It seems we must think that Freycinet is the very best place to introduce someone to bushwalking. When our children were 7 and 9, the Freycinet loop was their first overnighter, held as a warm-up to the Overland Track that they did about a week later. (They did other overnighters before this, but they got carried. This was their first self-propelled effort where they carted their own gear). Our grandson, little Gussy, had his first overnighter (in a papoose) here Dec 2011, and now this year, we took Jon (our daughter Yelena’s boyfriend, (Post script – now husband) on his first overnighter. We thought a cute little 33 km hike over a mountain and then a bit extra to get the tents we’d left at the first camping ground would be a nice introduction for him.
No one doubted Jon’s ability to do 33kms ++ in a day: he’s a sporty fella, but he hadn’t carried a big pack before or done the overnight bit, so we were keen that he should enjoy it. He went famously, and – despite deplorable weather – coped well with the distance, the pack, carrying a three-man tent (our only spare), the mist, rain and furious wind, and the fact that views from the tops were non-existent.
We set out for Wineglass Bay after dinner on 28th, knowing that it wouldn’t take us long to get there, and we were right. One hour’s walking saw us up and down the saddle and along the beach to the base of the stairs that ascend a sand dune that announces the camping area at the far end of the beach. We had described to Jon sparkling, cerulean waters of “pure gin” as my IG friend Dietmar Kahles puts it. What confronted him on the beach were rough waters, angry waves, a wind that whipped up the sand to bite the legs – most unusual weather for this region. Nonplussed, we pitched the tents and assembled in their large one to play cards for the rest of the evening, hoping for an improvement in the weather next day.
At 5 a.m. when I arose to photograph the dawn (rather reluctantly, it has to be admitted), the wind had mostly abated, but thick mist enshrouded the mountains and flirted with the waters. I took some long exposures and returned groggily to the tent to wait for breakfast time. During the night (3.30am to be precise) there had been a bit of noise from my daughter in the tent next door. I had warned Lena and Jon to put all their food inside their tent. They presumed that putting it in secured packs in the vestibule would be enough. At the hour stated above, they heard a wallaby or possum (it didn’t hang around for full identification) having a tardy midnight feast of muesli, chocolate and macadamia nut bar, all intended for later that day. We had laughed when Bruce arrived at the tent for cards clutching his little bag of food for protection, but perhaps he had the last laugh here. Luckily I’d brought enough extra treats to cover for the marsupial greed.
By 8.30am we were off up the misty slopes with trees being intermittently revealed as fog chased its tail around them. There were no views. My husband accompanied us for an hour but then quit while he was ahead, leaving three to complete the rest of the walk.
As we walked along the tops, surrounded by a thick grey, moist envelopment, I described in glowing terms to Jon the mountains and beautiful blue waters he should be seeing. Yelena wanted to show him beautiful Tassie, so was disappointed, but did admit that the mist was atmospheric. The wind was wild enough for us to have that “Wuthering Heights out on the moors” feeling, but not strong enough to be unpleasant. At one stage I informed them they were now on the summit of Mt Graham; at another, that there was a saddle about a minute below us. Visibility was so poor that neither fact was self-evident.
However, as we neared Cooks Beach in time for a swim before lunch, the day was absolutely perfect, with the promised and much-spoken-about blue water, liquid jellyfish, was shining as if bad weather had never existed. Lena and Jon swam while I photographed, and yet even while I did so, you will see from the photos that clouds were amassing to the west again. By the time we arrived back at our tents having completed the circuit and then come back on Wineglass to pick up the heavy gear, the wind was whipping the waves up a fury, and sand was stinging our legs. Even so, everyone except yours truly had a swim, and then we depitched tents and did the beach yet again, with a little less enthusiasm and energy than the first time.
The whole way home we were treated to the most fantastic skies – a dirty golden background with steely grey clouds in layers, with silhouetted gum trees in the foreground. However, we were tired, so I didn’t hold everyone up taking more photos. Those are the day’s fish that got away and will just have to live in my memory and not on a screen. They were fabulous.