Wanderer Photographics


Three Capes Track  13th-16th February 2017


Day 1, Monday 13th February-Boat trip from Port Arthur to Surveyors Cove-Walk to Surveyors Hut-4km


We arrived at Port Arthur early in blustery conditions with regular showers and booked in at the Visitor Centre. I was the youngest at 66 and our packs varied from 9-14kgs. After a walk around the Port Arthur precinct, cut short by showers we had a coffee and carried our gear down to the jetty.

The Pennicot boat crew introduced themselves and told us that due to the conditions our cruise down to Mt Brown was cancelled and it would be straight across to Surveyors Cove. We were also introduced to the latest in overall weather protection; one size fits all. Our skipper started giving his spiel on the area as the horizontal rain passed right through the boat. He gave up in disgust and we motored across to Surveyors Cove where we waited until the shower passed before disembarking onto the sand through the front ramp; still very windy.




Leaving the boat and our eager crew, L-R Lesley, Eddie, Mary and Garry


We were going to have lunch at the cove but because of the wind decided to wait. Group photos at the start of the walk, a boot wash at the boot cleaning station, and we were on our way. We stopped for lunch in a patch of sun after three quarters of an hour walking on the best formed track around, good gravel, well drained and the stone steps a work of art. The lunch break was cut short by another heavy shower. The track to our first accommodation was well graded with only one steep climb.




Surveyors ‘Hut’, accommodation units at the front, kitchens on the right and toilets behind, plus a couple of locals


Arriving at the accommodation we were met by Ranger Joel who showed us our room and then the kitchen area. The accommodation is set up for 48 guests in various sized rooms holding from four to eight people; our room was one with four bunks. Ours was the smallest group through for quite a while, only 42. The views from the deck across Mt Brown to Cape Raoul were great. The accommodation was set on the edge of stunted dry eucalypt forest and moorland. Around 6pm the Ranger gave us a briefing on the next day’s walk and the weather forecast etc.

The cooking area was well set out with enough pots and pans and cooking implements; there was also a comprehensive library. After dinner, freeze dried meal of coqu au vin and mashed potato I spent time on the deck trying to photograph the sunset between horizontal showers with mixed success. While I was photographing the others were inside making use of the Scrabble, chess etc. We retired to bed around 9pm after a mixed day of all the weather Tasmania could throw at us.


Day 2, Tuesday 14th February, Valentine’s Day-Surveyors Hut to Munro Hut-11km


After a mixed night’s sleep with regular showers coming through we were up around 7am; breakfasted and packed up and waited for the weather to clear somewhat. The forecast was pretty good so we waited around until 9.30am before setting off.

The days walk was extremely varied with gravel track, board walk and stone steps. We walked through dry eucalypt forest and moorland with a steepish climb up to the top of Arthurs Peak (312m) where good views awaited us. The track is well planned with relatively safe viewing points along the way. After Arthurs Peak the track followed the cliff edge for a while and the weather was improving.




Climbing up to Arthurs Peak and Arthurs Peak with Mt Brown and Cape Raoul in the background


The vegetation was changing as we climbed up to the cloud forest where the forest was comprised of plants that liked the wetter conditions. Walking down from the cloud forest the forest was comprised of taller eucalypts that liked the wetter conditions and as we walked to lower levels the forest turned dry again until we arrived at the top end of the Ellarwey Valley. This was our lunch stop but it was so windy it was a quick one. From the Ellarwey Valley we walked back into stunted eucalypt forest that protected us from the wind and then into taller forest along the northern side of Tornado Ridge (the name says it all). 




Ellarwey Valley and a boot washing station


At the northern end of Tornado Ridge we joined onto the original track that took us south east to Munro Hut, another hour’s walk away. There was also another boot washing station at this junction. The last hours walk went past wet gullies and wet forest that contained myrtle and sassafras, plus a white lipped whip snake that was too shy to have its photo taken, before arriving at Munro Hut that sat on the side of Munro Bight. The hut has a viewing platform complete with binoculars and there were stunning views of Cape Raul. After booking in we moved into room 9, our number for the trip, as well as having a quick shower. This was the only hut to have this luxury. After a cup of soup we spent time at the helipad which also had magnificent views. From this hut the walk out to Cape Pillar is without packs so the previous occupants were wandering through from their walk on their way to the next hut. Most stopped for a cuppa so the kitchen area (only one at this hut) was congested at times.

