Australia Summary and Advice

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Australia is a huge country, about the size of the contiguous USA, and there is a huge diversity in its landscapes. I explored only 3 of it’s 8 states/territories, namely Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Tasmania. I’ll describe each of these in detail, but before that I’ll give advice for Australia generally.

Traveling/Living in Australia

By far, the most expensive part of this trip was the flights. Getting to australia was just under $1000 in September 2022, which is the best that I could find on momondo.com. For Americans, flights will generally connect thru either LAX, SFO, or SEA, and then land in Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. The flights within Australia are mostly operated by Qantas or Virgin, and I didn’t notice that either was better/worse than the other. Every time I got on a plane, I had both a carryon bag (my backpack) and a small checked bag. For the checked bag, I picked up a cheap duffel bag at thrift stores (called op-shops in Australia), and put in the items that are not allowed on the plane. Specifically, my swiss army knife, hiking poles, tent stakes, and poop trowel. When I got to my destination, I would donate the duffel bag, since I can’t carry it while hiking.

To get into Australia as a US citizen, a passport and (as of December 2022) an approved travel visa are required. The passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months after you enter Australia, and the visa is obtained through the “Australian ETA” smartphone app. After downloading the app, I entered my information, including Covid-19 vaccination information, and received an approval 48 hours later. Citizens of NZ and UK usually have more lenient requirements for entry, and probably some other countries too.

To live in a foreign country, I made sure I could spend money without hassle. Before I left, I did a currency exchange at my local bank (which took 4-5 days) and brought A$250 (Australian Dollars, AUD). In my 3 months in the country, I only spent about $100 of it, since 99% of places accepted credit cards. Mostly my cash was used at laundromats, unstaffed pay campgrounds, and to offer drivers gas money when I was hitchhiking. I opened a credit card that had no foreign transaction fees, as many US credit cards have these fees by default, and they add up quickly. I used Nerdwallet to find a no-fee credit card, in my case it was a CapitalOne Quicksilver card.

Another aspect of living abroad is having a working cell phone. In Australia, the 3 main phone carriers are Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. I chose Telstra, since it had the best rural signal coverage, and I chose a $30/month plan which gave me 40GB of data, and voice and texting. A local explained the 3 carriers to me this way: “Telstra works in the mountains, Optus works in the towns and cities, and Vodafone works….in theory”. Ha! It was also very convenient to have a local phone number, since I could text with hikers I met, and get text alerts for buses, hotels, flights, ferries, and rental cars. I picked up a SIM card for my Android phone at the airport, since that was the most convenient place to buy one. Before I left home, I made sure my phone would work in Australia, which uses the 4G LTE channels: 1, 3, 5, 7, 28, 40. Most modern smartphones should work on at least some of these channels, but you can verify that here.

Bringing a phone and other electronics (battery bank, headlamp, Garmin InReach) requires a way to charge them. Fortunately, the world has standardized on the USB-C connector, and so I was able to bring only 2 cables (USB-A to -C, and USB-C-to-C) for everything. I had my wall brick from a previous trip to New Zealand, which uses the same 240-volt electrical system as Australia. It’s a dual USB plug that is designed for Australia’s electrical system. 

USB-AustraliaWhen I had a rental car, I was able to simply plug the USB cable into the dashboard, since most modern cars have a USB port.

Finally, I downloaded some smartphone apps that would improve my communication with the locals as well as any foreign visitors that I met. Australians of course speak english (or some form of it, haha), but I met several German, Dutch, and French hikers where my Google Translate app was handy. I also had a currency app that would calculate the exchange rate, though eventually I just estimated it as 2/3rds of the AUD price (In December 2022, $1 AUD = $0.66 USD). And finally I had a metric conversion app, since the US is stubbornly/stupidly the only country remaining that still uses the imperial measurement system. After a couple weeks I didn’t need conversions anymore, as I learned that 20C was shorts weather, 10C was fleece jacket weather, it took 13 minutes to walk a kilometer, and 500g (1 lb) was the perfect amount of cheese.

For food in Australia, the grocery stores seemed pretty similar to ones in the US. There are three nationwide chains, Woolworths, Coles, and the smaller IGAs. Resupply for hiking was basically the same, though it was oddly difficult to find tuna packets; most IGAs had them but only some Woolworths did.  In Australian restaurants, there were some slight differences. The tax is included in the price on the menu, and there is no tipping. So while the menu prices might initially appear expensive, they’re actually cheaper because those two items are included in the price. Also, restaurants have a weird stinginess with ketchup, and I always had to specially ask for it, and they would only reluctantly give out 2 or 3 packets. Some places even charged 50 cents per packet! Eventually I just bought a bottle of ketchup at the grocery store ($2) and kept it in the car, when I had a car.

