Freycinet 2023

Freycinet peninsula wasn’t exactly plan A for Easter, but when the forecast turns to snow down to 200ms with gale force winds, then you change your plans: Freycinet it was. Even so, there were electrical storms the day we were supposed to leave, so we ran in the forest in the morning, and climbed Mt Parsons in the afternoon instead of setting out with children and rucksacks, and began the tenting part of our trip a day late.

Omphalotus nidiformis

Even with an improved forecast, we weren’t exactly sure how the youngest, seven-year old Abby, would deal with the wind and light rain that would be our lot. The elements were kind to us, and we got in lots of activity, working around patches of rain. As it turned out, all three children loved it.

Abby and Karen arrive
Tristan playing near the campsite

I left my camera behind on several of our mini expeditions, as getting my camera wet is a very expensive thing to do, but luckily there were plenty of fun things to photograph around the campsite.

Wombat on Wineglass

For fungi, we saw ghost fungi (Omphalotus nidiformis), Russula clelandii, Cantharellus concinnus and more, sighted dolphins swimming at dusk, noted pied oyster catchers and black-faced cormorants having evening strolls along the water’s edge and even saw the most obliging-ever wombat. Wallabies gate-crashed our Easter party, and Gussy and I had a most persistent (and insistent) possum that came into our vestibule three times during the night in an attempt to carry off Gus’s rucksack. I shone the torch in its eyes (useless), hissed menacingly at it (also useless) and hit it on the head with Gus’s walking boot (temporary victory). In the end, I only got some sleep by putting the rucksack inside the tent.

Pied Oyster Catcher Haematopus longirostris
Pied Oyster Catcher Haematopus longirostris
Black-faced cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscescens

These are some of my favourite shots.

Cape Pillar Tasman Peninsula 2019

Cape Pillar

For as long as I can remember (but at least since 2011), I have wanted to sleep at Cape Pillar, to photograph sunset and sunrise there, and to climb The Blade, whose very name reeks of drama and consequence. At last, on the weekend just gone by, I had my chance. Tessa could be minded for a day and a half in Hobart. The weather looked reasonable. I could go.

sunset Cape Pillar
Cape Pillar

I drove down, delighting in the countryside of that part of our state, bought myself a salad roll in Dunally, and was soon enough in the carpark poking stuff haphazardly into my pack. This was a last minute outing, and I had no idea how many things I had forgotten. Surely, whatever they were (as long as the list did not include anything to do with photography), I could live without it for twenty eight hours.

The Blade

I met two guys in the carpark before I’d begun packing, but passed them after an hour, and from then on had no one I knew of ahead of me. After exactly two hours’ walking, I had reached the Munro Hut, and stopped there for a hearty drink and some food. My pace had been good to this point, but I was now about to fill up my bottles with water to fund the next few meals. From here on, I was a slow old cart horse, lugging not only overnight equipment and masses of weighty photographic gear, but also heavy water. I couldn’t believe the difference a few extra kilos made to my pace. Suddenly everything hurt. I took a lot more breaks, albeit it tiny ones, just to rest my shoulders and back for a minute or two before the next stint. I think it was 1 hr 36 mins’ walking from the hut before I reached the base of The Blade. Hoorah.

Here I could dump my pack in the shade before exploring further, light and free. I climbed the Blade and Cape Pillar, enjoying the views and pondering where to take my later shots. I climbed the Blade two more times for the heck of it (and to check on details of angle, sun, what I was game to climb, etc). I then climbed it again at sunset, and again in the middle the night by moonlight. (And yes, again at dawn. I am now well acquainted with The Blade.) My gps said I covered 22 km equivalents that day.


I had arrived shortly after 2 pm, so that gave me time, not only for the above exploration, but also for a well-earned lie down, back in the shade in my trusty tent, hidden by bushes and listening to birds and feeling the space around me. That was a lovely time. Sunset was quite busy, as I used three different locations, separated from each other by ten minutes’ walking, trying to catch rays on rocks before they hid behind the mountain’s shadow.

