The Precipitous Bluff walk in Tasmania is hard. One of the hardest I’ve ever done. Nine days of walking with a heavy pack. Several days struggling through dense, hardy scrub with sharp leaves that slashed up my hands as if I’d been juggling a razor. Scrub that pushes you back when you push against it and catches on your pack as you pass, refusing to let go. Changeable weather that saw me spending a lot of time sheltering in my tent from rain and strong winds. Much climbing up and down ridges and then a very steep scramble to get on top of the bluff and down the other side. Following a track that disappeared in places and had me doubling back several times to regain it or scouring the ground for signs of where other boots have gone before.
It’s definitely not a walk for the faint hearted and I would counsel anyone considering doing it to seriously assess not just their fitness, but also their bush fitness ie preparedness to get wet and dirty; walk long days on rough muddy tracks in poor weather in wet boots and socks; have a head for heights; and have the patience to go slowly and carefully when necessary. John Chapman’s track notes, which I used, are good but don’t reflect just how hard it is.
Day 1. Ida Bay quarry to Moonlight Creek
Just one of the challenges of walking in Tasmania is just getting to the start of a walk if you don’t have your own transport.
I started on a Sunday and took a public bus from Hobart to Geeveston, south of Hobart, and then a taxi I’d booked to get me to the track head. I used the Dover taxi service, Australia’s southern-most taxi!
The track is obvious and well walked and starts out flat, passing the old quarry and its remnants, before beginning a steady, and steep in places, climb through dense forest up Moonlight Ridge. It was warm and I sweated buckets.
Emerging from the forest on the crest of the ridge I was surprised to find the area was a wasteland. I didn’t know that a bushfire went through the area last year. The ground was ash black and burned sticks were all that was left of the tea tree and pandani that used to grow here. There was some regrowth happening but it’s going to be a long time before it returns to the bushy state it was the first time I came up this way about six years ago. It didn’t make the walking any easier through as the ground was still boggy and the scrub remains were still tough and unyielding.
I overshot my intended campsite for the night at Moonlight Creek as nothing looked familiar and the tent sites weren’t as obvious without cleared vegetation to point them out. Doubled back after checking my GPS and seeing I’d gone past the site. Showers overnight.
Day 2. Moonlight Creek to Ooze Lake
Woke to a cloudy day with patches of sunshine and great views down to the coast.
I carried on following the track up Moonlight Ridge, sidling Hills One, Two and Three, with fantastic views of mountains, valleys, lakes and ridges around and ahead of me.
It only took me five hours to get to Ooze Lake, which surprised me as I thought it would be longer. The climb up Maxwell Ridge after Pigsty Ponds wasn’t too bad. Coming down the other side was steep and involved scraping through sharp scoparia bushes.
After arriving at Ooze Lake I wandered around for a while trying to find the driest spot to pitch my tent as the ground was pretty damp. Could be why they call it Ooze Lake I suppose.
I got into my tent to lay down for a bit of a rest in the afternoon and after a while started hearing the pitter patter of rain on the fly. I quickly got everything I’d left outside into the tent and then settled down to read. A couple of hours later I opened the tent to look outside and saw that dense cloud had come down and I couldn’t see more than 50m in front of me. This was a bit concerning as the track notes said that the next day I would need to be careful to follow cairns marking the route if walking in mist.
I made dinner in the tent vestibule and then burrowed down into my sleeping bag as it continued raining outside and the wind whipped at my tent.
I woke up at some point in the night to silence – no rain or wind. That was comforting.
To be continued …