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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #023

Editorial

More bushwalking, this time to some of the amazing dolerite cliffs on the Tasman Peninsula. I haven't walked so much in years, but seem to be getting into the swing of it.

It's been great to be able to park Wothahellizat (the mothership) so Chris can sit in secure comfort while I'm off walking.

It's also great to have it to return to after a walk, to have a shower and a beer at the trail head is a definite luxury.

This very scenario was one of the main factors in the truck's design, and it seems to be working as planned.

 

 

Sat 15 Nov 2003

It seems that I left the reversing camera on a couple of weeks ago. Result, flat battery.

I get the battery charger from a bin and carry it around to the front of the truck, or at least that's the plan.

The charger is quite heavy and I have my head down as I struggle along the side of the truck.

BANG! (sound of head hitting immovable object)

I had broken a cardinal rule when working with trucks, ALWAYS CLOSE DOORS.

I had walked straight into the cab door, my forehead connected with a sharp edge, resulting in a deep gash, and blood all over the battery charger.

Chris hands me a towel and I hold it on the wound while continuing to connect the charger with the other hand.

Later I inspect the damage, a one-inch cut in my head that will never grow hair again.

Loic (one of the photographers from the Tarkine trip) comes over and we have a look at his photos from the walk. He's got some nice stuff, but we're competing for space in the book, maybe I should spill some beer over his slides.

Fri 22 Nov

We've been parked in Glen and Annette's driveway for a month now. Of course I was away in the Tarkine for half that time, but Chris is getting a bit stir crazy.

It's taken the last week or so to prepare my photos for submission, that's now done, so tomorrow we'll get the truck ship shape and ready for the road.

Sun 23 Nov

Just as we're packing everything up the main computer dies. We decide that this should be looked into while we have power.

After some time wiggling wires and trying to reboot the machine we pull it from it's cupboard and open it up.

After wiggling more wires it worked. Good thing I've had so much experience with computers.

This puts the wind up us though, and we decide to stay another day do a backup.

Mon 24 Nov

We're very grateful to Glen and Annette for hosting us for the past four weeks, but we're getting itchy feet.

Today we leave the driveway that's been home for a month, and head north.

After several hours we round a corner and are presented with a marvellous vista, a lovely beach and rocky headland. Across the bay we see Cape Freycinet, our first glimpse of this famous peninsular.


Our first view of the Freycinet peninsula

It looks great and we pull over for a cuppa.

I'm tempted to stay right here, but Chris wants to get into Freycinet National Park today, so we head off.

An hour or so later we pull into Friendly Beaches, within the park, but just out of the main tourist area.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday we were in the 'burbs looking over the neighbour's garage; today we're in a beautiful national park, looking over pristine beaches and granite headlands.


Wothahellizat settles into a campsite with ocean views.


A seagull flies along the rocky shore.

As we sit and watch the waves, an eagle floats past, closely followed by a seagull. There's obviously some history between the two, because the gull is harassing the larger bird.

The raptor tolerates this small annoyance, and settles on the beach.

After a few minutes it takes to the air again, my but it looks beautiful as it floats on the updrafts, majestically edging its way over the water. It swoops, and with a single, powerful movement, it plucks a fish from the waves.

Such grace and precision is truly a wonder to behold, and it starts me thinking.

You know...I don't think I've ever seen a baby seagull.

Tue 25 Nov

This morning we explore the foreshore and find some spectacular orange rocks.


The amazingly orange lichen on the rocks

Later I return to the rocks with my camera, and almost step on an echidna. Now normally, as soon as a human approaches, an echidna will hunker down and try to bury itself, so as to present a ball of spins to the intruder.

This one however seems not to mind my presence, and continues to rummage for grubs. He is a bit camera shy though, and constantly presents his backside to my lens.


A part of an echidna, I'm not sure which part.


Wave-rounded rocks.



The bull kelp is quiet accessible here and makes for some interesting shapes.


...and so I said to the Wicked Witch of the West,
"Seaweed, yeah right, I bet you can't even spell the word"

 

Wed 26 Nov

Adrian & Carrol arrive this morning. While we hadn't specifically planned to meet up here, they did know we where in the neighbourhood, and thought they'd drop by to see if we are in residence.


The Thornycroft settles in near Wothehellizat

Chris and I go for a walk along the beach.


For just a second the light reflected off this seaweed

Fri 28 Nov

I spent most of today programming, chatting, and watching the scenery from the lounge room.

At around three however I have a conscience attack and feel I should at least go and look for some photos. I wander along the rocks trying to avoid looking at the orange ones, they're to photogenic, and I've already burned enough film on them.



There's a fantastic amount of material to photograph in these tidal pools

When I reach the next beach I spot a group of seagulls sitting on the sand, they allow me to get quite close and I sit with them for a while.


The Silver gulls tolerate my presence to within a few metres

Moving on I find a tidal pool and am about to walk past when I notice movement on the bottom. I look closer and find that the pool is populated with what I assume is some kind of sea slug.

With fleshy "horns", and a slow side-to-side movement of their heads as they graze on the seaweed, they looked for all the world like tiny cows. So I named them "pool cows".


A "pool cow", some kind of sea slug. Very cute

One of the pool cows slugged it's way right up to the shore of the pool next to my feet, and lifted its head up towards me. I accepted the implied (and probably imagined) invitation and gently picked it up.