Cape Pillar

After an excellent sleep (punctuated, however, by my rude alarm waking me at 1 a.m. to climb and do a spot of astro photography), I woke to the alarm again, in the dark again, to get into position for sunrise. Both sunset and sunrise (and 1 a.m. astro) were compromised somewhat by clouds on the horizon, stealing some colour at the important angles, but I still had a lovely time perched up there on my pinhead, listening to the barks and squeals of seals several hundred metres below.

Cape Pillar

I arrived back at the car at midday, but … oh no. I had a flat tyre, and my key was missing. That took two hours to solve – a solution achieved by the help of several fabulous Good Samaritans, notably (but not only) Henry and Cynthia. People helped lift and push things I am not strong enough to lift or push, and others offered or joined in. Others still minded my gear while I went to the Rangers’ Office. I was absolutely starving by the time I got out of there after that delay, but luckily there is nice food at a Lavender Farm not far from the main road, so that made me feel heaps better. I didn’t make it back to Launceston that night, as I could only go at 80 kph, and had lost two hours. I bunked down in Hobart instead. I’d had enough, and had had insufficient sleep with all that odd-hour photography. Two capes down; one to go. I’m enjoying Cape bagging.

Cape Raoul Tasman Peninsula 2019

Cape Raoul Tasman Peninsula Feb 2019

Walking to Cape Raoul was not on my radar, even at the start of this week (in which it took place), but the fires have thrown out almost every plan I originally made for this summer, and this week was no exception. To cut to the point, I found myself with the possibility of a night’s babysitting for my dog, but no longer any particular destination planned (I was supposed to be on a ten-day expedition, but that’s another story).  Where should I go for a single night? I decided one of the Three Capes, and gave Raoul the guernsey. I will ultimately, of course, photograph all three. I have to start somewhere, and my daughter and her husband reckon Raoul is the best.

The foot track to my goal was only 8.1 kms long (with 250 ms climb), so I knew I had plenty of time to slowly wend my way to the start, having dropped Tessa off in Hobart. It was horrifically hot, and I was not in a hurry to throw myself at those temperatures with the heavy pack I was about to carry. I popped in to the Lavender Farm near Port Arthur and ordered pumpkin soup for lunch, figuring that the extra fluid would be good for me. Unfortunately, the chef must have realised that his soup was insipid and tried to cure that by adding stacks of salt. I did not enjoy what I had.

And why did I have such a heavy rucksack for a mere overnighter? First, because I knew I would need plenty of water in that heat, so was carrying 2.5 kgs of the stuff; second, and precisely because it was a mere overnighter, I was carrying my heavy tripod (rather than its lighter, travel counterpart) and all of my filters, cleaning gear and anything else I thought might be appropriate. I popped on the pack and almost fell backwards. Oops. Out of practice with a pack this bad. This will be good for me. Not only my shoulders, but also my legs noticed the extra weight. Nothing like training for a race by racing. Off I set. I really need to get back into a gym. I haven’t had one single session since Bruce died.

What would this track be like? Slowly, getting used to a pack this burdensome again, I moiled my way up the hill. Ohh. There’s a comfy seat. A sign said there was a lookout in fifteen minutes. Signs like that for me, even with such a pack, constitute a worst case scenario, so I decided I could hang in there to the lookout, which I reached 37 minutes after leaving the car. I would normally never dump my pack so soon after starting, but this day was hot, and the pack was heavy. I dumped and had fun exploring the cliff line packless, letting the day advance and thus cool down a smidgeon before undertaking the next section, which I decided should be 45-minutes long. Again I dumped and had a bit of an explore. It was still much too glary to contemplate photography, although I could see endless lower-light possibilities, perhaps for the morning on the rebound.

Fifteen minutes after that break, I arrived at a fabulous viewpoint directly and closely facing the jagged dolerite columns of the Cape. What a lineup of rocky, huddled soldiers with orange caps, all standing to rigid attention, possibly keeping each other upright, too tall for much standalone stability. I seriously contemplated stopping here. There was a good camping spot and fabulous view, but I couldn’t really make a decision like that without having seen the itty bitty end of the cape and having grounds for comparison. I could always return if I wished. Sixteen minutes more took me to the bitter end, which had no bitterness at all, of course, but only drama, and possibly terror for anyone afraid of heights. Respect for one’s height had to take place. Out on those columns, it was a huge 300 m drop to the sea below. A single lapse of concentration, a sudden gust of wind offsetting balance, and goodbye world. I did not look directly down, but concentrated on concentrating on being stable.  I was delighted that some wretched governmental nanny hadn’t erected barriers to stop me enjoying myself.

