Three Capes Track #4: Retakunna to Fortescue Bay

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February 7th 2017
Published: February 24th 2019
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Our final day on the trail! We were leaving Retakunna and heading to Fortescue Bay via Cape Hauy. The trail would be about 14 kilometres and would take about My friend and I were known as the two who always lag behind because we would stop and have story time at each 'Encounter' we passed along the way. At Fortescue Bay, there are two shuttle buses to take you back to Port Arthur and by the time we had booked the hike, only the earlier shuttle of 2 pm was still available, the 4 pm one was fully booked. We knew that due to our slow pace that we would have to get up at the crack of dawn to make it in time. Luckily, our lovely bunkmates stepped in. The idea of swapping buses had been floated around by a few people. 'The Hurry Woman' as she as known by us and our roommates had wanted to swap with them, which none of us could understand as she was always rushing around with her husband following her. Anyway, while talking our roommates then offered to swap with us, which was very kind of them and we happily took them up on their offer. This gave us a lot more breathing room and meant we didn't have to rush so much. After breakfast, we got some photos of Retakunna and then headed onto the trail.

The trail today started with an uphill climb that wasn't too strenuous. We soon reached our first 'Encounter', where we were able to take a rest. 'The Dark Side' is the transition point from the open plain to the wet forest. The environment around us had changed; it was darker, colder and wetter. The canopy had changed and it had become quieter. There were fewer birds around as there is less for them to feed on. It is so different to the type of landscapes we had previously walked through on the trail. It definitely felt different here. From there, it was a short walk through the forest to our next 'Encounter', which was 'Blood on the Velvet Lounge'. It was an interesting name and the bench that marked the spot was rather cool. It's kind of hard for me to describe, so it's much easier just to look at a picture of it. The booklet described all the different little critters or 'mini-beasts' as they called them, that live in the forest lurking under logs. I hate creepy crawlies of any kind so I was hoping that I would only have to read about them and not see any of them face to face. The bug/critter theme continued in our next 'Encounter'. 'The Underworld' described those critters that lived in the soil. I know that they are needed for the balance of nature, but they just freak me out. The Raspy-cricket looked particularly scary.

We reached the end of our uphill climb and were rewarded with some magnificent views. We could see Cape Pillar in the distance and Tasman Island peeking out behind it.We were also near the 'Encounter' of '10,000', which refers to the distance that humpback whales can swim. They swim this far on their long migratory journey from their Antarctic feeding grounds to the warmer waters around the Australian coastline, where they come to breed. Also Southern Right Whales like the waters around Tasmania and southern Australia for giving birth. We also read about the migration of Short-tailed shearwaters, which are a type of migratory bird that return to Australia to breed. I enjoyed finding out about things that are happening in this area, which we cannot see, either underwater or in the sky and burrows. It was just another small reminder of all that goes on on this planet and how much we miss.

Our descent started after this and it was through the rainforest at first. We came to the 'Encounter' of 'Forever Linked'. We were surrounded by plants that had evolved from ancestors, who dated back to the time of the dinosaurs when Australia was still part of the supercontinent Gondwana. It was cool to learn how as the supercontinent split and the southern landmasses formed their present positions, they carried with them flora and fauna that would show how they were once linked. The rainforests here are remnants of the great rainforests that once covered Australia and contain some of the oldest ferns and conifers in the world. We continued along the trail and a signpost directed us to 'Once upon a time...' This was a wooden deck where sit or lay back and enjoy the forest around you. Here, we read quotes from literature about trees, which was nice and relaxing. We were soon able to see the coastline again. The rock formations looked magnificent and the vast ocean stretched before us. Since there are no barriers here separating people from the edge of the cliff, for me, it was a little scary as I could envisage myself falling off the edge and plunging to my death in the ocean below. Others were braver than I was, and soon people were scooting out to sit on the ledge. I'm sure the views would have been slightly better, but there is no way I could have done that. While taking in the views, we read 'Pillars of the South'. This detailed some of the responses that mariners have had when they first saw the ancient pillars of stone. It also described the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, which takes place every year and is the most difficult yacht race in the world. The race passes around Tasman Island and must sneak through a tight gap.

The trail took us to 'Pardon me for intruding' next. Once again, the views from this spot were magnificent. The colour of the sea was a beautiful deep blue. We could look back and see the progress we had made. This 'Encounter' described that the trail we had been walking along was made from Jurassic dolerite. However, looking back at Munro Bight, we could see that the rock formations were rather different. Munro Bight is made of sedimentary rock as we could see the layers, which the igneous dolerite does not have. The types of sedimentary rocks that they are made from are mudstones and siltstones, which were formed in the late Permian era. This era was a long, long time ago, around 275 million years ago. At that time, Tasmania was located at a high latitude and was much colder due to being near the Antarctic landmass. Once again, reading this, it just showed how insignificant my life is in the grand scheme of things. It was also interesting to learn that one of the reasons that Port Arthur was chosen for the site of the penal colony was due to sandstone rock that was found in the area. Sandstone is soft and easy to carve into blocks, therefore good for construction.

