The final push: Day 4 of the Three Capes Track in Tasmania.
This last day of our 4 days of walking the 3 Capes Track was always going to be a challenge. The track notes say it is a 14.5km walk that would take between 5 – 7 hours. My son Jeremy and I have been taking at least an extra hour over the maximum suggested time to finish our walk each day, so it could easily take us 8 hours. Adding to the challenge is the fact that we have a bus to meet at 2.30pm to take us back to Port Arthur. The ranger advises that we should start walking at 7am, but if we walked it at our usual pace we should probably leave at 6.30am. Jeremy has some difficulty in getting up and going in the morning and this seems very, very early to him.
Fortunately, there is an option to shorten our walk by 2 hours, but it means not going right down to the end of the 3rd Cape (Cape Hauy). Jeremy is keen to get to the tip of Cape Hauy and claim the “prize” of having walked to the tip of all the 3 Capes. I’ve already missed the last 1km to get to the end of Cape 2 (Cape Pillar), so I’m sitting on about 1.9 Capes at the moment. I’m happy for my ego to take another hit and for us to take the shortcut today, but I’m also willing to give Cape Hauy a shot if we have the time and energy.
We also have the option to push ourselves harder and quicken our walking pace to see if we can complete the walk and still be on time for our bus. We plan to give it a try.
Jeremy made a valiant effort to get out of his sleeping bag early this morning and gulp down the last of our porridge rations. Jeremy is still hungry but scores some extra food as our fellow walkers are ditching their own excess rations to lighten their packs. He decides he has to have some noodles, cheese and a smoothy sachet before we can start walking. Fair enough. He’ll need the energy and our lunch will be a light one. We manage to start walking by 7.30am, which is pretty impressive for us. We’re still almost the last group to leave the lodge, but we’re happy enough with our start to this last day of our walk.
It’s a lovely cool morning with some low cloud and the track takes us into the first large patch of rainforest that we’ve encountered. The rainforest is very beautiful, with huge trees and mosses covering every surface on the forest floor. The rainforest is on the side of a large peak, Mount Fortescue, which we must climb. It’s the steepest and longest climb of our walk so far. It’s a strenuous start to the day and I’m glad, again, to have the walking poles that my mother gave me before we came to Tassie. I haul myself up the hill with them.
Even though we are pushed for time we have to stop and take some photos. The forest here is enchanting. Once we reach the top of the hill the rainforest opens up into a very tall eucalyptus forest, with the trees so tall they are up in the clouds and an understory of giant tree ferns. We walk along an undulating ridge through the forest and it’s very pleasant. On all of our days on the Three Capes Track I’ve found a wonderful peace of mind as Jeremy and I walk along together, even when my feet are hurting and my energy is running low. I enjoy Jeremy’s company so much as well as the company of the forest that we walk through. The less I think, the more I merge with the environment. It’s blissful.
We’ve got a long way to go and this does pop into my awareness at times. We’ve been told it’s 3 hours walk to the turn off to the track down to Cape Hauy and today we’re aiming to get there within three hours rather than amble along as we have on parts of the previous three days.
We are walking at what feels to be a fast pace (for us) but we’re still overtaken by everyone else in our cohort of walkers. All except the guy who sprained his ankle on day 2 and has had to take a short cut to the end of the walk on a different path that is mostly used by day walkers and the rangers. Thoughts I had earlier in the walk about “trying to keep up with the others” or “not being last” have been banished from my mind; overtaken by the simple desire to get to the end to get in a bus. This walk has been a great way to clear out some rusty old patterns of the ego.
Somehow we manage to get to the turn off to Cape Hauy in three hours and we stop for some lunch. Even though we’ve made good time, it’s clear that we don’t have enough time to make the full 2 hour walk down to the end of Cape Hauy and back and still make our 2.30pm bus. Jeremy is disappointed and contemplates making a huge push to get there, assuring me that we can do it. I’m very clear that I can’t. I’m really tired and my feet hurt a lot.
Two of the men in the “seniors” age group that have been walking along in our cohort have decided that their knees and feet are not going to cooperate and have decided to skip this section of the walk. Their wives go in without them and they sit happily chatting at the lunch spot. By this stage, they are quite happy to chat with us as well, as their focus on achievement has drifted away.
Jeremy and I agree to walk 30 minutes down the track towards Cape Hauy so that we get to see at least some of the views and scenery but we won’t attempt to get right to the point of the Cape. We will turn around and come back to the track junction in time to walk the final hour down to Fortescue Bay where the bus will pick us up. We really should have looked at the guide book at this point, but we didn’t. What we didn’t realise is that the path towards Cape Hauy drops straight down off the ridge via a long, long series of steps.
As I descend these steps with Jeremy I start laughing and crying at the same time. I have no idea where I’m going to get the energy to walk back up these steps and it’s hot! The sun is shining brightly and here in Tasmania in summer it really had a sting to it. We make it down to the first sea cliff lookout within the 30 minutes we’ve allowed ourselves. It is beautiful, but we’re now both hot and tired and a bit worried, so that takes the edge off the view a bit. Even Jeremy admits he doesn’t have the energy to go further. We don’t linger for long before we set off back up the steps we’ve just come down. By the time we get to the top I’m glowing bright red in the face and I’m feeling pretty stuffed.
The final hour’s walk to Fortescue is gently undulating and then downhill, which is a good thing given my energy level and the pain in my feet. The cohort of walkers that we started out with 4 days ago has bunched up a bit towards the end and there is finally some sense of camaraderie as we encourage each other to get to the beach.
The beach at Fortescue Bay is stunningly beautiful. White sand and amazingly clear water invite us onwards. I’ve been fantasising about going for a swim since lunch time and now my goal is within sight. The walk around the edge of the bay seems to go on forever, but at last we get to put our packs down, hide behind a bush to change into our swimmers and dive into the clear, cool water. As an end to a long walk on a hot day, it doesn’t get better than this. We are refreshed and exuberant.
All our fellow walkers are there gathered around the shelter behind the beach and everyone looks pretty happy, if rather tired. One of the men who had walked. way ahead of Jeremy and I since the start of the walk admitted that he felt “shattered” but he had a smile on his face. Some of our fellow walkers, including all of the teenagers and their parents look like they could happily keep going for another three days. I suspect they might be as hungry as we are right now though.
Walking the Three Capes Track. has been a wonderful experience for me. I don’t mind at all that I’ve actually only walked a “2.7 Capes Track”. Maybe I’ll visit those pointy bits at the end of Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy another time. Maybe I’ll even get inspired to come back to Tasmania and walk the famous, six day Overland Track. For now I’m happy to be getting on a bus back towards Hobart and a very large and delicious dinner.