I was hopping columns (not with a 300m drop below – one of the ones with only maybe 3 ms to fall -) when I nearly did fall, as suddenly a huge smile with a helmet on top appeared in my peripheral vision of the gap below me. Barefooted Owen, who had just completed an almighty climb of two of the pillars further along, was now ascending a chute to easy walking: “One of the best climbs here … in Tassie … actually, some say on the planet, and I’m not going to dispute that”, he said with quiet satisfaction. We enjoyed meeting each other, and chatted whilst waiting for his companion to appear. He inspected, and approved of, my chosen real estate for the night. Entering into the spirit of choosing a beautiful location, he advised a spot even nearer to the edge than I was going, but I pointed out that my tent is a free-standing one, and that if a gust was strong enough to lift out my pegs (easy), then tent and I could go rolling over the cliff. Being rather heavier than I am, he had not considered such a possibility. I may appear to take chances, but, in reality, I am actually very cautious and safe.

Alas, even by the time Owen left to return to his tent in a much less sublime part of the forest, clouds were amassing … just light, wisps of ones at first, and I paid little attention until I realised the sun’s rays were becoming a lot less distinct. The Bureau of Meteorology had promised no rain all week, so I refused to believe what my eyes were telling me, and had an early dinner to be ready to unhurriedly photograph the golden time of day. As I shot, it started drizzling. Grrr. At least I didn’t get any drops on my glass to ruin my photos. There is little sky colour in my shots, but the moody light did illuminate the orange in the rocks and intensify it as the sun dipped. I was not too dissatisfied.

In the morning, I set my alarm for 5.50, but as the drizzle was continuing, I turned it off and rolled over, awakening later to have breakfast in my tent. Owen had said they were climbing out that way again this day, and he’d also said they were low on water and thirsty, so I carried half a litre for half an hour to their campspot, but otherwise had a much lighter pack for the return journey. What had taken 1 hr 53 mins with all that water, took 1 hr 42 on the way back with a lighter pack. I quite enjoyed walking in the cool, misty conditions, but have had my faith in BoM challenged, and my pleasure in maps of pure white for a week will have to be questioned.

Driving directions: After Port Arthur follow the main road as it swings west. You encounter a pear orchard with a creek and a road sign to Stormlea. A tiny blue sign with white writing alerts you to the Cape Raoul walking track. These blue and white signs will lead you all the way to the car park. (You also go through a place called Highcroft, which is fittingly named, as it is a high croft. There is a very clean toilet with paper at the start. The sign says 5 hours’ walking return with no breaks added in. You can do what you like with that information. (I took three and a half).

NSW Lord Howe Island 2019 overview

NSW Lord Howe Island 2019 overview

Dropping my snorkel back on the pile, I farewelled the colourful fish I’d spent the last hour with, mounted my bike and sadly turned my back on Ned’s Beach, entering the open – yet shady – forest of palms, ferns and enormous banyan trees. These latter spread their lengthy limbs over vast distances to produce shady columns and arches that always gave the eye something to entertain as one cycled by.  On past my accommodation I glided, and further, to the lagoon on the other side of the island, about five minutes’ cycle away.

Heading towards me on their bikes were three ladies engrossed in conversation, trailed by a car in no hurry to pass them. They moved over a bit to allow me through; the car just bided its time. We all greeted each other, of course. Next came a man shadowing his four-year-old granddaughter as she wobbled hesitantly down the road. (We saw a lot of littlies learning to cycle here, and several couples who looked as if they hadn’t been on a bike for about fifty years. This was the perfect place to give it a go, either for the first time, or the first time in a long time.)

Before the dreadful deed of returning my bike eventuated, I did one last lap of the foreshore, scene of snorkelling, swimming, photoshoots and evening BBQs, and reluctantly swung a left into the drive. I’d arrive at the airport in wet swimmers, but who cares?