All the buildings were built elsewhere before being pulled apart and flat packed into packs weighing 800kgs and then transported by helicopter to be rebuilt at the hut sites. All the buildings are extremely well built and all the waste is flown out. Whatever packaging we had for our food we had to carry out. There is a Ranger at each hut with a roving Ranger as well. They work eight days on and six days off and as well as cleaning the accommodation (walkers are expected to clean their own rooms and wash up the dishes etc.) the Rangers work on the track.




On the track and Cape Hauy from the helipad at Munro


The kitchen was a bit congested at dinner time but we ate well again before an early night; not much of a sunset.


Day 3, Wednesday 15th February-Munro Hut to Retakunna Hut via The Blade-17km-supposed to take 5 hours but we took nearly 7


I was up early to photograph the sunrise from the helipad which turned out alright and was joined by quite a few other walkers. It was going to be a long day so we were ready and headed off at 8am.




Track to Cape Pillar and Tasman Island


We dropped our big packs in a shed and carried day packs. The first part of the walk was up Corruption Gully, full of cutting grass and bauera and other wet species. Then across Hurricane Heath, past Perdition Pond and onto the cliffs near where the name ‘My Blood Runs Cold’ appears. Tremendous views all the way along here of Yankee Rock, The Blade, The Trident and of course our destination, The Blade and the iconic Tasman Island with its lighthouse and cottages. The wind picked up again and was fairly roaring when we reached The Blade. The track up The Blade is a work of art but you still have to hang on in the windy conditions. Good views all around at the top but the wind ensured we did not stay there very long.




The Trident, The Blade and Tasman Island and walking up and down The Blade


The walk back to Munro did not take long apart from a photo stop for a Tiger Snake beside the boardwalk. He did not move either, just flattened his head a bit more. Back at Munro we picked up our packs and repacked them with what we had taken to The Blade, had a drink and something to eat and walked the hour to Retakunna Hut. Settled in and had a wander about enjoying the sun, it had been cloudy most of the morning. Walked down the track a little way and saw another White Lipped Whip Snake; he did not want his photo taken either. Back at the accommodation (too fancy to be called a hut) the Ranger gave us our daily briefing and then we had tea, a game of scrabble (I did not win) and into bed at 8.45pm, it had been a long day.




Our friendly Tiger Snake and resting at Retakunna; life’s tough



Day 4, Thursday 16th February-Retakunna Hut to Fortescue Bay via Cape Hauy-14km-supposed to take 6 to 7 hours, it took us 7


Everyone in the camp was up early as the walkers catching the 2pm bus had to leave at 7am and us at 9am as we were catching the 4pm bus. Because we are a bit slower than a lot of the walkers we left at 8am and our first challenge was the ‘well graded’ track up Mt Fortescue (482m). It was not too bad and the vegetation changed from dry forest to wet with a few patches of rain forest and manferns along the way. Excellent view of Cape Pillar from the top and then a mostly gentle walk down the long ridge to the north of Mt Fortescue. After a while we were back on the cliff edges again and today the sun was shining and the colours made the photos much more appealing.




Happy walkers and sea cliffs with Cape Pillar in the distance


At the turn off to Cape Hauy some of our walking group were back from the Cape and they were hot and sweaty, we soon found out why.

As soon as we finished lunch (it took us 3½ hours to get here) we packed the day pack again and headed off. Not far from the junction there were steep steps dropping away and we could see the climb on the other side; and there was another one over the next ridge. The views were indescribable and it took an hour to walk to the viewing platform through the short coastal scrub and past a sinkhole that was very close to the track. At the lookout there were a few people about and apparently people were climbing the Totem Pole (a rock climbers paradise), but we did not see them. On the way back to the junction it took us 25 minutes to walk up that last hill.




Walking out to Cape Hauy (we are at the top of the steep climb), sea cliffs and the Totem Pole; a wire rope to assist climbers can be seen joining the Pole to the mainland


We were told it was all downhill from the junction, but we did not believe them as we are Tasmanian (most of the walkers (97%) on the Three Capes Track are from mainland Australia with a sprinkling from overseas) and we were right. It took a bit over an hour to reach the small shop at Fortescue Bay and the ice-cream that we had been looking forward to.

The Pennicot bus arrived soon after and as soon as everyone was organised we boarded for the drive back to our car in the long term car park, tired with sore calves from all the steps, but happy.




Walking back from Cape Hauy and Fortescue Bay 


Was it all that it is cracked up to be? Yes and more, one of the great walking experiences in Tasmania. Even though the huts hold 48 people that number of people is not noticeable on the track because of the different walking rates and leaving times. There is no kick out time at the accommodation; you just cannot stay there two nights as they are booked out at this time of year.


©Garry Richardson 2017