Freycinet Circuit + Addons (07/12/20 – 10/12/20)

This week Harriet and I were supposed to be meeting between Strahan and Hobart to walk the Frenchmans cap track, after the shining quartzite rock called to us from the top of the Raglan Range. All week we had been waiting for the forecast 30mm of rain on the 7th to change, but it only got worse. Still determined to do a 4 day walk, we started assesing the weather all over the state, and naturally the east coast was the only part of Tasmania that wasn’t being blasted by rain.

The Freycinet peninsula is an intriguing place, with a shockingly dark European history, that the majority of tourists, and even many Tasmanians are not aware of. Freycinet also continues the trend of naming environmental features after people who have performed acts which would today be deemed unacceptable by those who explore the peninsula. The Hazard’s Range and Beach for example are named after Richard Hazard who, in the early 1800’s, was a whaler in the area. The whaling in the Freycinet peninsula apparently led to the white sand of Wineglass Bay being stained red with blood. Europeans also had little respect for the indigenous people of the peninsula, and much of the indigenous history is lost. Though culturally significant sites still exist and are now protected in the national park, including middens and stone artefacts.

We have both done the Freycinet circuit before, and have walked to Cook’s Beach many times, but neither of us had gone the extra hour to Bryan’s Beach, and I had never climbed Mt Freycinet. With these addons, we figured we could turn the standard 3 day loop walk into a 4 day trip. Harriet drove to Hobart Sunday night and we left Hobart the next morning at around 9am, after a bit of a sleep in. On the drive we pondered the current popularity of Freycinet, as the Tasmanian borders had just recently been reopened to all other states and territories. We were delighted to find that we could still find a spot in the main carpark, but the Wineglass Bay walk was certainly more popular than when we visited while the borders were still closed.

We set off towards Hazard’s Beach, hoping my car battery could hold its charge this week. This section of the walk was rather relaxing and incredibly scenic, especially with the perfectly clear weather polar opposite to what was currently happening out at Frenchmans… The ocean water was a serene vibrant blue and we had an unobstructed view out to Coles Bay and Swansea. After passing through the near-monoculture of sheoak (one of my favourite parts of the walk), and stopping to pull out a weed that must have snuck in on somebody’s shoe, we stepped out on to Hazard’s.

After a bit of a snack we wandered down Hazards’ Beach, following some pied oystercatchers and hooded plovers. We were soon approached by somebody running the entire 31km circuit (it was 5pm and she still had about 25km ahead of her!) and asked if we wanted our photo taken. We said yes and happily took a photo of her on Hazard’s as well and wished her luck. We continued onwards to Cook’s Beach, where the weather seemed to taking a turn for the worst, though happily it never did.

Ominous weather coming in over the Hazards
Ominous weather coming in over the Hazards

 

IMG_20201207_185644
Stormy clouds

At the Cook’s Beach campsite we found a nice nest under some khunzias to pitch the tent, and went down to the beach to cook dinner and watch the sky.

IMG_20201207_202231
Our temporary kitchen for the night

 

Darkling beetle (lepispilus sulcicollis)
Darkling beetle (lepispilus sulcicollis)

 

A husk of some type of cicada, presumably the ones we were hearing
A husk of some type of cicada, presumably the ones we were hearing

The next day was our ‘lazy day’. Awaking to the sound of some screaming cicadas, we slowly made coffee and porridge before following the short 1 hour walk to Bryan’s Beach. The weather was perfect for a swim once we arrived, but we were soon interrupted by what we think was an eagle ray. We were not at all dissapointed though, and watched with excitement from some nearby rocks as it perused the shallows of the beach.

We then surveyed the shores of Schouten Island with binoculars and spotted the hut and a few visiting boats, before exploring further down the beach in search of a reasonable spot to climb up the bank and get a view of Bryan’s Lagoon (steering well clear of potential midden sites). We eventually scrambled up the bank in a clear spot and got a good view of the span of Bryan’s Lagoon, spotting a pair of chestnut teals and a couple of black swans relaxing on the water. Climbing back down, Harriet found some sea spinach (tetragonia tetragonoides) fruit and used it to dye her entire hand pink. For a few more hours we ran around the beach and watched birds with the binoculars, including a dusky woodswallow, more pied oystercatchers, and an incredibly cute spotted pardalote. Somehow we didn’t take a single photo while on Bryan’s Beach, I guess we must have been having too much fun…

We walked back to Cook’s in the late afternoon, taking our time to photograph some intriguing flowers on the way. We very much enjoyed our day on Bryan’s Beach, and pondered the idea of spending an entire week camped at Cook’s or Bryan’s, but tomorrow we had two mountains to climb.

The next morning we left when it was already quite warm, and accepted that we were in for a long and hot day. We said goodbye to the oystercatchers on our way to the Mt Graham turnoff and began walking through a nice section of coastal bush. Along this section of the track we saw multiple snakes, an excited grey shrike-thrush making a very wide range of sounds, and a heap of mountain dragons.

Looking up where we were heading from Cook's Beach
Looking up at where we were heading from Cook’s Beach

 

A mountain dragon (rankinia diemensis) camouflaging into the debris
A mountain dragon (rankinia diemensis) camouflaging into the debris

We slowly meandered our way up the steep ascent to the saddle between Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham and found a shady spot to have a lunch break before climbing our first mountain of the day. The walk up Mt Freycinet was short and sharp, with a healthy dose of rock scrambling. We were very lucky with birds and plants on our way, spotting a bearded orchid and a huge wedge-tailed eagle being taunted by a black currawong soaring around the summit. From the summit there were great views out to Schouten and Maria islands, the northern part of the peninsula, and deep out into the Pacific Ocean. With binoculars we could even make out some people walking along Wineglass Bay.

Wineglass Bay and the Hazards from atop Mt Freycinet
Wineglass Bay and the Hazards from atop Mt Freycinet

 

Mt Graham waiting for us as we sat on the Mt Freycinet summit
Mt Graham waiting for us as we sat on the Mt Freycinet summit

 

130734801_1298247410526363_1435079678200748761_n
Schouten Island from the summit of Mt Freycinet, with Maria Island off in the distance

Already exhausted, we returned to the saddle and began our climb up Graham, taking a fair few breathers. We reached the summit at about 4pm, so wasted no time at the summit and kept on walking until we reached Graham’s Creek, and very slowly filled all of our drink-bottles from a tiny tiny trickle while dodging a swarm of mosquitoes. After another hour or so of walking and commenting on the impressive size of some of the grass trees, we arrived at Wineglass Bay. Very hungry, we quickly set up our temporary kitchen on the beach and cooked away while we watched a pacific gull eat a crayfish leg it must have stolen from one of the boats anchored in the bay.

The next morning we attempted to get out as quick as we could, as Harriet had to be back in Strahan by the end of the day. So we only stopped to have a quick chat to one of the many people passing through the Wineglass Bay track, and to observe a shining bronze cuckoo hiding in the bush. We arrived back at the car at 11am, so judged that we had enough time to grab some hot chips from Coles Bay on the way home, and to stop and admire some baby goats Harriet had spotted on the drive up.

Baby goats at the Pondering Frog Cafe
Baby goats at the Pondering Frog Cafe

Freycinet is a great place to spend a few days during the Summer, and we would have loved to have spent a few more nights camped at Cook’s Beach, exploring and birdwatching. While it is not the most wild of places in Tasmania, with human presence very noticeable in the park these days, it was a welcome change to have a real track as opposed to our previous scrub-bash up the Raglan Range.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s