My enjoyment of the island is a little ironic, as long, long ago, when Bruce and I were choosing a honeymoon destination, we wanted a location that had both mountains and coastline, and chose Norfolk Island. We did not research Lord Howe – or maybe Bruce did, but decided on budget alone to go to Norfolk, it costing about half the price to get there. Accommodation was also no doubt cheaper, and we were still uni students at the time. (We even took our briefcases!! ha ha).

Norfolk Island was fine enough, although there was not enough walking for my taste, and getting around the island was difficult if you didn’t want motorised transport … and the beaches were not to die for. We mostly spent our days  exploring the base of cliffs, managing to nearly kill ourselves several times by not paying attention to incoming tides which meant we had to climb said cliffs to save our lives. (It’s amazing we lived long enough to have children.) We climbed the biggest bump on the island, and had to give in and hire a Moke to add to our exploration possibilities.  The island is too big (34.6 square kms as opposed to LHI’s for more manageable 4.55) and too hilly to get around just by muscles. It has, after all, 121 kms of roads as compared to LHI’s approximately 7. Everywhere we went on LHI, we used our own power to get there, and we love it that way.

Whereas Lord Howe impresses with its huge percentage of delightful tropical forest (75% is forested National Park, and the whole island is World Heritage listed), only 15% of Norfolk Island is National Park. Norfolk calls its highest point a mountain, Mt Bates, but this putative giant is only 319 ms high. In contrast to this, Mt Gower at 875 ms asl, Mt Lidgbird at 777ms and Ball’s Pyramid, 561 ms – not that you can climb that rock needle, but it sure is impressive to look at – all offer serious relief to the skyline. Malabar Hill, Kim’s Lookout and Mt Eliza (not in nesting season) are very satisfying climbs, whilst Transit Hill, Intermediate Hill and other ridges will test people’s fitness for sure.

One of the best parts about the mountains on Lord Howe is the physicality of the climbs: both Gower and Lidgbird Goat House require ropes as the gradient feels like pure vertical in some parts. It is four-limbs, in-your-face type climbing, which is good fun.  Mt Sorrow and Bartle Frere in tropical far north QLD have similarly steep gradients. It’s like you’re climbing a ladder rather than a mountain, which is most enjoyable. Funnily, Walsh’s Pyramid is taller, and quite a sudden climb, but it doesn’t feel as steep in my memory.

Of course, being smaller in area, LHI has a much smaller population: 350 denizens with 400 tourist beds, as compared to 1600 with 1500 tourist places on Norfolk, and this feels very nice as a visitor. The pace on LHI is much slower: the maximum speed limit on the island is 25 kph as compared to 50 on Norfolk, which possibly accounts for the more relaxed attitude on LHI concerning cycling. Gussy (just finished first class) and I mimicked everyone else, and happily cycled two abreast, three-quarters filling the road. No one was going to knock us down. In fact, it all moves so slowly that I was telling Gussy I needed to go to hospital (I had badly cut my foot on a shell), and the car behind heard me, and gave me a lift. We just popped the bike at the side of the road and went there. It was, of course, where I left it when the doctor dropped me off about an hour later (no waiting time, of course).

I cannot tell you the actual length of walking trails available on LHI (I have read in one spot that there are 45 kms of trails, but I am not sure if that is one way, or out and back, or what), but I can tell you that I walked for several hours each day and still have one small section of trail remaining to be done (the extension of a trail I was on to Boat Harbour: about 1.5 kms in each direction). The structure of the networks means you do have to do some sections out and back, and I chose to do some things twice, such as the Lidgbird Goathouse, but I can assure you I was not bored, and can’t wait to repeat some  walks next time, in different light or weather, or just to do them twice because once is not enough. Norfolk stood in stark contrast to this: although we were lovers of walking, we did very little as there was hardly any to do. The website lists many walks: six in the Botanical Gardens and eight in the National Park, but when you look closely, you see that these walks, with two exceptions, are between 60 and 760 metres long (the two exceptions being 1.7 kms long) – not enough to warrant putting your shoes on. Golf, Museum visits and duty-free shopping seem to be the main draw cards for NI. LHI does have golf too, but I can’t imagine taking time out from the other much more fun activities to be bothered.

