Freycinet National Park – a winter visit. June 2016
What a terrible dilemma we had. It was created by the fact that Tassie (Tasmania) is a mountainous island, with more beauty to offer than most places can dream about (which is why we choose to live here). It was a long weekend, and I had to choose between going to the mountains, where some early snow was scheduled to fall, making the already mesmeric landscape a stunning white, or going to the sea, where the weather would be milder, and the rolling tides and swells would make interesting patterns as the water surged. I consulted my dog, who said to stay at home, but that was not a popular vote.
I love mountains more than sea, but perhaps the snow would be set within dark grey conditions, with no views to the distance. My husband said he’d come too (a great sacrifice on his part, as he’d earmarked this time for getting his reports written), and the idea of camping near to the sound of the ocean won the day.
To please the ‘no-voting’ dog, we stayed at home until lunchtime, taking her for a good long run before setting out, aiming to eat at Campbelltown to break the journey – well, that was the excuse. The food there greatly pleases us, which was the real reason. Here we ran into the first of many friends: Jess (from Pandani Bushwalking Club) was going to paddle to Shouten island with another mutual friend. Nice idea until you took note of the fact that it began to snow shortly after we finished lunch – just wet, sleety sort of snow, but you could see it falling and see the icy blotches it made on the windscreen. Our hands had been frozen just crossing the street.
Now, some people call me an adventurer, so this blog is no doubt going to greatly destroy my image. What great adventurous thing did I do this afternoon? I photographed sunset from a nice perch on a headland, and selected our camping spot for the night. I also nearly lost a few fingers taking long exposure shots in sub-zero air. Then we went to the pub, intending to set up camp in the dark, later.
We sat at our little table for two, innocently eating our meals, and in came two friends from Hobart Walking Club, who chatted to us while we ate. Then two from the Northwest Walking Club came in; more chatting. Then my friend and fellow expeditioner, Pete, from Hobart Club spotted us, so came to say “Hi’, followed by two more friends that I knew from the Eldons expedition. Next there was Sally, an old workmate of Bruce’s, and a lady from my Pilates class. The list goes on, and includes my climbing partner and “sister-in-crime”, Angela. We had a merry night, and didn’t leave until quite late. That’s fine. That’s what head torches were made for, isn’t it?
We had a glorious night, cosy within tent fabric with puffy down to keep us snug, sleeping away to the sound of waves crashing on the rocks slightly below. I sat on my perch watching stars for a while before turning in. Photographing sunrise next morning was a thrill that was so riveting it took my attention right away from the cold that theoretically must have been there. It certainly was when the excitement died down.
Hauling himself up
I was delighted when my husband announced that he’d like to climb my mountain with me rather than sitting in a warm spot getting some work done. (You see, you can cheat in Tasmania, and vote for the sea, but take in a mountain anyway). When someone who has Parkinson’s disease announces that he/she wants to give something a go, you encourage, not deter (well, when that person is your husband, anyway). I knew it would probably mean that we wouldn’t make the summit, but the summit will be there for me some other day. This was a day for climbing with Bruce. We rolled around the rocks for a while, with me getting quite anxious about the difficulty of what he was undertaking, especially when I led him across a ledge with an overhang and nothing to hold on to. Shortly after that he said he’d had as much as he could take of this level of difficulty (and there was no easier way coming from this starting spot), so we turned around.
Bruce, trying the recommended rocky approach, having a breather from mental as well as physical exhaustion.
I sussed out a different attack further down, one that I’d been eyeing up for a while, and it was an excellent lead (we followed it up until just short of the Mayson-Mayson saddle), but Bruce was exhausted by this stage, so we turned around once more, and continued down to the beach at Wineglass and turned the day into a pleasant normal-person walk. On the way back, we bumped into two instructors from the gym where we work out, so I had a chat, sending Bruce on ahead. Whilst giving chase, just before the track down forks in two, I saw a girl I thought I recognised, but, hey, she lives in Sweden, and visited us just two years ago, so it couldn’t be her. She stared at me with the same look – I mean, what are the odds of bumping into a foreign friend there in the middle of a national park? We rushed to hug each other when we realised that, despite the laws of probability, the other really was the person we thought it was. Ironically, the last time I had tried to climb Mayson had been with her, and meanwhile, she was on her way to repeat the experience we had introduced her to, namely, sleeping on Mt Graham. They always say that Tassie is small, but it felt very small, and very, very homely this weekend.