After a brief contraction into a ball, the pool cow opens out and looks up at me again, then proceeds to explore my hand. What a cute little thing. I'd love to keep it, but I don't think Chris would believe that a three-inch slug followed me home.

As the sun sets we sit and watch the fishermen catch seaweed. Eventually they give up, pack their gear and head back to their camp, walking past Wothahellizat in the process.

"Catch anything?" I ask. "No" was the predictable reply.

"I hope you weren't relying on that for dinner", "No, we have some cheese".

I hope he's joking.

Sun 30 Nov

Adrian & Carrol are having afternoon tea in our lounge room. Shortly after they leave they are approached by a tourist. It seems that this fellow had been watching us with binoculars from the beach. He couldn't see the truck's wheels or cab, but had seen the veranda and us drinking coffee in the lounge room. He had assumed there was a cafe on the hill.

When Adrian set him straight he was quiet disappointed and took off, presumably into town for a cappuccino.


Evening light on the beach just below our camp.


A lone surfer tries to catch some waves before the light goes.


The gulls appear to be finding something to eat amongst the bushes.

Mon 1 Dec

Adrian & Carrol leave this morning. It was good to catch up with them and I'm sure we'll run into each other again before long. It's a small island.

In the afternoon I go for a final sweep of the coast with my cameras. The light is dull and I don't see anything photogenic, but I do sit with my little "pool cow" friends for quiet a while.

As I sit down at the side of their pool a crab spots me and hurriedly buries itself in the sand, leaving just its eyes protruding.

I stay still for maybe a quarter of an hour, not for any particular reason, just because it's very relaxing watching the pool cows. Eventually however the crab decides that I'm too boring to be dangerous. He emerges from the sand and walks right up to my feet, before hurrying off.

It's hard to imagine two more different creatures sharing the same space. The soft, slow, vegetarian pool cows, and the fast, clawed, armour plated crustacean.

At around five I notice someone videoing the truck so I pop my head out to say hello. We get talking and appear to have many similar thoughts on subjects such as corporate greed and many other things.

John is his name, he's over here from the US and, while away from home, is running his business from internet cafes and the back of a rented hatchback.

"It's just a small business I usually run from my bedroom" he says, "turns over about a million a year".

I guess in the corporate world that is small, but as they say in London, it's a "nice little earner".

If you're reading this John, and feel like a career change, ever thought of selling photos :-)

At about 11:30 this morning I noticed some birds milling around about 300 metres off shore. I investigate with the binoculars and find that they are actually heading south, and there's hundreds of them.

As I sweep the binos northward I see a continuous stream of them. There aren't hundreds at all, there's thousands.

That was hours ago. It's after 5PM now, and the birds are still going. They're either performing an enormous circle, the other side of which we can't see, or this is a massive migration of some kind.

Tue 2 Dec

Today we leave Friendly Beaches, or at least that was the plan. As it turns out neither of us could be bothered leaving. "See how we feel after lunch" Chris says.

I've got some orders for photographs to fill, so we spend some time packaging them, then I ride into the post office at Bicheno.


This print (inside the tube on the motorbike) is off to California, a couple of days later I receive a phone order direct from New Zealand. Just a few years ago this would have been unheard of

As most of my readers know I run a small business selling photographs from this web site.

It still blows me away that I can be camping in the Australian wilderness, while running a business that has, for example, a photo taken in Africa, printed in Perth, and shipped to places such as the US, England, Belgium, Algeria and the Ukraine.

The marvels of modern technology.

With business attended to I return from town and promptly nod off in my chair, waking at about four.

I guess we're not going anywhere today.

Wed 3 Dec

It's raining this morning, we planned to move the truck around to Coles Bay today. But it costs $11 a night there, and if it's raining we'll just sit around inside the truck anyway.

We can do that here for free.

I guess we're not going anywhere today either.

Thu 4 Dec

We finally leave Friendly Beaches. Heading back down the highway we turn off at Orford and make for the Wielangta forest drive, a shortcut to the Tasman Peninsula.

The drive is very scenic, but hilly and a dirt road, so the going is slow. At about 4 we pull into the Marion Bay lookout and decide to spend the night.

Fri 5 Dec

The lookout is not far from the highway and before long we're back on the bitumen.

We drive down onto the Tasman Peninsula and turn down another dirt track to Fortescue Bay, arriving to find that the campsites are a bit small.

While walking around the area looking for a suitable site, I start to notice some telltale signs that this will not be the quite bush camp that we prefer.

Firstly there are the boats, every camp has a boat or trailer, then there's the large piles of fire wood and the long rows of Eskys, but the most obvious sign is the empty beer bottles.

Oh dear.

We eventually find a nice spot.


Two extremes, a tinny and a huge motor launch, moored in Fortescue Bay

Shortly after we arrive someone turns a radio on. It's just a few minutes before 11 o'clock, so we hope they just want to listen to the news.

By 11:30 it's apparent that it's the cricket that's of interest to this camper, and if it's important to him, then why wouldn't everyone else want to listen to it?

Later, while searching for a position where the mobile phone will work, I get talking to three fellows with a table covered in empty beer bottles.