So, how did we spend our time on this magic island?
Day 1. Arrived at lunchtime. In the hot afternoon, I took myself up Malabar Hill, Kim’s lookout, down to North Beach, up another mountain that far end, down, back up over Dawson’s Ridge and down to Old Settlement Beach, and finally along the foreshore to ‘home’ near Ned’s Beach. This took 2 hrs 20. My guess at the horizontal distance was about 12 kms, with 518 ms climb yielding 17 km equivalents.
Day 2. I didn’t get much done today, as I offered to take the children swimming in the morning to free the others up for running. In the afternoon, all I had time for was a cycle and walk to Middle Beach, then Blinky Beach, and to explore the cliffs up above Ned’s (which I reached by climbing. There may be a road that goes there, but I found it easier just to climb).
Day 3. Lena and I set our alarms for 4.40 to climb up Malabar Hill in the dark to a point I had chosen in the light, and sit there and wait for the dawn. This was beautiful. After breakfast, Gussy and I went off on his first ever adventure without his parents. We packed food and drink, and then cycled through tropical forest and beside beaches to Blinky Beach, where we parked our bikes and set off to climb Transit Hill. (This took him 17 minutes up, 13 down; the cycling was 15 minutes in each direction). We extended the adventure by adding in a swim at Blinky, where I escorted him out past the waves. We floated in the pellucid, shining water, rising over the unbroken waves and agreeing that we could stay there forever. We were sure the others would eventually realise where we were and bring us food. After lunch, the two of us went snorkelling at Old Settlement Beach, where the highlight was swimming for at least ten minutes with a turtle. (The nadir was treading on a cutting shell and landing in hospital).
Day 4. Mt Gower. This deserves its own blog. See
2 hrs 28 minutes’ exercise up and back, spread over eight hours, plus thirty minutes cycling in each direction, and a swim (with Nicole from the Gower climb, and a turtle) on the way home. I think I heard Dean, our guide, say the horizontal distance was about 10 kms. As the first and final 2 kms are basically flat, this means the gain of 880 ms is done over a distance of 3 kms. That is almost a 30% incline. That mightn’t sound much, but, believe me, you don’t often get that in a mountain climb. It’s fun.
Day 5. Cycled to Blinky Beach in the dark for dawn photography. After breakfast, climbed with the children to the Mt Lidgbird Goathouse, the route of which has a similar incline to Gower after the first saddle. This, too, deserves its own blog. See
The children (3 and 7) took roughly 1 hour up (to 420 ms asl) and a tiny bit more down, being of cautious bent. Young muscles find steep downhill to be very challenging.

Day 6. I re-climbed the Mt Lidgbird Goathouse track with Yelena who hadn’t had a chance to see it yet. We took a longer route, over Intermediate Hill in the outward direction, and returning via Rocky Run, Mutton Bird Point and around near Blinky Beach to our bikes at the start. This took us 3 hrs 20. This route had 710 ms climb, with 10 kms horizontal distance, yielding 17 km equivalents.
We had a BBQ at night with friends made from the Gower climb, Laure and Vincent.
Day 7. Departure. We only had time for swimming and snorkelling. I had morning coffee with other friends made on the Gower climb, Tim and Katrina.

The hours not accounted for were spent eating, reading or playing endless games of Five Hundred and Oh Sugar (= Oh Hell) with Gussy, who has a great passion for cards at present. We thought our holiday was pretty perfect. Obviously, there was also time for dawn and sunset photography, for beach BBQs every night apart from two at restaurants, and for twilight swims and snorkels in the lagoon, where a feature seems to have been swimming with reef sharks (harmless). I can’t wait for “Lord Howe Take Two”.

Bicheno 2018 Jan

Bicheno, Jan 2018

The Fairfax clan had, of course, gathered for Lena and Jonny’s wedding at the end of December, so in early January we had a family fest at Bicheno. This consisted mostly of shared eating and coffee drinking, although, midst much chatter, we also threw in photography, penguin watching, cricket, tennis, swimming, walks along the beach and, well, more eating. Of course, I went running every day, mostly just with Tessa; sometimes alone; once with Keithy. You would not want pictures of all the delicious food we ate. Instead, here are some of the seascapes that resulted.