AT LATITUDE 43 we are a long way south, literally poking our noses into the uncertainty of the Roaring Forties with nothing but ocean between us and the freezing waters and ice of the Antarctic. Near the end of the year the super maxi yachts like the famous Brindabella will skirt our destination and round the cape heading triumphantly for Storm Bay and Hobart.
We burst out of the coastal scrub into a small clearing that is more like an eagle's nest, providing us with a spellbinding 180-degree view. The spring weather is clear and calm except for a slight breeze that lightly cools the sweat on the back of our necks. We have been walking hard.
The sea cliffs, all high and mighty, stretch and plunge west and south as far as a squinting eye can see. It's simply sublime but then that's selling it short.
My wife and I have come back to Tassie - as you do and will do again and again. Collected in Hobart, we were whisked down to the Tasman Peninsula to begin the three-day Three Capes walk with Life's An Adventure. There are 11 of us including two guides. Except for our guides we are all at a similar level of declining fitness - the mind is willing if the body is slow.
Fortunately, you can travel at your own pace. It's a fully supported walk which is a delightful way of saying you only carry what you require and at the end of each day you are collected and returned to your luxury accommodation at Stewarts Bay Lodge, just a stone's throw from the famous Port Arthur historic site.
As I gaze out to Cape Raoul, the first of our three capes, my eyes are drawn west to the southern tip of Bruny Island and closer, but still a distance away, the famous Shipstern Bluff. When there is a huge ocean swell here, mad kamikaze surfers tackle a frightening beast of a wave before it unloads on to the base of ancient cliffs.
At day's end we walk out of the bush into the car park surrounded by open farmland bathed in fading afternoon light.
Our accommodation at Stewarts Bay Lodge is a spacious self-contained villa perched high on the hill. It faces east with filtered views through the treetops.
After quick showers, we eat extravagantly at the restaurant, Gabriels on the Bay. The locally sourced oysters, kilpatrick or natural, are succulently plump and delicious complemented with Tasmanian wine and beer.
Day two is the big one, some 17km-plus from Waterfall Bay to Fortescue Bay. It's all uphill for the first hour through coastal rainforest. Little streams criss-cross the path. As we wind our way higher, towering stringybarks stretch towards the light.
We summit at Tatnells Hill for morning tea, then set off again and spend the rest of the day following the winding track along the top of towering sea cliffs, plunging deep into deserted and tranquil bays and over a swaying suspension bridge.
We are heading slowly onwards to a destination teasing us in the distance. We stop when we need to, chat or walk in companionable silence. Finally, as the wind whips up and the day starts to cool, we file out on to the northern end of the beach for a victorious slog up the soft sand.
We share a leisurely breakfast on the final day before an adventure boat cruise departing from the jetty at our accommodation. The high-powered open boats pass Port Arthur out to Cape Pillar and Tasman Island. The towering sea cliffs, evidence of the breakup of the super continent Gondwana formed during the Jurassic age, dwarf and entrance us.
By afternoon we prepare to tackle our last walk and final destination, Cape Hauy. This is a tough walk that tests your legs as you climb and fall (hopefully not literally) up and down countless stairs.
At the top, it's windy but I make my way to the cliff's edge for a tentative peek, recoiling suddenly in vertigo-induced horror as an expletive slips into the breeze. I take a minute to gain some composure. The lookout at the end of the path is perched right on the vertical limit. Below is the famous Totem Pole, a mere dwarf.
There is something about this place, its violent history, surreal natural beauty, its imposing grandeur. Maybe it really is the last frontier. With my hat in my hand and my heart in my mouth I have one last look, take a deep breath and turn to walk home.
Jamie Callister is the author of The Man Who Invented Vegemite. Jamie was a guest of Life's An Adventure and Tourism Tasmania.
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