Northern Territory (NT) / Outback Desert

I traveled here first, since I wanted to hike in the desert before it got too hot. In early October, it’s still spring but the temperatures were already 25C/77F. I flew into Alice Springs, and called for a taxi. There is a shuttle to/from the airport, but it only runs three times per day, and I arrived after the last shuttle had departed. The shuttle must be booked in advance and is only $19.  The airport is 15km/15 minutes from Alice Springs, so it’s too far to walk, and there are also some crime issues to deter this approach. I stayed at the YHA, which was a nice hostel, and very close to everything. The entire CBD is only 4 blocks long/wide, so it’s an easily walkable city. To get on the Larapinta Trail, there were 2 options: Hike out of Alice springs, heading west, finish on Mt. Sonder, and hitchhike back to Alice; or hitchhike to Mt Sonder, and hike east to finish in Alice. I chose the latter, to have more control over my own destiny. If I didn’t get a hitchhike heading to Mt Sonder, at least I would be in a town; if I took the first option and didn’t get a hitchhike, I could get very hungry! Ultimately, it took 2 hitches to get to the Redbank Carpark (western terminus of the Larapinta), and the entire process took about 4 hours. The actual driving took about 2 hours / 150km. Once I started the Larapinta hike, it took me 9 days, hiking about 30km per day, with the first and last days being only 15km. I carried all 9 days of food, which was a little brutal the first couple of days; if I were to do it again, I would drop off food at 1 of the 3 official food drop locations (Ellery Creek South, Serpentine Gorge, Ormiston Gorge). For water and camping, there are shelters about every 15km along the trail with water tanks; some even have solar USB chargers. There was one notable 30km gap between Ellery Gorge and Serpentine Chalet Dam, so I carried more water that day. Starting in 2022, there is a $25/day fee to walk the Larapinta trail, up to a maximum of $125. You can make a booking on the NT Parks website, this isn’t well known or publicized, and I only became aware of this halfway thru my hike. In addition to my usual hiking gear, I carried a few items to protect me from the harsh sun and climate of the Outback desert: chrome umbrella, sunshirt with hood, headnet (for flies), sunglasses (for sun and flies). I also brought cash/cards to purchase food at the two tourist spots I would pass thru, Ellery Gorge and Standley Chasm. Those are also the only two spots with showers, though there were plenty of swimming holes to rinse off along the way. After 9 days of hiking, I was back in Alice Springs, and my first shower at the YHA felt so wonderful. While I was in the NT, I also did some tourist trips, which I recommend: a bus tour to Uluru, and a trip to Kings Canyon. Both are full-day trips, and often they can be combined into a 3-day loop. To depart Alice Springs, I used the shuttle to the airport, and then flew to Western Australia (Perth).

Western Australia (WA)

I spent the longest time here, hiking the Bibbulmun Track south from Perth to Albany, away from the approaching heat of summer. It’s a 1000km track which took me 29 days, but I think 40 days is more typical. I also hiked the 130km Cape-to-Cape Track, which took 5 days. The Bibbulmun Track is very well established, and it has published guidebooks and maps, and there is even a Guthook app for it. The Bibb is designed so that hikers walk through the towns, so there is no hitchhiking required, and the towns are spaced about 100km (3-4 days) apart. There are 11 towns on the Bibbulmun, here is the resupply strategy that I used:

  • Kalamunda (Woolworths, 7 days)
  • Dwellingup (IGA, 3 days)
  • Collie (Woolworths, 3 days)
  • Balingup (skipped)
  • Donnelly River Village* (mailed a box, 3 days)
  • Pemberton (IGA, 2 days)
  • Northcliffe (mailed a box, 4 days)
  • Walpole (IGA, 2 days)
  • Peaceful Bay Caravan Park* (mailed a box, 5 days)
  • Denmark (skipped)
  • Albany (IGA) (Finish)
    • *(not really a town, just a caravan park / campground)

The trail is also easy to do in sections, or bail out at almost any point, as TransWA buses serve 9 of the 11 towns. After I finished, I took the bus from Albany to Augusta, which is close to the start of the Cape-to-Cape Track.

For the C2C Track, I hitched the 8km from Augusta to the C2C trailhead, which was the only time I hitched in WA. I decided to hike the trail northbound, to keep the prevailing wind at my back. I didn’t buy a guidebook or map, I just used the Guthook app. Navigation was fairly easy, as the trail seems to have undergone big maintenance project recently, as there are tons of new-looking markers at pretty much every turn and fork in the trail. Plus, as a northbound hiker, keeping the ocean on my left was a good overall principle. It’s a short trail, so there are no food resupplies, though there are a couple of campgrounds that had a cafe, which was a special treat. There are only 4 “official” campsites on the trail, though they’re oddly spaced and I camped at random spots all 4 nights on the trail. Interestingly, I had to pay more attention to water sources, and not skip any opportunities to refill. I usually passed by 2 good water sources per day, and another 2-3 bad sources (salty/brackish) per day. I finished at the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse and paid $10 to take the 30-minute tour, which I thought was worth it. From the lighthouse, it’s 13km to Dunsborough and the TransWA bus stop. I walked the first 3km, and as soon as I turned onto the main road I easily hitched a ride for the last 10km.

I spent a few days in Perth, the most isolated capital city in the world. It’s a big city of 2 million people, and I found plenty to do there. I stayed at a hostel near the CBD and walked to shops and restaurants, and I spent a day visiting nearby Rottnest Island. There are many ferry operators that go to Rottnest, I used SeaLink. To fully explore Rottnest Island, a bike hire is necessary. When I departed Perth, I rode the *brand new* AirportLine subway from the CBD directly to my airport terminal. 

Tasmania (TAS)

In hindsight, I arrived to Tasmania a couple weeks too early, as the weather hadn’t settled yet. It was still late spring, which tends to be rainy and cool (10C/50F). By mid-december, the weather was more reliable, though Tasmania is known for rain year-round. I spent 30 days in Tasmania, hiking 8 trails and attempting 2 more.

Overland Track: The longest hike I did in Tasmania was the Overland Track, which I took a leisurely 5 days to complete, and requires a $200 advance booking. The Overland Track is a very luxurious backcountry experience, with large (34-person) modern semi-heated huts every 10-15km, and extensive boardwalks for easy walking. The Guthook maps that I had downloaded went unused on this easy-to-navigate trail. The OT itself is only 76km long, but the beauty of the area is really seen from the many side-trips that can be taken. I did trips up Cradle Mountain, Mt. Ossa (highest point in TAS), Hartnett Falls, and Pine Valley/Acropolis. Due to weather, I skipped Barn Bluff, Lake Will, and Mt Pelion East. Many (most?) hikers also skip the last 16km of the Overland Track by taking a paid ferry across the lake. I hiked this section, which was in a beautiful gum forest along the lakeshore, so it had a different feel than the rest of the trail. When I finished the trail, I had lunch at cafe inside the Lake St Clair Lodge, and then stayed at the Drumlin Hostel, a 5-minute walk from the end of the trail. The next day, I booked at spot on the 2:30pm bus to Hobart, which arrived around 5pm. 