I never caught their names, but somehow Larry, Curly and Moe seem appropriate

I mention that I'm going to walk out to Cape Huay (pronounced hoy, as in "ship ahoy") tomorrow.

"Oooo that's a tough walk" one of the more rotund of the three says, "last time we did it we had to leave half of our beer on the track".

Hmmm, after that report on the track condition maybe I shouldn't go.

Just then a boat owner comes up and asks if someone can drive his car up the ramp, while he attends to the boat.

"Yeah no probs" says Larry, he reaches into the Esky for a refill, and follows the boat owner.

A few minutes later he's back, looking a bit shaken, "It's a bloody automatic" he says, "I put it into 'R' for run, and the bloody thing went backwards, almost put me in the drink".

Another camper comes over to look at the truck. He's a thirty-something local with the wife and kids in a pop-top caravan.

"How much fuel does this use?" he asks. I tell him. "That's nuthin', I used $300 worth in two days in me boat", "and the cruiser uses heaps. I could slow down of course, but I'm not into slowin' down".

We talk for some time as he desperately tries not to spill his beer while balancing on a large rock in an attempt to get closer to our window.

Later I see him driving his boat, and realise how he uses $300 of fuel in two days.

As the daylight fades the fires bloom, the beer flows and the stereos boom. The voices get louder, in the usual "talk louder to be heard over the music, then turn the music up to hear it over the talking", upward spiral.

Fortunately it's cold so we can close the shutters and isolate ourselves from some of the racket.

In contrast to the apparent redneckedness of the people who frequent Fortescue Bay, the graffiti in the toilets is decidedly "green".

Unlike the usual unprintables, there's conservation oriented slogans like "Tasmania, beautiful one day, deforested the next" and "Forestry Tasmania, chipping away at our future".

Sat 6 Dec

The forecast is for fine weather so we're off to Cape Huay today. I plan to camp there for the night, but Chris will come along for a day walk.

It's fairly steep going and we're both a bit puffed, but after about an hour we are rewarded with our first sight of the coastal cliffs.

There's still another 40 minutes to go, and it gets rougher from what we can see of the track on the next hill, so Chris calls it a day, content to sit and watch me struggle on.

Before long I reach a sign that reads "Track ends in 50 metres", a very welcome sign indeed, but why do the walkers need to know that.

Why?, because if you walk 51 metres you'll be walking on air, 100 metres above the Tasman Sea, and getting closer by the second.

The scenery is stunning, these huge cliffs are made of dolerite columns, many just hanging in there as if waiting for that little extra nudge to topple into the sea. Like the weight of an 80-kilogram bushwalker for instance.


Cape Pillar seen from Cape Huay. The boat is checking cray (lobster) pots near the base of The Monument.

I am very nervous when close to the edges.

The most famous of these columns is the "Totem Pole", a 70-metre solitary spire rising from the sea. It's a grade-27 climb, and a much sought after trophy for serious climbers.

Unfortunately, despite all the great photos of the Totem Pole in the camp office, it's very difficult to see much of it. You can lean out over an edge and look down on the top of the famous pillar...


The top few metres of the Totem Pole (lower left). This is about as much as you can see without being a rock climber

...and from another location I manage to see about half of it, but, unless your seriously into rock climbing, that's about all you'll do from the land. The best views would surely be from a boat.

I spend the afternoon exploring for camera angles and talking with other walkers.

I don't really like being on the edge of a cliff, but can tolerate it if need be, especially if looking through a camera which has the affect of removing one from reality a bit.

While taking a photo of a nearby cliff, and with my eye to the camera's viewfinder, I inch forward until the composition is just right.

I take the photo then remove the camera from my eye, only to look straight down to the surf, several seconds of free fall below.

"Oh ****" I exclaim out loud, as my feet try to push my rigid toes into the rock, in an attempt to provide an anchor. I inch backwards until I feel happy to stand up.


Two-hundred metre high cliffs at Cape Huay

I have found a good campsite, but it's right on the track so I'll make camp after sunset when, presumably, there'll be no people to struggle past my tent.


Two views from near my campsite.

Meanwhile I meet a nice ex-pat English couple, he looks and sounds very much like my brother-in-law who, as is happens should have landed in Aus today. He's been over here for thirty years (this fellow, not my brother-in-law), and neither he nor his wife have walked the Overland Track yet, but they plan to. They're using this walk as a training exercise, with rocks in the packs to make up the weight.

As the day wears on I meet another group. We seem to have a similar sense of humour and we chat for a while on the cliff edge. Bronte, one of the group, relays a humorous story about her Mum. It seems that she went sky diving for her 50th birthday, but blacked out and doesn't remember much of the experience.

Bronte also made an insightful comment, to the affect that having an interest like photography would cause one to go places and do things one might not otherwise do.

She's right, my motivation for going to many places is photography. I go there because I want to get good photographs.

Slowly the people leave, and the light gets better.

I return to a spot I identified earlier as a good location. It's still too light for the photo I have in mind though, and I don't feel comfortable on the narrow ledge, so I retreat and fill in my time photographing other parts of the coastline.


Lovely patterns in the water

As the light drops I return to the ledge and nervously photograph the Candlestick (one of the massive columns) and part of the Totem Pole.


