Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Tasman Peninsula - Day 4


A bit drizzly - view from the top of the hill

Cape Raoul
These were always regarded as the highest sea cliffs in the world, but someone in South Africa  recently pointed out that theirs were  a few centimetres higher, so we’ll just say they are still among the highest and pretty spectacular all the same.
Although the guide book says it’s easy, don’t do this walk if you don’t have a head for heights and this is another one where you probably shouldn’t bring the children because the path runs along unfenced cliffs in several places. I am getting quite blasé about wandering around on cliff tops by now, but I’ m glad there isn’t a southerly gale. While any sensible person would run for cover when that happens, surfers with a death wish rush here to catch the waves.
Check them out here:

The walk to the Cape is officially around five hours, but adding time for lunch, getting lost here and there and the odd stop to admire the view, it’s best to leave yourself a bit longer.
It’s a bit grey and drizzly today, so the pictures aren’t  great, but I’m feeling fit and chirpy and head off anyway. The turn -off to Shipstern Bluff is about an hour along the track (and another hour from there) and just after that is the first look out. If you didn’t feel like doing the whole trip, you do get a reasonable taste from here.
 The other interesting thing about this walk besides the views, is that it passes through several types of coastal terrain. First there’s the usual fairly gentle uphill climb through dryish eucalypt forest that you seem to get on the lee –side of all these walks. Then you pass through an intermediate wet forest with some unusual plants such as Pandani and assorted mountain berries in red and white and pink.  I have seen these berries before at the foot of Mt. Wellington, but only as very small bushes. The berries are edible, but are nearly all pip and have absolutely no taste. The parrots however, seem to love them and go absolutely crazy as I pass.  Just listen to them!



 The parrots don't sound too happy about me walking through their berry patch

I have never seen these berries reach such great heights
The only thing missing from this moist environment are the leeches, usually another bushwalker's bane. I thought perhaps the drought had done them in as they can only go nine years without a drink, but it seems that they have all squirmed off to the Central Highlands. I just saw an interview withWillem Dafoe for his  new film "The Hunter " which is set in Tasmania and he complained bitterly about them, so sadly they are not extinct.
Or these

Or these
After this it’s downhill through a dark, eerie and completely silent moss forest where hardly anything grows except for a few struggling ferns. Stumps take on grotesque shapes.  Next  it’s a soft pad through she- oak forest which looks dead but isn’t. Along the open cliff edges, the vegetation changes to coastal  scrub and heathland  and it smells just like honey. It’s alive with birds and the views are positively heart -stopping. 
Into the moss forest

Only a few ferns survive here  and it is completely silent

The she -oak forest looks dead, but the tops are green (greenish brown) and full of birds

The views get better and better. The first protuberance on the right is Shipstern Bluff.
From the sea, it really does look like the back end of an old fashioned sailing ship                            

On the clifftops - The slight shadow near the rocks at top left is a fishing boat
Looking south - that's a lake up ahead

It's hard to imagine what explorers must have thought when confronted by these walls of stone

Far beyond is the landscape I walked yesterday



The lake could be nice on a hot summer's day, but today it looks exposed and much too cold
 The skies darken and a few drops of rain fall, so it's time to put on my raincoat and hurry to the end of the Cape. I am sure that the flowers here are just as beautiful as yesterday, but under grey skies the scene looks somber and forbidding. I shelter under a bit of low scrub for a bite to eat and start to make my way back. 
This looked like part of the track, but it wasn't
This didn't, but it was
 Not many people have come through this season and in some places the track is quite overgrown. Even in the bare patch near the lake, I wander round in circles for a while until I hit on the idea that I should go back to the other side where the track was clear. From there, I retrace my steps back down and notice a cairn I didn’t see before, then a second, not exactly in the direction I thought I had come, but then came a  third and I knew I was on the right track. In other confusing places, people have wrapped a few bits of flagging tape to the shrubs, so you don’t stay lost for long. If this happens to you, don’t panic, don’t keep going blindly, just stop and wait. There's more chance of finding you if you are close to the track. If you have signed the register, someone will come along eventually.  

Andy's gone when I get back, but I am pleased to see the van. The weather doesn't look as if it will improve, so fair weather friend that I am, home is starting to look pretty good.

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