South Coast Track: After the Overland Track, I saw a good weather window, and decided to try the South Coast Track. This is an 88km rugged track along the often-rainy south coast of Tasmania. It’s so remote, the only way to get to the start of the track is to either 1) get dropped off by a cessna plane, or 2) hike the Port Davey track for 4-5 days. I chose the plane option, which is offered by Par Avion for $325. I tried to contact them on the phone, but had no luck, so I just showed up in their office the next morning. I was packed and ready to go, and to my happy surprise, they had 1 spot available for that afternoon! For this hike, I downloaded the Guthook app for my map, though I never needed it for navigation, as the track was easy to follow. It was more of a “are we there yet” GPS tool. The track is 88km long, but the first 10km and last 10km are mostly on boardwalks and very easy to hike. The middle 68km is where things get rough, steep, muddy, and just plain interesting. In this middle section, there is also one massive 900m climb up and over the Ironbound Range, which is a high-effort and low-distance day for most people. There are no huts or shelters on the track, though some of the campsites have toilets which could serve as emergency shelter. There are several short beach sections, which are spectacular walking, though swimming isn’t safely possible given the strong ocean currents. I completed the trail in 4 days, though I think most hikers would do it in 5-6 days. The track finishes in Cockle Creek, which is also the end of the southernmost road in Australia. There is a company that provides transport from this remote campground back to Hobart, but they also require a minimum of 4 people. I wasn’t going to pay for 4 seats ($450!) so instead I hitchhiked 65km to Geeveston, where I caught a bus for $7 for the final 60km to Hobart.

The remaining 6 tracks that I hiked in Tasmania were:

  • Three Capes Track
  • Frenchmans Cap
  • Tarn Shelf & Mt. Field
  • Walls of Jerusalem
  • Maria Island
  • Freycinet Circuit

All of these were short, 1-night camping trips. None required bookings or additional payment, though the ferry to Maria Island did cost $62. All of the hikes I did in Tasmania were in a National Park, so I needed a Parks Pass. The best deal is the 2-month “Holiday Pass” for $41 per person (or $82 per vehicle). There were also 3 hikes I attempted, but had to turn around due to conditions:

  • Western Arthur Traverse (79km, 5-8 days) – hypothermia rain
  • Lake Rhona (34km, 2 days) – flooded river crossing
  • Mt. Anne circuit (34km, 2 days) – illness

I’ll have to return for these someday!

 

More Resources:

Guidebooks: John Chapman’s Tasmania Books (South West, Cradle Mountain)

Tide Charts: WillyWeather

Weather: Bureau of Meterology

Weather app: BOM

Car Campsite app: CamperMate

Guthook navigation app: Guthook (Larapinta, Bibbulmun, Cape-to-Cape, Overland, South Coast, Three Capes)

General navigation app: Backcountry Navigator Pro (everything else)

 

Tuesday December 20, 0.0km/0.0mi

Hobart Airport to Sydney Airport to Island Bend Campground (NSW)

I caught an early shuttle bus to the airport for my 9:45am flight to Sydney, which was a little turbulent but I napped anyway.

I landed in Sydney at 11:30, and rode the subway a couple stops to pickup my rental car. This one was quite a bit more modern than the 2012 Hyundai that I had in Tasmania, and I took advantage of the Bluetooth for navigation and phone calls.

I drove the 5 hours to Kosciuszko National Park, which included a stop at Lake George for some photos and stretching the legs.

Halfway thru, I stopped by Canberra for an early dinner and to pickup a map from Paddy Pallin (outdoor outfitter here). The other half of the drive was more scenic, and I did the last 15 minutes in the dark. All the Australian animals seem to be nocturnal and love to cross the roads, so it was a slow last 15 minutes.

I setup my tent at the Island Bend Campground, which was a nice secluded primitive spot above the Snowy River. It was very quiet, except for the sounds of hopping animals nearby.

Wednesday December 21, 22.1km/13.7mi

Charlotte Pass Trailhead (0.0/1840m) to Charlotte Pass Trailhead (22.1/1840m) (NSW)

I enjoyed my last night camping in Australia, and I woke to blue sunny skies and more hopping animals.

I think these are either Pademelons or Wallabies.

It was a 25 minute drive to the Charlotte pass trailhead, and along the way I stopped by the Perisher Valley visitor center (and ski resort) to get a parking pass.

The road ends at the Charlotte Pass trailhead, which is very small. Most of the cars were parked along the road, so I had to walk for a couple minutes to get to the official start of the loop I would be hiking.

My plan was to hike a 22km loop counterclockwise, going over the summit of Mt Kosciuszko (2228m/7310ft) along the way. Mt. Kosciuszko is the highest point on the Australian continent, and one of the “7 Summits”. The highpoints on the other six continents are much more difficult.

I could tell this trail was very well traveled, since it was so wide and paved with bricks!

I descended to the Snowy River, about 100m below the trailhead.

The river was wide, but the crossing was actually very easy on many large & well-placed boulders.

As I re-ascended out of the river valley, I started seeing some snow patches. The temperature was 15C/60F, so it was really more like slush.

The little creeks were raging with snowmelt.

The top of the climb up to the ridge, the trail split. It was a short 1km spur down to Blue Lake, which I skipped. I had a very good view of the lake from the junction, and since it was too cold to go swimming I didn’t see the point in doing the side trip.

