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Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 6 – 7 Freycinet National Park (2 of 2)

Thursday morning, we enjoyed an absolute feast for breakfast, packed up a picnic lunch and set off for the long hike around to Hazards Beach and Wineglass Bay. It was a circuitous 12k route that would take the better part of our day.

As we pulled into the car park at the trailhead I saw a wallaby standing between our car and the one just the other side of us. I got out and walked up to the little guy. He didn't move, so I bent down to have a chat with him face to face. He didn't really chat back but Frank was able to snap a cute photo of the moment, while advising me to back away from the animal.
We signed in at the trail hut. By the way, I've not mentioned this before but I like this about Tasmania; there are so many trails and so many hikers that the park service requests (requires actually) that all hikers, walkers, etc., sign the ledger stating name, time at
beginning of hike, name of intended hike, estimated time on the trail and then at the conclusion of the hike a sign-out and time. We have heard of Australia's deadly critters and of the perils of hiking in various areas but have yet to encounter any real danger or to come to harm. Another point of note is that up until just a few years ago, Tasmanian Devils were abundant in Tasmania, particularly on the eastern side. Tragically, since around 1997, they have been all but wiped out from a deadly cancerous disease known as DFTD (devil facial tumor disease). Grave concern has been expressed that they will become extinct within the next 5-10 years, as about 80% of the population has already been affected. No cure has been found and the disease is highly infectious and deadly, but only to Tasmanian Devils. We found this very sad. We continued to be on the lookout for them, but the only ones we encountered were healthy and at the zoo.

So back on track, we started for Hazard's Bay. The first few hours of the hike were on the leeward side; hence the landscape was thorny, brown, absolutely teeming with large black flies and slippery going across the granite. The trail as it were was not so much laid as marked across the granite up steep, natural inclines and down jagged rocks, sending a variety of lizards and dragons skittering.  Thank goodness we have no snake sightings to report. We liked the fact that
for the most part this area is simply marked as opposed to stepped with concrete or wood. I spent quite a lot of effort breathing through my teeth and then vigorously out my nose so that I would not suck in any flies. Because of the lack of wind and moisture on this side they must be attracted to the moisture from our bodies because they were swarming about us. Now I understand the use of corks dangling from hats. Wish I'd had a net around my body. The pesky flies gave us momentum to forge ahead as briskly as possible, slipping and sliding along. I hated rushing through this because the rock formations were utterly unique interestingly stacked like little statues and majestic columns. This area of Tasmania is amazing in that every section reveals completely different landscapes and examples of nature's architecture.

Eventually we came upon a clearing at Lemana Lookout. The view was directed toward Coles Bay, a smaller area of Great Oyster Bay. The water sparkled like millions of crystals set into a lapis colored pool. We took a few minutes to sip water and take in the eye-catching panorama. The trail then wound steeply downward to and along to Hazard's Beach where the water was crystal clear and more of a turquoise at close inspection. We could understand why it is called Hazard's Beach – whether or not this is the intention – while the water is so  alluring and inviting, access to it is flanked by granite boulders and dangerous looking rock formations. We continued onward winding back up the mount, which would eventually lead us to Cook's Beach. More ooh's and ahh's and some relief once again by cool breezes coming off the water. By now, although it was mid morning, the sun was getting HOT. At Cook's Beach there was an optional detour up and over to yet another beach that was not circuitous so rather than trek in and back out for another 1 – 2 hours, we took the overland route across Mount Freycinet that would eventually lead us to Wineglass Bay. This trail finally led us away from buzzing flies into greener and lusher surroundings as we trekked the mountain. We got a little more shade and cooled down a bit, as we neared Wineglass Bay. Finally we wound down hundreds of yards and as many steps to the beautiful bay that we had glimpsed from above the previous day. It is absolutely pristine and painted in more colors of blue than the mind can describe or our pictures can capture.
Several wallabies bounced about as we scouted a good spot
out of the wind for a picnic. Although it was only mid afternoon we began to lose our sun. We donned our jackets and packed up the
supplies, ready for the rigorous climb straight up Mount Mason, one of
The Hazards. Frank and I are more walkers than real hikers. This day
had taken about 50% of whatever I have in me. As I looked up, daunted by this monstrous climb I realized we had opted for the "expert" hike. The vertical steps appeared to be just in front of my face. I thanked goodness we were actually going up instead of down, because hiking down at this grade is more difficult for me than going up. What were we thinking anyway? I kept the self-talk up: "breathe easy, breathe steadily, don't grunt, use your muscles, (what muscles?), focus on one step at a time…" Then out of nowhere a wallaby came bounding toward us. He stopped just in front of me and looked back up the trail to a woman who was making her way down. When she caught up to it, the wallaby commenced his downward journey. I asked her, "friend of yours?" She just laughed and said it adopted her on the trail and seemed to be escorting her down. How cute is that? An hour later we neared the summit and began to hear laughter and conversation. Alas
just another 200 – 300 yards to go to the top! When I looked back down I appreciated the sheer grade of our climb and felt very proud. Frank just felt like sitting and breathing. Once again we had sunlight that warmed our bodies. We knew our way from here and were consoled at the though of being only another 45 minutes away from the hot tub and a
foot rub. Those were my thoughts – Franks ran more along the lines of an ice-cold beer and some pre dinner snacks.

Back at the cabin we fulfilled our wishes and then dressed (up) for dinner in the Bay Restaurant. We absolutely feasted again. The menu read like a gourmet's dream making it difficult to decide what to choose. We settled on the mixed natural Tasmanian oysters for a
starter, then went for Lamb rack (Frank) and Tasmanian salmon (me). The dinner was as outstanding as we had anticipated. Afterwards, we took a moonlight stroll before collapsing into our wonderful bed.

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