The Candlestick (right of centre), one of the Lanterns (left) and the Totem Pole (lower right).


The island off the cape catches the last rays of sun.

Returning to my pack I attempt to erect my tent. The spot I found is not really large enough for it, and I have some trouble, also the ground is mostly rock and I can only use one tent peg.


My camp site, not much room for a tent, but I forgot my bivvy bag

Eventually I get squared away and settle down for some dinner.

The moon has risen and I sit on a ledge near my tent, watching the surf fluoresce at the base of The Lanterns.

It's been a tiring day though, and before long I'm heading for the rock ridden two-square-metres of Cape Huay that will pass as a bed for the night.

Just as I'm settling down I hear rustling noises outside the tent. I stick my head out and discover a possum, it stares into my torch beam for a moment, then waddles off. I had been thinking earlier that there wouldn't be any such animals out here on the cape because there's no water. I guess I was wrong.

As I lay, S-shaped with a six-inch high boulder in the small of my back, I wonder...what the hell am I doing here?

Then I think of tomorrow's sunrise, and how, according to my compass reading, the early light will strike the cliff at just the right angle, creating a beautiful photo.

Sun 7 Dec

I've got some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is that I slept in and missed the sunrise.

The good news is that it's overcast, there wasn't a sunrise to miss.


The sunrise I didn't miss

That's life I guess. I have breakfast, go for a brief walk along the cliffs, then pack up and head home.

The down-hills of the inbound trip are now of course up-hills, but it's cool and I just plod along. Before long I reach the high point of the walk, from here it's all down.

Now that I'm not gasping for breath and watching my feet I look around and notice the wildflowers. There's orchids and bright eyes, yellow things and purple things, but it's not until I spot a young banksia cone that I'm tempted to stop and get the camera out.


Cute young Banksia cone

Banksias have had a bad rap, thanks to May Gibbs and her "Snuggle Pot & Cuddle Pie" books. Most Australian kids (at least of my vintage) will have had a nightmare or two after reading about the "big bad banksia men", and seeing their multi-mouthed caricatures in the book.

But this one looks so cute, and nearby are two that look all soft and hairy and benign.


Cute fuzzy Banksia cones

Then I find their big bad cousins.


Big ugly Banksia cones.

Hmmm, Ms Gibbs may have a point.

After a couple of hours walk I reach the camp ground and Wothahellizat, the mothership.

I spend the rest of the afternoon watching the antics of the seagulls. It's quiet fascinating to watch the body language, and obviously different characters, of the birds.


Seagull scramble for crumbs

Mon 8 Dec

We leave Fortescue Bay and make our way past Port Arthur. We've been to the historical convict settlement before, and rumour has it that they now charge $22 per person to enter, so this time we'll give it a miss.

After inspecting the carpark at the Cape Raoul trail head, and deciding it's not suitable as a camp for Chris while I'm on the walk, we drive to Lime Bay.

Lime Bay however is eminently suitable, and we park within three metres of the water.


Campsite at Lime Bay

Tomorrow I'm meeting Glen Turvey (one of the Tarkine photographers), he's supposed to pick me up but he's got car problems. Just by chance though his parents are camping right here at Lime Bay, not twenty metres away.

I go up and have a cuppa around their camp fire, and we arrange to borrow their other car and do a swap.

Tue 9 Dec

Glen arrives at about nine. He talks about a test he had to sit for entrance into an "Outdoor Rec" course at university, his dad then relates a story about an old bushwalking friend.

I'll pass on the bushwalking story in the form of a multiple answer question like the one Glen just sat, and suggest that it should be included in the university entrance test.

Question 1
You step over a log and feel something bashing at your lower leg. Looking down you notice that you've placed your foot on a Tiger snake's head, and the bashing you feel is the rest of it's body threshing around in an attempt to get free. As you know Tiger snakes are deadly and very aggressive, and, although there's no scientific evidence that standing on their head makes them more aggressive, you assume that it doesn't help.

You...

  1. Slowly bend down, undo your boot laces, extract your foot while maintaining pressure on the snake, then jump free and retrieve your footwear when the snake has got over it and left.
  2. Maintain pressure on the snake, reach back for your knife, slowly bend down and cut off the snake's head.
  3. Maintain pressure on the snake, reach back for your knife, and cut off your foot, making sure that the cut is clean so the appendage can be grafted back on once the snake has gone.
  4. Lower your pack, crouch down, jump as far as you can, then run like hell. You can return for the pack later.

Correct answer below.

One of Glen's reasons for wanting to do this walk, apart from the fact that he hasn't been to Cape Raoul before, is to get a feel for using a large format camera in the field.

To this end I'm loaning him my Tachihara. He already has a pretty heavy pack and, after we insert another seven kilos of camera it's all he can do to lift it.

Still, he's young and fit.

After another cuppa with his parents we head off to the trail head.

The map shows an uphill walk to a lookout, then a bit more uphill, then downhill to the plateau at the top of the cliffs. There's also a lake shown. Glen plans to fill up there, but I don't trust that it will be OK, or even there at all, so I'm carrying six litres of water, a burden I'd rather not have.

Right from the moment we leave the carpark it's uphill, and it stays that way for about an hour until we reach the lookout.

