Looks flat but this is no easy-peasy walk. And I’ve got the blisters and nearly gone toenail to prove it (sorry, probably didn’t need to share that). But boy was it worth it! Supremely beautiful. Loads of fun. Extremely well done. The perfect ending to my venture Down Under 2013.
Let’s start the day before the walk . . . For easy access to the early morning meeting point, I stay at Quamby Estate located about 30 minutes outside Launceston, Tasmania. My deluxe room turns out to be the honeymoon suite with two small sitting areas, a soaking tub and gorgeous 4-poster bed. Old world charm meets modern convenience, this European-style estate is lovely as lovely gets.
I meet 5 of my walking companions at dinner — a prix fixe, 3 course affair that even eating alone is a leisurely 2 hours — before ambling off past the reading rooms, past the old servants bells and up the stairs to my room, where I organize my hiking gear and settle in for a good nights sleep. Come morning, the now six of us, simply roll our suitcases down the path to walking headquarters where we meet up with 2 eager guides, 4 more fellow walkers, transfer our gear into backpacks, get the rules of the road and hop a bus to the coast. And we’re off . . .
Day 1: This was, to everyone’s surprise, the hardest day. Of course we only come to know this in retrospect, thankfully. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t hard like climbing a mountain hard. But here are the obstacles you deal with: Getting used to carrying a 30 lb. pack (you do a lot of looking down at the ground vs. out at the view), an afternoon start in the hot sun, hours of walking down a soft-sand & sloping beach, rocks and more rocks to climb over (i have fear of the rocks which only made it worse), and a water supply that becomes warmer and warmer as the day goes on. OK, that’s the tough stuff. The rewards far outweigh any of this, I promise.
First of all, you’re on the beach in Tasmania. White sand and granite boulders covered with bright orange lichen set against blue skies and turquoise waters, eagles in the air, dolphins in the sea, we even see a seal not 10 feet away nestled in the rocks — and no other humans in sight! All worth the price of admission right there.
As the burn of the sun starts to wane, just when you think you can’t do any more sinking into the sand, you reach the night’s campsite. Tucked back behind the dunes, its a permanent tent camp with beds (sleeping bags are supplied and you carry in your own linens), hard floors, sliding doors, a working kitchen, shared bathrooms (no showers). Hardly camping. Glamping is more like it.
After a quick swim in the Tasman Sea (it’s cold but no matter) we walkers settle in with wine, beer & cheese while the guides go into cooking mode. You learn about an hour into the morning bus ride with a muffin break, that food is going to be plentiful on this trip. Dinner is no exception — grilled salmon over soba noodles with bok choy and herbs and chocolate mousse with cream and meringues for dessert. The portions are American style (meaning large) and nothing goes to waste. We are hungry campers following our journey. After another hour or so of chatting, photographing recipes (yes, the food is that good) and drinking more wine, the guides do dishes and we find our way back to our tents in the dark. Note to self: Bring a flashlight to dinner even though the sun has yet to set.
Come morning, we are awakened to pancakes and other assorted breakfast staples, we pack our lunches, the guides do the dishes and clean the bathrooms, we sweep out our tents, pack up our gear and we’re off again . . .
Day 2: Today we will walk about 9 miles (vs. 6 yesterday). But the beach is flatter, harder and much easier to contend with. Plus, we are well adjusted to our packs and luckily the weather is a bit cooler. Even our water stays drinkably cool throughout the day. I’m feeling good and make an effort to look up, enjoying the landscape vs. my feet. Our goal: make it to The Lodge, our home for the next two nights, but not before passing through the actual Bay of Fires — voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And let me tell you, that is no lie.The morning is varied terrain, more beach of course, dunes, dry lake beds, even some road. We pass a few cabins dotted along the beach — old leases on this public parkland that one day soon will run out and not be renewed. We learn about the Aboriginal tribes that inhabited this land in winters for thousands of years. We climb up hills, over bluffs and feeling like we have gone on forever, we find ourselves at one end of the Bay of Fires where we strip off our packs and settle into the rocks for lunch.
While some wander up to the lighthouse, I wade in the water, rest up and sad to say, we all check our cell phones as service is plentiful in this location for the first time since leaving civilization. While most of the group takes a swim, a few of us wander down the supremely beautiful beach, barefoot, to get a head start on the afternoon walk. It’s easily the best bit of the entire trip.
Between the Bay of Fires and The Lodge is probably the hardest part of the walk but I think that is because mentally you know you are almost there — one last cove, more rocks (my nemesis) and one very steep hill. A cold beer, a warm scented foot bath and homemade cake are well deserved treats for this sweaty and weary hiker upon arrival, not to mention a hot shower. You’ll work for that too, however, as you have to pump your own water making the reward that much sweeter. This lodge is eco-friendly and has won many awards for it’s design. The architecture, the remote location, and the view make it one special destination.
One thing you don’t have to work for is dinner. Another large and lovely meal is prepared by our guides. We join another smaller group already there for one night and heading out the next day. It’s a night of chatting, drinking, relaxing, more phone calls (damn technology) and one by one people peter off to bed.
Day 3: I have to be honest, after seeing that my toe was in trouble at the end of day two (didn’t feel a thing until I took off my shoe) and being met by rain on this morning, I opt to stay back and just lounge around the lodge today. A couple of others join me but most weather the rain (wet weather gear is supplied) and go kayaking. It’s supposedly the best day of all but as I had been going strong for nearly two weeks now, the day of rest, taking in the rain and curling up with a good book by the fire is just what I need. Plus, there is hot tea and more homemade cake to be enjoyed.After hearing about the kayaking adventure and completing yet another fantastically indulgent dinner, we sit around the fire listening to the thunderstorm and watch lightening in the distance. Truly magical.
Day 4: While the guides clean up the breakfast dishes and the entire lodge for that matter, bedrooms, bathrooms and all — did I say they work incredibly hard? That is an understatement if ever there was one — the morning of the 4th day is by schedule, meant for lounging and taking in the views, and maybe eating one last serving of homemade cake, before donning the pack one last time and hiking out through the woods — a quick hour and a half or so, complete with lunch.
The bus and your luggage meet you at the other end of the trail where you are whisked away to the Apogee Winery. There you can clean up and change, drink a little bubbly, eat more snacks, order a few commemorative cases of wine if you’re an Aussie, and exchange contact information before being dropped at your respective final destination. While most stay in town for another couple of days to take in the sights, i am dropped at the airport to catch the last flight out to Melbourne. No rest for the weary. At 5:00 AM the next morning, I would begin my journey back home.
Bay of Fires Lodge Walk — Tasmania, Australia