We almost missed the next 'Encounter' of 'Catches and quotas' as it is a silver fish hook attached to one of the rocks. The view from here was amazing, this hike certainly has a large quota of fantastic scenery. It was interesting to learn that Tasmania is the largest producer of seafood, by value, in Australia, and that the east coast is where most of the action happens. The main catches in the area are crayfish, abalone, striped trumpeter, snapper, and flathead. Lobster and abalone fisheries bring in over Australian $200 million a year. Southern bluefin tuna is another profitable fish and the industry is worth over $100 million annually, but the species is critically endangered so needs to be carefully managed in order to avoid extinction. As we were walking along we came to a sign post which warned us about the time so that walkers wouldn't miss the shuttle. We were at the junction between heading down to Fortescue Bay, which was the end of the hike and the route across to Cape Hauy, which is a highlight of the track. From this point, it is a two hour round trip to Cape Hauy and back, and then one hour to Fortescue Bay. A great thing about the junction is that you can leave your main packs there and just take a smaller backpack with you for the trip down to Cape Hauy. I'm not sure how safe it is as there are other walkers on this section of the track, but if they want to take my dirty clothes they are more than welcome to them, obviously we kept all our valuables on us.

Leaving the junction, we could see across to where Fortescue Bay was, although from this angle we couldn't see it properly. We could also see quite a few boats in the water. I think that they were probably shuttling tourists around, giving them tours of the area. I really wish that we'd have had time to done one of these as I would have loved to coastline from a different perspective. The next part of the trail was down some quite step steps, it was nice going down them, but I knew that it would be tough work coming back up them in a couple of hours. I could see the trail stretching ahead of us too through the scrub and heathland. Although, Cape Hauy isn't the end of the trail, it kind of feels like the final point, that we have been edging towards over the past few days. I think it is because it is a cape and therefore more isolated, it feels like we have reached the end/edge of Tasmania and that feels like the end of the hike. It's weird because 'The Blade' was actually a lot more isolated, but I think because we knew there was still quite a bit more hiking to do, even though we were at the tip of Tasmania, it didn't have the finality that Cape Hauy would have. Again, we had lucked out with the weather and we had beautiful clear blue skies.

Part way down the trail, we came to 'Disturbingly flourishing', which was about endangered plants that grow close to the track. It explained the careful, controlled and scientific way in which the plants, the tapered leek-orchid, tall leek-orchid, and the yellow leek-orchid, were moved. I love how much care and consideration went into the Three Capes Track. We continued on taking in all the natural beauty around us. The views were just stunning. I'm so glad that spaces were still available when we wanted to sign up to do the hike. The limited numbers definitely add to the experience of the track, only having a relatively small number of people around definitely made it more enjoyable. When I compare it to some of the hikes I have done in Korea, which were rammed with people, this felt infinitely better. I loved looking out to sea, too, and seeing the boas zooming past. It definitely felt like e were getting back to civilisation. We could see Cape Hauy in the distance ahead. We were almost there. We came to our next 'Encounter', entitled 'Dragon's Den'. I learnt that the area below us is one of Australia's diving meccas. The Tasmanian East Coast is one of the top ten diving sites in Australia. I wondered if there was anyone under the surface at that moment and what they would be seeing.

We made it to Cape Hauy and as far as the hike would allow us to go. Everyone, who was there, was feeling pretty jubilant. First things first, we took a rest. It was time to sit down and relax for a bit and enjoy some food. Then, we wandered around the viewing platform, taking in the scenery and getting a few photos and selfies. We were pretty high up and we could see the waves crashing into the rocks below. We were also near the Totem Pole, a long solitary pillar of rock just off Cape Hauy. We read 'Cliff Clingers' here. This describes how the area is popular with rock climbers wanting to tackle the Candlestick and the Totem Pole. These are very brave people. Once we were done, we headed back along the track to the junction. The last bit going uphill with all those steps was a bit of a killer. We pick up our backpacks and headed for the home straight.

Just past the junction was an 'Encounter', so we sat on the benches and read 'Only Here', which was a quiz about some of the plants that we had come across while walking the track. We kept on going passing some local wildlife, I think it was an echidna. We came to our last 'Encounter' called 'Southerly Pining'. This was about the pine trees that line the last part of the route. They are a native species called the Oyster Bay Pine. I really enjoyed reading each 'Encounter' we came to. It added so much more to the hike and ave us a deeper understanding of the area we were walking through. Soon we came to what I like to describe as the 'photo finish, here there was a sign post denoting the Three Capes Track like the one we had seen at Denmans Cove, when we started the hike. Although we weren't at Fortescue Bay, we could see it and it was in the background of our photos. It looked gorgeous, the blue ocean lapping at the golden sands. The last part of the track took us along the edge of the coast and we could see Fortescue Bay getting closer and closer.

We finally made it to the beach, happy that we had completed the hike. It had been an awesome four days and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. At the beach, I plonked myself down on the sand and took a few minutes to take in the view. It was definitely the perfect end to the hike. Finally, I managed to change into my bathers and headed down for a dip in the sea. The water was bloody freezing, but after swimming about for a bit I warmed up a little. We still had a while to wait until the shuttle picked us up, so we just chilled on the beach and had a little wander around the camp site. All in all, the hike was definitely worth the expense. I had an amazing four days and saw a truly gorgeous part of Tasmania. I really hope I can return one day.

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