Tasmania:  Its really old

Tasmania is a tramper’s wonderland of ancient geology, flora and fauna, and so different to Aotearoa that it’s hard to believe we are neighbours.

Last year, Kane Hartill won the Grand Prize for the FMC Photo competition, which was a guided trip with Trek Tasmania. Unfortunately Kane was unable to make the journey overseas, so he offered to pass on the prize to one of his club-mates at the Golden Bay Alpine and Tramping Club. The lucky person was Gaylene Wilkinson, who has shared her experience from that trip, plus her travels after the guided trip. 

Protected by many small national parks, and the large South West UNESCO World Heritage area, opportunities to access Tasmania’s wilderness are plentiful. Quiet roads give good access to remote walking, but public transport is not readily available. We found a rental car ideal for getting around the various parks (check that you are insured for gravel roads). Tasmania Park and Wildlife Service charge A$60 for a two month Park Pass, covering up to 8 people in a vehicle for access to all of the national parks. We thought this was very reasonable, and would encourage DOC to consider a similar fee. This pass does not cover hut use. The many national park camping areas are accessible by car and reasonably priced. It was refreshing to find mostly Australians using these campsites.

Stunning alpine wetlands, Lake Bell, Walls of Jerusalem NP

There are good huts on the two well-marked multiday tracks; the Overland Track, and the new Three Capes Track. Elsewhere you must be prepared to camp. In more heavily used areas, like the
Walls of Jerusalem NP, there are wooden camping platforms and fly-in capsule toilets to minimise visitor impact. Using an open air loo in the rain made me wish for our mate Pete’s tramping umbrella! It is wise to treat drinking water at popular campsites. No fires are allowed in the wilderness areas, so a fuel stove must be carried.

Pristine white sand on Friendly Beaches, Freycinet NP

Much of Tasmania’s tramping is on what New Zealander’s would describe as a route, following a ground trail which is marked every now and then by a stake or a cairn. With notoriously foul weather, the south west getting 200 rain days per year, being well prepared with navigation skills and decent alpine camping gear is essential. Be warned, some popular tracks are no walk in the park.

Crossing Eliza Plateau, looking out to Lake Pedder, on the Mt Anne Circuit

Mt Anne is considered to be one of Tasmania’s premier day hikes. It has a 1100m height gain, is 22km return, follows a cairned route over huge boulder fields, and the final 100m to the summit
includes exposed crag climbing. It is common for people to turn back. Both the Mt Anne Circuit and Arthur Range routes have climbs where most people will pack haul. For competent trampers these are spectacular ridge walks. If you’re keen but doubt your navigation skills, I highly recommend joining a guided trek.

The peaks and ridges of the Mt Anne circuit from above Lonely Tarns

The panorama of evolutionary landforms, over a billion years old, are a geologist’s paradise. On the east coast, knuckled ridges of pink granite erode to create stunning white sand beaches, and the
clarity of the azure sea here is incredible. Flame red lichens grow on the granite at the high tide mark. The breakup of Gondwana triggered massive dolerite intrusions over much of the island. On the central plateau, extensive shaping by glacial erosion has left picturesque, jagged peaks jutting above alpine meadows, massive boulder scree fields, sculpted glacial valleys and cirques, and thousands of lakes. The dolerite columns on the Three Capes Track are equally dramatic, dropping straight into the Tasman Sea.

Cape Huay’s dolorite bluffs, Three Capes track, Tasman NP

Tasmania’s isolation, diverse terrain and climate have allowed the survival of some of the oldest plant species in the world, including the palm-like pandani and the long-lived endemic conifers like the King Billy pine and pencil pine. There are vast moorland plains of buttongrass on peat soils (yes, bog), ice-chewed high plateau with rich mosaics of sensitive alpine plant communities, the tallest hardwood forests on earth, and the north west rainforests with familiar beech and tree ferns. The Gondwanan heritage of Tasmania also gives a myriad of wonderfully unique animals, including the most primitive group of mammals in the world (monotremes), the echidna and platypus. Our list of ‘must see’ animals was long. It is not uncommon to see wildlife on the roads or in national parks, and this definitely adds excitement to your visit. There are a number of wildlife sanctuaries where you can finish off your list before leaving this extraordinary island.

Ancient King Billy pines on the alpine plateau below Solomon’s Throne, an easy climb in Walls of Jerusalem NP

 

Wilderlife