Hiking Solo – Gourmet Style
Why is it glossy tour brochures never mention the least memorable tour moments?
It was after midnight. I was trying desperately to locate a warm pocket somewhere in the depths of my sleeping bag. The paper-thin walls of my tent were failing to shield me from the cool outside air. Random gusts of wind inhaling the roof of my tent from its skeletal frame, slamming it down in a shuddering frenzy every couple of minutes didn’t seem to be helping. I’d nod off, only to be woken again minutes later – reminiscent of a form of POW torture. Or maybe it was the freezing temperature preventing me from getting to zzz-land.
Was camping beside the beach such a good idea?
After five hours hiking through parts of northeast Tasmania’s spectacular and remote wilderness, I’m unsure at this late hour why my body had not succumbed to sleep. The waking/sleeping routine felt like torture and I was fairly confident that was not mentioned in any of the tourist brochures about the Bay of Fires Walk. With sleep not about to happen any time soon, the reflection was my only option. Despite tonight’s unfavourable conditions, I couldn’t shake the feeling this was going to be one of the best experiences of my life.
Why the Bay of Fires Walk?
A few months earlier, I spied a small paragraph in Escape (the Newscorp travel mag) about the Bay of Fires Walk – a four-day hiking adventure in northeast Tasmania. Attracted by the Tasmanian Expedition website’s glossy photos and gourmet description, I scripted a movie in my head. By day I’d hike part of Tasmania’s most deserted beaches and woodlands. At night I’d be kicking back in comfortable accommodation, dining on fully-prepared fresh gourmet meals accompanied by a selection of the finest local wines. This hike had the Academy seal of approval.
Signing up for my first ever hiking holiday, I chose mid-January as a suitable time of the year. Temperatures in the area were reported to be a respectable early 20’s during the day, dropping to a cooler 10 degrees at night.
Launceston – the starting point
Peppers Seaport Hotel in Launceston was the designated pick up location. We traveled by mini-bus to Quamby Estate, a luxurious historic homestead built in the 1830s for the first Tasmanian born premier. We meet our enthusiastic guides, Hannah and Hamish and the other walkers – we’re an all-girl group of four.
Sorting through my luggage to determine the essentials for my backpack, I’m mindful of our guide’s recommendation to cull as much as we can. With all my necessities and personal extras, my pack weighs close to seven kilograms. Although that seems a reasonable weight to before setting out, I’m wondering after walking for a few hours, what it will feel like?
And if I should sacrifice a few more items.
A three-hour bus ride takes us to Mt William National Park, where we’re dropped at a coastal location called Boulder Point – the walk’s official starting point. We spend the afternoon hiking the pristine white beaches, clambering over granite rocks covered with orange lichen, reveling in the beauty and remoteness of the area.
Hannah informs the group, the name Bay of Fires is not derived (as we all thought) from the spectacular orange covered granite rocks, randomly dotting the beaches, but by Captain Tobias Furneaux. In 1773 as he sailed past the Tasmanian coastline where they supposedly spied numerous fires, lit by the indigenous inhabitants. They were chasing out wildlife (bush tucker) as they fled from the burning bushes. The fires were the inspiration for the area’s name.
First Night – Forrester Beach Camp
In the lead up to the walk, Tasmanian Expeditions sent a comprehensive list of recommended gear/clothing requirements, including thermals, fleeces, swimwear and a solid pair of (broken in) ankle walking boots. Coming from Queensland, the thought of wearing thermals in January in Australia made me hesitate to pack them. But on the first night, I was very glad of their inclusion, when settling in at our eco-friendly Forrester Beach Camp. The campsite had no shower facilities, so I’d chosen to freshen up with a brisk swim in the icy Atlantic Ocean. My fellow walkers, maybe not as thick-skinned (or crazy), declined the swimming idea, preferring to chill instead with a glass of local Holm Oak pinot.
Cocooned in our permanent tented accommodation, built on raised platforms above the dunes, so began my night of sleep deprivation. I must have eventually drifted off as I woke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of light rain pinging on the roof of my canvas shelter.
With the rain dampening my sleep-deprived spirits, we zipped up my Gortexx jacket, setting off for day two’s adventures. Thankfully the Bay of Fires’ Gods were kind to us. The sun made a welcome appearance early afternoon. Our guides suggested we apply sunscreen, letting us know about Tasmania’s issues with the ozone layer. Apparently, we’re likely to be sunburnt more quickly here than in Queensland.
A few more hours of trekking and we’re greeted by Turtle Rock’s smiling face. A snack break is welcomed as the guides hand round chocolate and fruit – to re-charge our batteries. Throughout the day our group converses, the perfect way to get to know a group of strangers.