The rest of the day was traversing along a ridge. There were some short sections of traversing snow, and I actually use my microspikes. They weren’t really necessary but it was much more efficient to hike with them on, since I wasn’t slipping with every step.

I loved the ridgewalk, as it was a completely alpine hike, which I saw very little of in Australia.

Blue skies!

Sometimes the trail would become very snowy, and disappear under a large snowdrift.

But mostly I was hiking through the grassy alpine terrain.

One particular section was on a raised metal walkway over 1km long, which seemed very out of place in the wilderness. The sign said it was to protect the environment from being trampled so I guess that makes sense.

I was so tempted to try to go swimming in all the little alpine tarns that I saw along the way.

As I crossed a short snowfield, I was shocked to see what appeared to be a very tiny crevasse. I knew this was not a glacier, and I probed probed the tiny crevasse and discovered it was only 1.5m/5ft deep, ha!

The trail was on a plastic grid material, which prevented it from getting muddy and eroded.

After hiking 12.5km, I arrived to the summit just before noon, and read the history of Mt Kosciuszko.

There were at least a dozen people on the summit at any given time, so any sense of solitude was lost.

I found some type of summit marker.

But this other summit marker was higher and looked more official.

I took my turn standing on the stone summit monument and asked another hiker to take my photo. She wasn’t very good with the camera but I kinda liked the strange angle of the photo.

I relaxed on the summit for almost an hour before finally departing. This section of trail was on an old road, and the 10km only took me 2 hours to get back to the car.

Along the way I came upon an old hut, called Seamans Hut. There were three rooms inside, with some benches and tables. It looked like a pretty nice spot to wait out a storm.

There were distance markers counting down the kilometers to the trailhead. 1km to go! The carpark (CP) was close.

When I returned to the trailhead, I explored the short Snow Gum (type of tree) trail. It was an easy 500m walk on a boardwalk and there were tons of these cool looking trees.

It was 4pm and I got in the car and drove straight to Canberra to get dinner. The Capital Brewing company (Canberra is the national capital of Australia) was a nice spot to grab a drink and a fish and chips.

I drove another hour and half to a free camping area called Daly’s Clearing. I have been using the Campermate app to find campsites all over Australia, it’s pretty great! It was almost dark so I set up my tent right next to the car. As I was taking off my shoes I noticed how they were about to fall apart. Good thing today was my very last day of hiking in Australia!

Tomorrow I will do some touristy things around downtown Sydney, and I have a hotel booked for tomorrow night.

Thursday December 22, 0.0km/0.0mi

Daly’s Clearing Camping Area to Sydney CBD (NSW)

I drove an hour and a half back to Sydney, and went directly to Bondi Beach. Even at 8:30am, there were plenty of people walking around.

The beach is famous for its surfing.

It’s a beautiful white sand beach, and only 20 minutes from downtown!

After a couple hours at the beach, I drove back to the airport and dropped off the rental car. I used the subway to get downtown, which was a very nice modern train system.

It was before noon and too early to check into my hotel, but they allowed me to drop off my backpack in their luggage room. The hotel was right next to this beautiful little urban park.

I walked 10 minutes over to the SeaLife Aquarium, and spent a couple hours exploring all the exhibits and cool marine animals.

The Dugong was very special, I think he’s the only one in a zoo anywhere in the world.

Rays!

My next stop was the Sydney Tower Eye. It looks like Seattle’s space needle, except it’s almost twice as tall.

There was a long-ish elevator ride to the top of the tower, which is 268m high.

After getting my fix for heights, I rode the elevator back down and hurried over to the Sydney opera house where I had reserved tickets for a 4:30pm tour.

I had trouble finding the entrance since most of the doors were locked. Eventually I figured out how to get under the stairs and met the tour guide on the ground floor.

He was a very thorough guide, and we heard explanations for many of the artworks and architectural features throughout the building.

This sounds strange, but the tiles that make up the outside of the shells of the Opera House were surprisingly….soft.

We were able to get a tour of one of the four theatres, since it was empty. (If a theater is currently hosting a production, it’s closed to tours to protect the IP of the production company).

The tour ended at 5:30, and I hungry for dinner, so I walked through the CBD and browsed restaurant menus as I passed by.

I was almost back to my hotel when the menu for “Next Door restaurant” caught my eye. It was a tiny place that seated maybe 25 people, and it served gourmet pizzas and quirky cocktails, with special prices for happy hour! Sold.

After dinner, I made my way to the Occidental Hotel and checked in. I spent an hour getting ready and packing for my flight back to the USA tomorrow morning.

It’s so strange that my Australia trip is now really coming to an end. I’m excited to be home for the holidays and to go back to work in January, but I know I will miss all this once I leave. And I’m definitely coming back to Tasmania someday to finish the hikes I could not complete due to bad weather. See you later, Australia!

Monday December 19, 25.5km/15.8mi

Hazards Beach Campsite (9.2/5m) to Wineglass Bay Trailhead (31.8/35m) (TAS) +2.9km Cooks Beach Hut

It was a warm morning, and for the first time in awhile I could hike in shorts! The trail was mostly in the forest today, with a couple of short beach walks.

I crossed probably a dozen tiny streams, and they all had a little pile of foam. There must be something dissolved in the water here, it’s very unusual.

I came to a trail junction for Cooks Beach, and decided to investigate the beach. It’s a short 1.5km side-hike, and ends at the Cooks Beach Hut. There were lots of footprints on the beach, and they all led to the Hut and campground area.

The hut was a very old stone structure, which gave a better first impression than it’s actual condition.

The hut’s inside was nice enough, I sat and had a snack at the table, and got some water from the tank. There were 2 other rooms, but I didn’t go in those due to spiderwebs and rotting floorboards.