Here we stop for a welcome break and a snack. The ledge we're on is over 400 metres above sea level, there's an immediate 200-metre vertical drop, then a small tree-covered slope, followed by another 200-metre drop into the waves. It's pretty spectacular.

We continue upwards, fortunately traversing around the side of Mt Raoul and not over the top.

When we reach the far side of the mountain the track drops 200 metres to the plateau. It's very steep and I can only think of having to walk back up on our return trip.

At the the plateau we initially walk through a forest of Sheoaks, then the vegetation opens out to scrub, and eventually open grassy areas.

It's here that we find the lake, at this time of year little more than a large puddle. There's a lot of animal tracks at the edge, so it looks like we will be able to stock up on water.

Glen fills his bottle and takes a sip.

Phsssaarg! (sound of water being ejected from mouth and throat being cleared at the same time)

"Oooo, have a taste" he says.

After that glowing critique I'm not sure I should, and just drop a little on my tongue.

It's almost pure salt water, and we're 200 metres above the ocean. Good thing I've got the six litres.

We continue and very soon arrive at the end of the trail. We drop our packs and peer over the edge to see the dolerite columns leading down to the Tasman Sea, 200 metres below.

It's very spectacular but the light's no good right now so we set up camp. By this time the wind has picked up and we have trouble finding a sheltered spot, eventually settling on a semi-flat dust bowl amongst the bushes.

Once settled we return to the cliffs. It seems that the best photo locations require one to get very exposed on the top of some of the narrow columns. With a 200-metre drop, nothing to hang on to, and high winds, we're understandably a little nervous.


Afternoon light on the sea, and a balancing rock, near the end of the cape.

A huge column catches my eye and I edge my way to a vantage point. I get almost to the place I want, then lose my nerve, anyway the light's still not good.


The huge dolerite finger that caught my eye

We return to camp for a rest.

While exploring Glen finds a stash of water and equipment just a few metres from our camp. There's a backpack, about ten bottles of water, a tin with "Research Analysis " written on the lid, and a tarpaulin.

The entire collection is placed in the dense scrub and only about two metres from the cliff edge. Did someone take a fall? We peer over the edge but can't see anything.

The pack is badly deteriorated, it's been here for a long time. We open it to find that it's full of crushed plastic bottles. The tin contains several artefacts, some stainless steel Dyna bolts, two short lengths of chain, a box of matches, and two tea bags.

The tarp is rolled and rather large, "it's got something inside" says Glen, "should we check that out?".

"Not today" I reply, "we've got to sleep next to it all night".

Later we hear the sound of engines, probably a fishing trawler, their sound can carry for miles.

The noise gets louder and closer, it's no fishing trawler. But what the hell is it?

We stand up and look around, half expecting a bus load of tourists or something, but not what actually appears.

Four bright red planes shoot past. They're in formation, at cliff height, and banking steeply with wings near vertical. Presumably they are a stunt team like the Red Arrows or some such.

What are the chances of that?, and we haven't got our cameras out.

As the sun lowers we return to the cliffs. The light however is still not good, and Glen decides to explore further afield.


The rocks and waves are 200m below.


It's very windy, which is one reason we're hesitant about photographing from the cliff edges. I choose a safer subject

I also start to wander, but then look at the clouds and decide that there's a good chance the sun will break through for a brief period.

I have a particular shot in mind, and so return to the cliffs and wait. I sit back from the edge, near the spot I will take the photo from, I'm not going out there until the last moment, and I'll stay there just as long as I must to get the shot.

The sun brightens and I can see it's about to peek from behind the clouds.

I inch my way to the edge, the light is right, I fire off about eight frames, then as an afterthought, another two horizontals. The light fades, and I retreat to the safety of the cliff top.


As the sun sets I return to the rock finger.

In about 30 seconds it's all over, I'm shaking, but happy that I've made a couple of nice images.


The finger catches the very last rays

Tomorrow morning we'll try to photograph the other side of the cape at sunrise. I set the alarm for 5:00, that should give us half an hour to setup before the sun rises at around 5:30.

Then I settle in for the night, trying not to think about the nearby tarpaulin.

Wed 10 Dec

It's light, I look at the alarm clock with sleepy eyes, 37 past! "Bloody hell". I quickly dress and yell out to Glen as I run past his tent.

On reaching my vantage point I realise that the sun is nowhere near rising. I check my watch, 4:40, oops.

Oh well, plenty of time to look for a better spot.

The place I had intended to photograph from was secure enough, but caused some unsightly rocks to appear in the foreground. The best spot is just over there, on that square metre of sloping dolerite column top.

I transfer the camera, tripod and myself to the platform, gingerly stepping across the intervening gap.

Once there I notice that the light is nice over nearby Tasman Island, but I need a different lens. I step across the gap again and collect my 135mm.


Pre-dawn sky and Tasman Island

Then I see another shot that could really do with a 200mm lens. Back I go, this time hardly noticing the gap.

By the time the sun actually rises I've jumped to and from the column top so many times I don't even notice the gap or the 200-metre drop.

Eventually the sun does make an entrance, and we get just a minute or so of that lovely red light.


Cape Raoul's dolerite columns catch the day's first light

Before it disappears behind the clouds.


Tasman Island, after the sun disappears behind the clouds

On our return we decide it's time to check out the tarpaulin. I gingerly approach and unwrap the outer layers to find...another tarp.