In the distant hill line, we spot the silhouette of the Bay of Fires Lodge. Spurred on by the thought of a hot shower and a glass (or two) of wine, our pace increases up to the last steep hill. Once on the lodge’s deck, we take in the spectacular 180-degree views. As we look back on the ground we covered, we’re impressed by our efforts. This was the longest day of the hiking tour, but it never felt strenuous.
Bay of Fires Lodge – Bring on the Luxury
A welcome hot shower and change into fresh dry clothes, I’m feeling more like the star in my gourmet hiking movie. We gather for pre-dinner drinks with the lodge guests from the previous night. We consume another delicious three-course meal prepared by the guides and one of the lodge’s hosts. Each course is accompanied by an extensive selection of Tasmanian wines and the evening is spent chatting with the other (also) relaxed guests, as we wait for the sun to set at around 9pm. I’m happy to write that night I slept like a baby, in a very comfortable lodge room where nothing moved or made any strange sound!
When our third day’s plans to kayak up Anson River and across the Bay are altered because the windy conditions are considered by our guides to be a little challenging for our all-female group, there were no complaints. We spend an hour paddling in shared kayaks on the sheltered section of the Anson River. Following a picnic lunch, we muster the energy to traverse a few Sahara like sand dunes on a short hike back to the lodge. Time to relax time and indulge in the delectable array of freshly baked cakes. (Our choices: Rhubarb and cinnamon cake – or the heavenly chocolate cake!)
“Cake is not the first thing to spring to mind when you think of the Bay of Fires walk,” said Gai Gathercole, Sydney Family Lawyer and fellow walker. “But because you’ve been walking, swimming, kayaking and walking some more, you feel like you can actually enjoy as much cake as you like.” This meant no guilt around trying both cakes AND the sensational lemon curd tart for dessert!
On the final day, we linger at the lodge, packing our bags ready to leave. Mid-morning we hike for an hour through the bush to the bus which returns our female group and guides to Quamby Estate. During the three-hour return trip despite being together for four days, the conversation flows. Typical girls, we still find plenty to talk and laugh about.
This was my first walking/hiking experience and whilst it was occasionally strenuous, I never felt overly stretched. I class my level of fitness as moderate. One of our walkers was a 73-year-old grandmother, so we “young ones” couldn’t complain about feeling tired at the pace she set. The four days passed too quickly as we marveled in the unique beauty of this untouched pocket of Tasmania.
Meeting new people; being with your own reflective thoughts and learning what your limits are and pushing them a little further. A personal highlight was the sense of individual achievement I’d feel at the end of each day. Knowing you’d expended enough energy walking to not feel guilty about the evening dinner and beverages was an added bonus.
The Bay of Fires Walk is about being in touch with nature and hiking – albeit in gourmet form.
“The walk exceeded my expectations,” reflected Gai Gathercole.
*Note: this walk was fully paid for by the writer. No sponsorship or discounted prices were provided. All opinions expressed are my own.
The Bay of Fires Walk is over four days and three nights. It’s graded as a moderate walk, with the majority of the serious walking completed in the first two days.
You choose to walk either individually, or as a group and are provided with a choice of departure dates. Groups are booked as a minimum of four and a maximum of 10 and each group is allocated two guides.
Launceston is a 2 hour direct flight from Brisbane. Virgin flies directly daily. As does Jetstar. Personally I found Virgin, the most economical.
Booking the Walk:
Cost (2012 prices) $2,150 January, February and March
$2,050 October, November, December, April and May
Bay of Fires Walk Pty Ltd Cradle Mountain Huts & the Bay of Fires Walk
PO Box 1879, Launceston TAS 7250
P| +61 (0)3 6392 2211 F|+ 61 (0)3 6392 2277
Bay of Fires Walk – Four day walk
Cradle Mountain Huts – Six day walk
Launceston: Ashton Gate B&B (Four Star) Accommodation from $125 per night.
Phone (03) 6331 6180
Balmoral on York Hotel (Four Star)
19 York Street
Booked through Expedia.com.au Prices from $125 per night (Premier City View Room inc continental breakfast)
1145 Westwood Road, Hagley 7292
Phone (03) 6392 2135
What to do in Launceston:
Boag’s Brewery Tours
Operate Mon-Fri guided Tastings are avail Saturdays
Phone: (03) 6332 6300 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to eat:
70 George Street, Launceston.
Phone (03) 6331 9333
Make sure you visit the Cataract Gorge – a quick 5-10 minute walk from the centre of town.