It was a little after 9am and there were still 5 or 6 groups packing up their campsites. I’m always amazed how late some people start their day … they’re missing the best part of the day for hiking! I hiked the 1.5km back to the main trail, and found this enormous starfish along the beach. It was like 1.5 shoes in diameter!

Back on the main trail, it climbed up a few hundred meters toward Mt Freycinet. There must’ve been a recent storm, as there were fallen trees everywhere for over a kilometer. It was slow hiking and scrambling over all the blowdowns.

When I got to the saddle between Mt Freycinet and Mt. Graham, the trail split. Apparently Mt Freycinet is an optional side-hike, but there was no way I was skipping the trail’s namesake mountain! It started off at a reasonable climbing grade…

And within minutes, became quite steep. I was glad to have a light pack and no hiking poles!

At the summit of Mt Freycinet (629m), I initially didn’t have much of a view, as a random cloud had moved in.

I could tell the cloud wasn’t big, so I waited for the fog to burn off….

And it did burn off 10 minutes later. I could see Hazards Beach (left) where I hiked yesterday, and Wineglass Bay (right).

A closer look at Hazards Beach.

To my south, I could see the rest of the peninsula. There aren’t any trails down there, I think just a couple small beaches that boats can access.

Looking over to Mt. Graham, I could tell the clouds had mostly moved away, as I had visibility for a long distance.

I hiked off Mt Freycinet, rejoining the main trail, and climbed up Mt Graham. The skies were really clearing now, it was looking blue everywhere.

From the top of Mt Graham (el. 579m), I could see back to the summit of Mt. Freycinet, which by now was clear of clouds.

As I descended Mt Graham, I could see down to Wineglass Bay, where I would be in a couple of hours.

Back in the forest, it seemed much greener on this side of the mountain.

This little waterfall was surprisingly loud!

Wineglass Bay getting closer….

I descended all the way down to the Beach at Wineglass Bay. The waves were definitely bigger on this side of the peninsula.

It was a very enjoyable hour walking along the beach.

Looking out to the turquoise colored water.

More Wineglass Bay amazing-ness.

After 3km of beach walking, I was back in the forest, it was time to climb some stairs over a pass!

The view from the lookout at the top of the pass was unreal.

Even better views were around the corner! The clouds seem to be perched atop Mt Freycinet, ha!

This part of the trail was clearly much more popular, as I passed dozens of dayhikers on my way to the car. I finished at 4pm, and started the drive to Hobart. But I was soon distracted by ice cream!

So many flavors, it was hard to choose. I restrained myself to picking only 4 flavors.

The wildlife signs in Tasmania are top-notch. So detailed!

I arrived back in Hobart at 7pm, dropped off the rental car, and walked a short distance to my hotel. And with that, my Tasmania hiking is complete!

I’ll have to return someday to hike the Western Arthurs circuit, and the Lake Rhona trail, which I couldn’t complete due to weather. Until next time, see ya Tassie!

Sunday December 18, 25.8km/16.0mi

Darlington Campground (16.6/10m) to Wineglass Bay Trailhead (0.0/35m) to Hazards Beach Campsite (9.2/5m) (TAS)

I slept great under my little copse of trees, and awoke to a beautiful blue sky morning. I walked over to the meal pavilion, where I grabbed my food out of the lockers (required by the park), and enjoyed a walking meal. Much of the trail system on this island is old roads, it seems.

There was a little old house by the water, and I had to go explore inside. It had many used over the years, but one of them was a radio equipment building. And the radio was powered by pedaling a sort of bicycle contraption. Neat!

The Painted cliffs were a short 2km walk along the coast. I knew what to expect from photos, but it was even more amazing in person. I think they are caused by mineral water dripping out of the cliff, combined with erosion.

So cool.

The patterns were incredible!

It was almost 9am and somehow I had this place all to myself.

For the walk back, I opted for the beach option. It was only 5 minutes before I rejoined the trail on land, but I’m always looking for sea life.

Back at the campground, I grabbed my backpack, hat and sunglasses from my tent. I threw in some snacks and water too, since this next hike would be about 4 hours long. Like the other trails, it started off flat and easy.

After only 2km, I had crossed the width of the island, and I had a view of my destination. Bishop and Clerk and the bumps on the left side of the ridge.

Getting closer! The photos don’t really show how much elevation gain happened along the grassy section, it was a couple hundred meters. The trail follows near the cliff edge, which felt far enough away to be safe. But then I saw people on bicycles, speeding downhill, and they didn’t have as much room for error!

Looking back at what I had just hiked up.

About halfway up, I entered the forest, which was full of these cool gum trees.

The forest only lasted 30 minutes, and then it was time for the final bit of climbing to the top. Climbing up thru a talus field!

The trail actually switchbacked its way thru the talus, with rock steps at every turn, it was pretty nice! I got a little confused at the very top, as the trail weaved thru some massive boulders, but I found the way eventually. There was an older couple up there who were enjoying their lunch, and they took a bunch of photos for me. She used to be a magazine photographer before she retired, I think she was enjoying it, ha!

View to the north, where I had just hiked from.

As I ate my lunch on the warm summit, some more families showed up.

There was a very steep drop down the other side, opposite of where I had hiked up from.

Looking south, towards Mt. Maria.

I stayed on the summit for awhile, and I left as more people were coming up, so they would have room. It was an easy hike down, and 1.5 hours later I was back near the Darlington village. I hadn’t noticed this old building on the way up, so I had to explore it.

It was a huge old brick structure, historically used to house engine equipment.

The Wombats were out in force to do their part in keeping the grass short!