The strange collection of equipment we found in the bushes next to our camp

Lucky I didn't do that yesterday, I never would have slept knowing the gruesome contents of that bundle.

We initially intended to stay here for two days, but the campsite is not very pleasant, and we've got some good photos of the cape, so we decide to shift camp to Shipstern Bluff.

We retrace our steps, stopping for about an hour to photograph the amazingly twisted trees, and peculiarly eroded rocks, that are common on this part of the cape.


Wind-pruned and distorted bushes.


This is a living plant, next time you think you've got it tough, spare a thought for this bush

Having put off the climb for as long as reasonable we continue and soon reach the steep side of Mt Raoul.

Glen's pack is heavier than mine but he still leaves me behind on this steep section. Still, he is twenty years younger than me. I just plod along, and actually don't find the climb very taxing at all, it's just a matter of keeping to your own pace.

I find that if I stay within my aerobic capacity I can plod along all day. But the minute I go over that limit, say to keep up with someone else, the oxygen doesn't get to the muscles fast enough, and it's goodnight nurse, I have to rest.

We snack at the lookout, then continue down to the Shipstern Bluff track junction.

I admit to being tempted to continue straight to the car, I've achieved my goal to photograph the cliffs at Cape Raoul, and to now go down to the bluff means another steep descent, with the associated ascent tomorrow.

Glen convinces me though, and we turn left at the junction.

After 15 minutes we emerge from the forest onto another lookout, this one overlooking the bluff. There's another plateau about 100 metres below us and we plan to camp there, after negotiating a very steep zigzag path.

At the bottom of the zigzag section the track continues to descend, and all I can think of is that every step I take down is another I have to take up tomorrow.

There's nowhere to camp along the track, but eventually it meets a 4WD "road" which is wide enough to place our tents.


Those nice Tasmanians, always telling me where to go

We make camp. I erect my tent then unroll my Thermarest. It looks so inviting that I lie down, and wake up a couple of hours later.


My tent on the 4WD track

Glen has followed my good example so now we're both refreshed, and decide to head down to the bluff.

Shipstern Bluff consists of 200-metre cliffs shaped like a ship's stern, hence the name.

In height they are the same as those at Cape Raoul, but they're different in every other respect.

The rock here is sedimentary, the cliffs being made up of horizontal layers, also, here at Shipstern you view the cliff from below as there's a track to the rock platform at their base.

Our guidebook states that you shouldn't get too close to the cliff as there is a real danger of falling rocks. It also states that we shouldn't get too close to the sea, because there's a real danger from large waves.

That doesn't really leave anywhere to walk at all, so we initially just try to stay somewhere in the middle of the platform.

The patterns on this platform are weird to say the least. In places the rock is pockmarked, as though pecked at by a huge bird while still molten.

In other places there's a lattice of dead-straight lines, some parallel with each other, others at odd angles, others forming "Ts" when they meet at right angles. As though the pavement had been made by a manic concreter.

Scattered at random are "eggs" of various sizes, embedded oval rocks of a different type to the main body.


An embedded "egg" in the platform

We see thousands of boulders, some as large as the proverbial house, all of which have obviously fallen from the cliff above.


Huge boulders that have fallen from the cliffs. They're well eroded though, must have been here for years

This does lend credence to the guidebook's warning, but the rocks have obviously been there for centuries as they're well eroded.

The we find some that have equally obviously been there just days, weeks at the most, as they have very sharp edges and even still have dirt in places.


More boulders, these ones are recent falls.

While not as large as their aforementioned house-sized brothers, some are several tonnes in weight. Others are much smaller, but let's face it, even a one-kilo rock would deck you after falling 200 metres.

At one point we find a weird star-shaped mark in the rock. "Wonder what that is?" says Glen as we stand around it looking down, "Looks like an impact crater" I reply, "it would have to be something massive to cause that".

We look up, then slowly move away.


Waves drain through the kelp from an elevated pool

There's a cold front forecast for this afternoon and it hits at about 4 o'clock. With it comes heavy clouds, dull light and fierce winds. Glen's tripod blows over, and we feel that we've done what we can for the time being, so we call it a day and trudge back up the cliff to our camp.

After another lie-down and some dinner, Glen walks to the top of the cliffs. I've pretty much had it, but follow after a few minutes just for something to do.

I encounter Glen as he rushes back up the track. He's all enthusiastic and reckons that the sun will make another appearance as it approaches the horizon.

"I'm going back down" he declares.

I really don't want to but his enthusiasm is infectious, and anyway, it's too early to go bed.

We collect our torches and head back down to the rock shelf.

Things don't look too promising for a while, but then it becomes apparent that, if one cloud moves fast enough, and another doesn't move at all, the sun will in fact shine through.

With this in mind I look for a composition that will look nice in the resultant strong side light.

I find a spot with many vertical edges, it looks dull now, but should be nice with the almost horizontal light. I set up the camera and wait.

Noticing that I've only got one frame left on this roll, I rewind it and put a new one in. If anything happens it will happen quickly, and I don't want to be changing films in the middle of it.

Slowly the light improves, then suddenly it gets fantastic. I take several exposures of the scene I had set up on, then look around.


