oasis, which was also very smelly. We also saw a couple of brown snakes, which made us very nervous. It was so overgrown in parts that it was hard to see where we were stepping.
Eventually we emerged to the cliff edge and continued along the narrow trail, which was at times very close to the edge. In high winds it’s not safe to hike here, but we had a fairly calm day and enjoyed the incredible views across the Tasman Passage to Tasman Island. We could see the tour boats heading around the island and hear the seals barking from their colonies on the rocks.
We didn’t continue on to the furthest point at Chasm Lookout, as we still had a long walk back to the campsite. But it was a remarkable day.
On our final day we hiked back to Fortescue Bay via Mt Fortescue Track (about 12km). We had a big climb up Mt Fortescue, which took about two hours. It was slow going – intensely steep in parts – but through a beautiful and cool forest. We also trekked through a lovely section of ferns and moss-covered trees.
Eventually, we reached the top and the narrow trail continued along the cliff tops. We stopped frequently at viewpoints where we could see back to the peninsula where we’d hiked the day before. There was the option of a side-trip to Cape Hauy, but we were exhausted and decided to save it for a future trip (see my other blog: Tasman National Park – Fortescue Bay).
The final section down to Fortescue Bay was extremely rocky underfoot. In fact, it was tortuous. Fortunately, this was the first section to be upgraded as part of the Three Capes Track – and it is now much kinder to tired feet! The walk is expected to be completed by November 2015.