I returned to the campground at 1:30pm, and had everything packed up quickly. It felt nice hiking all morning with an almost empty backpack! I strolled over to the ferry docks at 2pm, plenty of time before the 2:30 ferry departure. I boarded a half-full ferry and was back at my car just after 3pm. I had planned to start my final hike tonight, the Freycinet Circuit. It was an hour and a half drive, so I didn’t waste any time! Along the way, I passed thru a small town with some Christmas decorations… except Santa’s sleigh was being pulled by kangaroos instead of reindeer!

I arrived to Freycinet National Park just before 5pm. I grabbed some food from the trunk, re-packed my backpack, and was ready to go 15 minutes later. I love resupplying from my trunk, it’s so much easier, haha. This map at the trailhead was a good illustration of the 2-day hike, I’m doing the loop counterclockwise.

I started off just after 5pm, and saw only a couple of hikers.

The first part of the loop is in the forest.

And sometimes I would get a view of the sea before returning to the deeper forest.

These spindly little trees were everywhere on this section of the trail, it made for a wonderfully open forest floor.

After 6km, I emerged into Hazards Beach.

I think it was low tide, because the beach was really wide and easy to walk on the nice hard sand.

I came across one of the biggest seashells I have ever seen in the wild. Huge!

The waves on this side of the peninsula were pretty gentle, so I could walk right next to the water.

These birds must’ve had a nest here, because they went crazy when I got close, and after I walked by they refused to leave the area. Sorry for the disturbance, bird friends!

I hiked to the end of Hazards Beach, to the official campsite tucked away in the forest. As I was setting up my tent for the night, I witnessed this bird swimming along the shore. I think it was fishing! It had a huge long beak, and kept plunging its head in the water.

This is my final campsite in Tasmania, and it was a great one! Perfect weather and amazing sunset views.

Tomorrow I will finish the other half of the Freycinet Circuit, and then drive back to Hobart.

Saturday December 17, 0.5km/0.3mi

Triabunna Ferry Terminal (0.0/2m) to Darlington Campground (0.5/10m) (TAS)

I tried to sleep in, figuring the extra rest would help me feel better. It kinda worked, and at 10am I made the short drive down to Triabunna. It was way too early for the 11:30am ferry, but it gave me time to refuel the car and get my campsite sorted and paid. It wasn’t quite the warm sunny day that was promised, so I waited in the warm car until the last minute.

The ferry showed up a few minutes early, I think it makes 4 trips a day back and forth to the island.

Everyone was boarded within 10 minutes, and it was only like a quarter full inside.

There was also an upper deck that is outside, but I went up there for only a minute, since it was cold and windy.

The ferry ride took like 30 minutes, and we were dropped off at the Darlington jetty on Maria Island. I think these towers were old concrete plants.

I walked by the little Darlington Beach, which wasn’t inviting me for a swim on such a cold day.

This grove of ancient and massive trees was a nice entrance gateway to the Darlington village.

For much of its history, Maria Island was a penitentiary settlement. There were a dozen old buildings to visit, each with an interpretive sign or display. I investigated a mill, a cafeteria, the Warden’s residence, a medical ward, and some old dormitory housing.

One of the displays had a cool 3D map, which are usually my favorite things. And this map had an Isthmus, which is my favorite land feature! It’s also just a fun word to say.

One of the old buildings had been modernized inside to be a working kitchen and dining area. It had gas stoves and sinks and counters, pretty basic. But it was warm-ish and windless inside, so I spent a couple hours in there eating a late lunch of soup and cookies.

I kept hearing these weird noises outside that sounded like a pig grunting. I went to investigate…and it’s a bird! A Cape Barren Goose, to be precise.

The Wombats on the island are smaller than the mainland ones, but also less shy too. They had no concerns about me standing only 2m away as they munched on grass.

I setup my tent in the designated camping area, there aren’t assigned spots here. I made dinner in the dining building, and afterwards returned to the campground to get ready for bed. I heard waves crashing as the tide was getting higher, and I was surprised to see the ocean so close! It was less than a 1 minute walk thru some tall bushes.

I had been taking medication all day and resting, and finally starting to feel a little better. Tomorrow morning I’ll take the short beachwalk over to Painted Rocks, and then do a longer hike up to the summit of Bishop & Clerk. I plan to be finished by 1:30pm, since I’m on the 2:30 ferry back to Triabunna.

Friday December 16, 4.3km/2.7mi

Richea Creek Trailhead (0.0/570m) to Gordon River (2.15/460m) to Richea Creek Trailhead (0.0/570m) (TAS)

I had camped right next to the parking lot. Usually I would never camp close to a road, but given that it took me an hour of slow driving on a mediocre dirt road to get here, I wasn’t worried about unsavory humans randomly showing up. I packed all my camping stuff back in the car, as I had planned this hike as a long dayhikes, as it’s 32km out & back to Lake Rhona. I signed into the trail register and hiked out with a delightfully lightweight pack.

I walked for 40 minutes on a pretty nice trail, with hardly any mud or brush.

I’m always so entertained by these logs. I appreciate the effort of the PWS (parks and Wildlife Service), but it’s so much easier to just cut thru the log and remove the whole section. Easier for hikers, too.

After about 2km and 30 minutes of hiking, I arrived to the Gordon River crossing. The guidebook warns that it doesn’t have a bridge, just a massive fallen log to walk on. Unfortunately, the log was partially submerged by the flooded river, making this crossing impossible.

A flooded Gordon River.

I hiked upstream and downstream along the banks and found two other possible logs to cross on, but both of these were submerged too. Bummer.

Even if I found a way across now, I wasn’t sure the river wouldn’t be even higher this afternoon when I would be re-crossing it. And then I would be stuck, as there are no other trails out here. So, I hiked the short distance back to the car. I kept pondering how strange it was that there was no bridge, since the Gordon River is Tasmania’s largest river by volume. And plenty of other more remote trails have had bridges, over smaller rivers than this one. I got in the car and reversed my driving route down the narrow dirt roads.