The rock platform as the sun shines through a hole in the clouds

The cliffs over there look good, I change lenses and photograph them. Then the cliff in the other direction look good, a different lens, and another shot.


The cliffs to the east and west of Shipstern Bluff.

What about that kelp?, I change to yet another lens, lean over the edge and take another photo.


Cape Raoul form the platform with barnacles and seaweed in the foreground

Just as I press the shutter button the light fades. I change lenses again and make a photo of Cape Raoul as the last rays touch it.


The very last rays touch Cape Raoul

In less than a minute I've taken 18 frames of 7 different scenes and swapped lenses half a dozen times. One day I must buy a zoom lens.

We're not finished yet though. The sun has gone behind a narrow cloud band and it's obvious that it will reappear.

I search for another scene and wait again. While waiting I look over the edge into the water, the rock dives vertically into the ocean and I can see quite a way down in these clear waters.

I'm not a water lover so I'm not comfortable looking into the depths. The sight of the deeper kelp, writhing like the tentacles of something I don't want to know about, doesn't help either.

I step back.

The sun does reappear, but it's so close to the horizon that the light is very weak. I make an exposure of the seaweed then swing the camera around and photograph the sun itself.


Final moments of the sun

After it sets Glen and I meet up, the sky is looking good, but not fantastic.

"I very seldom photograph sunset skies" I say to him. As the words are uttered I spot the scene over his shoulder, "Unless there's a great cliff as well" I yell while running to a better vantage point.


The sky starts to redden

Then the sky explodes into brilliant orange, now I'll photograph a sunset sky.


Then explodes into a full on brilliant sunset

Finally the light dies, this time for good. We make our way back up the cliff in the twilight. A cup of hot chocolate would be lovely right about now, but we're almost out of water, so we just hit the sack.

It's been a heck of a day.

Thu 11 Dec

It's clear, so there probably was a good sunrise this morning, but we don't care and sleep in.

After a drier than normal breakfast we ration the remaining water, pack up, and walk towards the zigzag climb.

I'm dreading it, but just hunker down in my "trudge mode", and before I know it we're standing at the top.

On this climb I actually think I'm doing better than Glen, he's 30 and very fit, but carrying an extremely heavy pack. I joke that now he knows what it's like to be 50.

Half an hour later we're back at the car downing the content of a bottle of red cordial I'd left behind.

Half an hour later again we're in the Wothahellizat pub, with a cold tumbler of my "Graywater" lager.

Fri 12 Dec

The rangers come around and chat this morning. It seems that there's a huge fire in the Tarkine, another one in the Fortescue Bay/Cape Huay/Cape Pillar area, and Cape Raoul is ablaze.

Bushwalkers are being evacuated by helicopter.

It seems that everywhere I've been lately has caught on fire shortly thereafter.

It's very dry around here and the locals are praying for rain, the ranger included. He's no sooner left than it buckets down, thunder, lighting, the whole lot.

Sat 13 Dec

I've got a get together of Tarkine photographers and writers to go to tonight, so we head back into town.

We park on a dead-end section of the old highway, close to the airport, and I ride into Hobart. The Tiger Trails office is jam packed with people, and I have to lie down on the floor to watch the slide show.

And what a slide show, still, I guess with the nature of the participants you would expect the photos to be good.

My photos hold up well against the "competition" which I'm happy about.

Sun 14 Dec

After spending the morning shopping and uploading the web site we move out to Seven Mile Beach.


Wothahellizat snuggles into a spot at Seven Mile Beach

Mon 15 Dec

Ever since we arrived in Hobart Chris has wanted to go down to Opossum Bay, on the map it looks promising as a camp site, with a dirt road leading out to a point.

When we arrive however we find a narrow street with nowhere to easily turn the truck.

The dirt road is fenced off, and the point it leads to is being developed as a subdivision.

So much for camping here.

We now plan to head across town (Hobart town that is) and camp on the other side. I turn my phone on and find that I've got a voice mail from someone in New Zealand. They're want to order a photograph. I ring back and we arrange the details.

We need to organise the printing of the photo, so decide to hang around near where we are and return to Seven Mile Beach.


Another great evening sky

Tue 16 Dec

We don't really know where to go today, and the weather is fine (32 degrees) so we just laze around at Seven Mile beach.

Apart from some idiots doing donuts in the dirt carpark, the day is very relaxing.

According to the evening news, there's still a large fire at Fortescue Bay, all the campers were evacuated a couple of days ago, and a bushwalker was helicoptered out from Cape Pillar.

Wed 17 Dec

The weather is back to "normal", raining and cool.

We drive over to the showgrounds at Glenorchy, it's a bit industrial compared to the places we've been camping lately. Still it's only for a couple of days.

Thu 18 Dec

I meet up for coffee with Chris Bell, one of Australia's best known landscape photographers.

We talk for a couple of hours, going over some of the issues that affect people who photograph in the wilderness, such as photographing in national parks. Many national institutions seem to think that us photographers make millions from our photographs, and therefore we should pay large licence fees.

It's a problem that isn't going away in a hurry, although the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers) has made a lot of progress in the area.

The showgrounds also hosts the harness and dog races and, at about 8PM, we start to hear race calling on PA.

The calling seems intermittent though, with just the ends of some races and starts of others.