After an hour of driving down dirt roads, I was back in the tiny town of Maydena. I now had the whole day to entertain myself, and I was looking up information on nearby Mt Anne, I began to feel terribly sick and flu-ish. So the rest of my day was instead focused on medicating myself enough to be capable of driving to my planned destination for tomorrow, Triabunna. After a few rounds of medications, I drove the 2.5 hours to Triabunna, and then to a nearby free car campground at Mayfield Bay. It was a nice spot on the ocean, but it was hard to appreciate in my current state of illness.

Tomorrow I will take an 11:30am ferry from Triabunna to Maria Island, which is supposed to be a very relaxing place, and a great spot to see Tasmanian Devils!

Thursday December 15, 14.1km/8.8mi

Dixons Kingdom Campsite (20.0/1260m) to Fish River Carpark (34.1/690m) (TAS)

I awoke to a tent covered in a dusting of snow, and the hillsides covered in fog. A very different world than last night!

It took me awhile to pack up, as the frigid temperatures (-1C) were predictably causing limited dexterity in my hands. Eventually by 6:45am I was hiking and on my way to getting warm. Lake Ball coming into view:

There was also a Lake Ball Hut, which was a surprise to me. It’s another old historical hut built by fur trappers.

It’s not really ideal for sleeping inside, but if the weather was truly terrible it would make a decent refuge.

More views of Ball Lake:

Most of the hiking today looked like this. This half of the loop is much less scenic than yesterday, but it had its own quiet beauty.

Lake Adelaide coming into view:

Lake Adelaide is huge, and it had a trail junction near here. That trail connects to the Overland Track, albeit with some light bushwhacking involved. It was my original plan to connect to Walls of Jerusalem from the Overland Track via this trail, but I had found out the valley was flooded so I changed plans.

This half of the Jerusalem loop was definitely less maintained, but it did have some nice sections of trail near the Lake Adelaide campsite.

The cloud ceiling was starting to lift!

The final lake on the circuit was Lake Loane, and it looked rather swampy.

A few minutes later, I reconnected to my trail from yesterday, closing the loop. I was near the Trapper’s Hut, so I still had about 2km to go. After an easy 40 minutes of downhill hiking, I was back at the car. It was much warmer now at 11am, but I still started up the car’s heater right away…I had gear to dry out!

After exploding my backpack contents all over every surface in the car, the drying process had started! Weirdly, I had a flat tire, which I had to deal with before I could leave. The damage is covered by my rental contract, but I still needed a working car. A nice couple in the parking lot loaned me their air pump, which I used to restore the tire, only to watch the gage drop from 35psi to 25 pretty quickly. Bummer. I pulled the spare out of the trunk and installed it, finally leaving the trailhead at noon. I drove the 5.5 hours to my next hike, Lake Rhona. Except the last bit didn’t go as planned. The last hour is on forestry roads, and this one road happened to be closed.

I had to take the only other access road to Lake Rhona, which meant backtracking an hour, taking paved roads around to the other side of the forest, and entering from that side. Another 2.5 hours of driving, yuck. I finally arrived at the Lake Rhona trailhead at 9pm, just as all the nocturnal critters start suicidally crossing the roads. Long day!

Wednesday December 14, 17.7km/11.0mi

Trappers Hut (2.3/1060m) to Dixons Kingdom Campsite (20.0/1260m) (TAS)

It must’ve rained a little overnight, as the outside of my tent was wet. After I packed up, I wandered over to the ancient little hut to have a look inside…but there were two people sleeping in there! Gross. It was also full of spiders, dirt, and at least one mouse. Trapper’s hut:

There was a big sign welcoming hikers to the national park, which I had missed last night in the waning daylight.

As I hiked uphill, I warmed up rapidly, and the sun came out and helped too. It was probably only 6C outside.

The trail had climbed 500m/1600ft from the trailhead, and I had finally reached the top of the climb to the plateau. There were little lakes everywhere, I think these lakes were called Solomon’s Jewels.

I could see King David’s Peak getting closer as the morning went on. It’s one if the sidetrip options for this hike.

The peak was getting closer still…and the trail was a pleasure to hike with all the boardwalks.

There wasn’t much vegetation up high at 1200m, so the scenery was visible in every direction.

Looking behind me, to where I was this morning.

This little pass was called Herod’s Gate, which was the entry point to the main valley in Walls of Jerusalem.

There were clouds all day, but it was trying to be nice weather.

There were a ton of these big green hemispheres of green moss, or some type of moisture-loving plant. Apparently they are easily damaged and take forever to regrow, so the boardwalks help keep people from trampling them.

Looking ahead to The Temple (L) and Solomon’s Throne (R), with Damascus Gate in the middle.

Getting closer …

These trees are a special type of pine that seems to like to grow at high elevations, where no other trees will grow.

There was a very short side hike to Solomons Pools, it was a nice little spot with lots of noisy frogs.

It did have a nice reflection of the mountains behind it too.

I hiked the 100m back to the main trail and passed thru even more of these little groves of pines.

From the top of the Damascus Gate pass, I could see the whole valley behind me. I had just hiked thru all of that. King David’s Peak is on the left.

At the pass, there is a 4-way junction to Solomon’s Throne, and The Temple. Normally I would’ve hiked these both as I hiked by, but I wanted to hike Mt Jerusalem first, while the weather was still good. Instead, I descended the other side of the pass, towards Dixon’s Kingdom Hut and Mt Jerusalem.

At one point, the trail took an abrupt right turn, onto what was clearly brand-new trail.

I was able to get an up-close look at those pine trees. Interesting needles!

I passed by a brand-new Dixons Kingdom campsite, complete with tent platforms and toilets. But I kept going to the old Dixons Kingdom Hut, since I wanted shelter from the incessant wind.

The hut was nice insit, and I ate my lunch while relaxing on the big bench seat. As I was finishing lunch, I heard a loud tapping noise on the roof. Sleet! I waited an hour in the dry hut for that wave of storm clouds to pass thru, good timing!

By 2pm, the mixed precipitation had stopped falling, so I ventured out.

The clouds looked like they might keep making hourly appearances, so I hiked quickly towards Mt Jerusalem.

Mt Jerusalem was 2km from the hut, and I covered ground quickly.

About 500m from the summit, the next wave of clouds moved thru, and I had zero visibility for 10 minutes. I hid behind a large boulder, while waiting for the wind and SNOW to stop.

I had gotten pretty cold sitting still for 10 minutes behind that boulder, so it felt good to move again. Sometimes the only way to get warm is to move, or move faster…it worked! The summit had some great views:

Looking to the east:

The very windy and cold summit selfie:

Mt Jerusalem really had a cool perspective on the surrounding area.

Looking back towards King David’s Peak:

I only stayed 5 minutes on the summit, it was windy, and I could see another wave of clouds moving toward me. About halfway back to the hut, I again hid behind a boulder from the passing wave of snow flurries. Crazy! I returned to the hut and had a snack, and put on another warm layer. Continuing on, I headed back to that 4-way junction at Damascus Gate to hike Solomon’s Throne & The Temple. Solomon’s Throne looked forbidding:

I turned onto The Temple first, since it seemed easier. The peak was quite rocky, but the trail builders did a masterful job installing lots of rock stairs.

It was only a 500m hike to the top, and I loved this view to the north, of King David’s Peak.

Much to my surpy, there was a woman from Belgium taking a nap up there! She awoke from my noisy hiking, and took a nice photo of me.

The clouds had started to move in again, so I figured it was time to get one more peak finished while I still could. I sauntered back down to the junction, and kept going up the other side towards Solomon’s Throne.

The cliff seemed impossibly steep, but the trail kept zigzagging towards it.

At one spot, it wrapped around the edge of a talus field.

And the coolest surprise came at the end, when the trail went straight up a rocky gap in the cliff!

From the top, I was enthralled by the view to the west. I could see all the peaks along the Overland Track, where I had been two weeks before. Cradle Mountain, Barn Bluff, Mt Ossa, and more.

Some hikers continue another 2km along the ridge to King David’s Peak, which would add another 2 hours to my day.

It was tempting, but I noticed it was already 6pm and another wave of clouds was approaching in the distance (they seemed to be about an hour apart). I happily hiked back the way I came, and then turned off at the junction to the campsite.

These little guys were all over the campsite. I’m not sure if they’re Wallabies or Pademelons.

I setup my tent on one of the nice new platforms, and because it was so windy, I boiled my dinner behind the bathrooms, haha! As I crawled into my sleeping bag, I noticed on my little thermometer that it had already dropped to 5C…it will surely get to 0C tonight. So I pulled my water filter off its bottle, and put it inside the sleeping bag with me so it doesn’t freeze. It’s supposed to be summer here!

Tuesday December 13, 2.3km/1.4mi

Fish River Carpark (0.0/690m) to Trappers Hut (2.3/1060m) (TAS)

It was a 4 hour drive to the trailhead, mostly heading north, and then a little west. I had heard from a few locals that the best place to see a platypus was in a small creek behind the Mole Creek Hotel & bar. Mole Creek isn’t convenient to get to, but it was actually on my way to Walls of Jerusalem National Park! After 3 hours of driving, I stopped in for an early dinner.
Their kitchen didn’t open until 5pm, so I killed time looking for a platypus in the creek. I spent 30 minutes looking, but I only found a confused bird, who was squawking at a rock. No platypuses (platypii?), darn.

Dinner was a delicious pulled pork sandwich and chips, and I was thoroughly entertained by the bartender who was explaining all the different Australian words for beer and drinking culture. I drove the last hour to the trailhead, which had a fancy little shed for the trail sign-in register.

I could easily do this loop hike in just 2 days, but I wanted to hike a little and didn’t feel like camping at the carpark. The trail climbed steadily for 2km, thru a tall forest.

After 45 minutes, I reached a clear area near Trappers Hut, an old disused shelter. I was in my sleeping bag within 20 minutes, since I didn’t have any cooking/cleaning chores to do, and because it was a cold 6C outside.

Monday December 12, 0km/0mi

Hobart (10m) (TAS)

I had booked a room at the Central Hotel for 2 nights, so I didn’t have to go anywhere today. It was great! It’s on Collins Street, one of the main routes in Hobart’s CBD, so I didn’t have to walk far to anything. Including donuts! I tried “Circle of Life” which had all sorts of crazy flavors. I got a standard cinnamon donut and a timtam crumb donut, and my blood sugar rose in anticipation.

I went back to the hotel room and checked out the local TV channels.
There was a reality show about duplicating a popular Australian candy called Snakes Alive, and a backyard barbecue version of Top Chef, haha. I tried something new for lunch, Malaysian food. I noticed that Australia generally has many options for southeast Asia cuisine, something generally lacking in the US.

On the walk back, I thought my feet felt cold. Upon closer inspection, my shoes were falling apart! It wasn’t surprising, since I usually get 100km/650mi out of a pair of shoes, and it has been almost 1500km. C’mon shoes, just one more week to go!

I did some makeshift repairs with a sewing kit from the hotel reception desk, and a 2-part epoxy I bought at a hardware store. Tomorrow morning I will head to wherever the weather looks driest – which is currently the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. Weather is Tasmania is so wet and chilly!