I walk up to the track and can see nothing on it except for the groundsman with his tractor. Maybe someone's testing the PA, it shouldn't last long.

11PM, they're still testing.

Fri 19 Dec

Chris' sister and brother-in-law (Anna & Mike) have flown out from the UK and are arriving in Hobart in a couple of days. We'll be hosting them in the truck and showing them around Tasmania, but to do that we need a car so today we pick up a hire car.

It's an 80s model from one of those cheap companies, but a nice car nonetheless, and why pay a fortune?

While on the subject of hire car pricing, we see all sorts of ads for hire cars with headings like "$35 per day, no more to pay". But you just try to rent a car for $35 per day.

The advertised price is just for the "hire component", there's also the insurance, the registration recovery fee, the airport pickup levy, the extras mileage, a minimum 10 days rental, GST, stamp duty, etc etc.

None of these extra fees are optional, so why advertise the $35 when the minimum price is actually $70 or $80 per day?

This is straight out false advertising!, and I can't believe its legal.

All the rental companies seem to be guilty of it, all that is except Brent Auto Rent, they offer older model cars "from $28 per day", no extra fees of any kind.

We rang (03 6272 6358 mob:0418 121 397) and sure enough we could hire a car at $28, but we elected for a larger model at $35.

Their core business appears to be a mechanical workshop so one assumes that the vehicles are maintained. Certainly ours had no problems, and we did a lot of miles in it (no limited kilometres clause) with some on dirt roads (no unsealed road clause).

Chris hops in and heads off to Friendly Beaches, she will secure our old spot if possible, while I follow in the truck.

Sat 20 Dec

I received a large email today, a very large email, so large that it's impossible to download over the mobile phone, especially with the dodgy reception we have here.

I'm very not impressed as this email will now block all others until it's been read. I can't use a facility like Webmail to delete it because that takes almost as long and, as I said, the connection here is not reliable enough to last for the time I'd need. Then there's the cost of the call.

So we drive down to Coles Bay, looking for an Internet cafe. There is none, but we're told that the nearby Freycinet Lodge has some facilities.

On arrival at the lodge we find that we can indeed plug into a phone line for as long as required, for the cost of a local call.

Now that's what I call a bargain.

I log in and start downloading the offending email. It's about 2Meg in size and still takes nearly quarter of an hour to download.

Finally it appears in my inbox, I open it to find an unsolicited sales pitch about reversing cameras, complete with two enormous PDF brochures attached.

I'm normally very polite when telling people not to send large emails, but this really pisses me off. It's just not done to send anyone an email that large without asking first, let alone someone who connects with a mobile phone.

My reply went something like this.

What the #$^@&& hell ^%$#^%#!@%$ you doing @$&**&^*& 2 mega bytes #@#@$%$#%$ mobile bloody phone %$#%$#%@ cost me a fortune %$#@%$@%$ drove 40 kilometres %$%$#*&^% your stupid product &%$^%@(( not interested.

Rude letter follows.

With that out of my system I return to Friendly Beaches and relax watching the waves.

Sun 21 Dec

We drive down to Hobart and pick up Anna & Mike from the airport. It's good to see them after three years, and we do a lot of catching up on the return journey.

The truck is not really set up to sleep four people so I've set up a tent under the deck as a guest room. Although it's me that will be sleeping in it.

Because they retire earlier than us, and rise later, we give them the bedroom so we have the use of the lounge room while they sleep.

Also, they're not used to sleeping in tents and I am, I even enjoy it. That just leaves Chris, she makes up a bed on the lounge room floor.

There's a howling gale tonight, Mike's a sailor and he estimates force 6-7.

Mon 22 Dec

The wind has gone and it's nice and sunny this morning.

We spend the day just sitting around catching up some more and checking out some motorhome magazines they brought over from the UK.

We're thinking of going overseas for a while and would like to buy a camper to live in for the duration.

Another howling gale pops up this afternoon.

Thu 25 Dec

We're really just in tourist mode at present, showing Anna and Mike around the state. As such I've not had time to write or photograph much, but today we drive up to the nearby town of Bicheno and I take a camera.


Fishing boats in the harbour at Bicheno

There's a very pleasant coastal walk here, from the town to the blowhole. About half way along is Governor's Island and the ruins of the old Coal House.


Ruins near Governor's Island, the wall is from the old Coal house, the ring is attached to the rock below the wall.

As we continue to the blowhole I'm distracted by the colour of the rocks and stop. The others continue.


More of that incredibly coloured lichen

When they return a few minutes later I've found an interesting area of Hare's Tail grass and flowers.


Flowers, insects and a dead crayfish. What more could you ask for?

In the space of about ten minutes I get my my photo-taking fix for the week.

Later we enjoy our evening meal and a few drinks, the weather's fine and the view's great.


Anna and Mike polish off their West Australian wine after dinner.


Now I see why that tourist thought the truck was a cafe.


The last view of Friendly beaches, although we may return in the autumn

Wed 31 Dec

As I mentioned, we've been doing the tourist thing with Anna & Mike lately, and talking till the wee hours, so I've not had time for any diary writing.

They've returned to England now and we've moved back to Hobart, so we'll have a quiet New Year's Eve in the Glenorchy Showgrounds.

 

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