Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Do Not Want To Go Back: Round The Freycinet Peninsula By Sea Kayak

Wineglass Bay to Crocketts Bay on Schouten Island:

As we paddled southwest along the small granite cliffs of Thouin Bay towards the promontory of Cape Forestier and Lemon Rock, I made note of the tiny half-sheltered rocky coves in which, should it be absolutely necessary, a kayaker might make a rough landing. There were two, and both would be desperate landings. Soon after, we rounded Lemon Rock and our boats began to rise and fall on the rolling southwest swell. The ocean was deepest blue, the tall cliffs of Cape Forestier golden orange, and the sea surface rising and swelling in unpredictable haystacks as the current moved swiftly past. A seal dived beneath the front of my boat and a large Pacific Gull flew overhead. It was an exhilarating place out here on the Tasman Sea knowing we had 16 kilometres to paddle before we could hope to land. 

Early that morning we had got up, packed the caravan, driven south to park in Freycinet National Park, hitch-hiked south to the Wineglass Bay trail head, walked into Wineglass Bay over the Hazards, retrieved our boats from the campsite, repacked them with a few days supplies, and, finally, at 11 am, with the wind still too strong for comfort but ourselves too nervous and anxious to wait, launched from Wineglass Bay and begun the 22 km exposed paddle to Crocketts Bay on Schouten Island. 

 Doug approaches Lemon Rock

Our progress slowed between Lemon Rock and Half Lemon Rock. It took 40 minutes of hard paddling to cover three kilometres. Our boats were riding the swells easily, but we were both taking some of the wind and current chop across our chests. Doug called out "we need to watch our time." I did not want to go back and began to paddle stronger. 

Sometimes, I should go back, but sometimes, that strong urge to "not do that again" is what has got me to the summit of the mountain, up, down or across the dodgy snow-slope, enabled me to lead the final pitch of the climb, and now, to paddle the wild east coast of Freycinet Peninsula. The trick is to know when to embrace "I don't want to go back" and when going back is the only real option.

 Near Cape Degerando

It was probably another hour to pass Gates Bluff and paddle by Gates Gulch where wave strewn rocks guarded the entrance to an exposed bay.
I felt small paddling this dark blue sea, the tiniest speck of matter on this great heaving ocean. Initially, as I pulled hard between Lemon Rock and Half Lemon Rock I thought "this paddle will not be enjoyable but it will be an achievement." The further south we paddled, the lighter the wind became, and even the seas began to reduce until, by the the time we reached Baldy Bluff, another giant orange granite cliff, the paddling was pure joy. We paddled past broad Slaughterhouse Bay, and, around Cape Degerando, we saw the sheltered waters of Schouten Passage and Schouten Island, with more huge orange granite cliffs and slabs to the south. We were three hours from Wineglass Bay and we had essentially paddled the east coast of Freycinet Peninsula. 

Passing Telegraph Point, another seal flipped in the water, some more Pacific Gulls soared past, low enough that I could clearly see their striking orange tipped peaks, we crossed Schouten Passage to Passage Point, and paddled on water the clearest green over swaying kelp forests into the tiny cove backed with white sand, tea trees and huge orange domes. 

 Beautiful Crockets Bay

We ate a late lunch on the beach, giddy with success, relief, accomplishment - all the ingredients of joy. Then, in the late afternoon, we climbed a steep track up orange and white streaked granite slabs to an amazing view point on Bare Hill. South was tiny Ile Des Phoques and Maria Island, north the convoluted Freycinet Peninsula with all its bays and coves, cliffs and islets, sheltered sandy beaches on the west and wave sculpted eastern slabs. As night fell, we cooked dinner on the beach, some small birds (perhaps little penguins) making noise in deep burrows behind our chairs. The possums, of course, came out at night, running about camp and fighting with each other over food scraps left by other campers. 

 Schouten Passage

Crocketts Bay to Richardsons Beach:

Northerly winds were forecast to increase over the day with another messy Tasmanian wind and rain event to arrive early the following morning. We would have loved to linger. Perhaps to paddle around the rugged wave swept southern cliffs of Schouten Island, or to walk to the top of Mount Freycinet from Cooks Corner, but, the weather door was fast closing, and, once again, we did not want our fingers caught when it slammed.

Accordingly, we got up early and paddled out of Crocketts Bay and back across to the mainland. A fishing boat was visiting the cray pots in Schouten Passage as a bright stream of silvery light shone down on the still grey early morning sea. South of Passage Beach, the current was running past the point and a seal was fishing in the spiky waters. We had a short sharp wind chop abeam as we paddled into the only sheltered landing site at Bryans Corner. 

 Part way up Bear Hill

From Bryans Corner we paddled north around low rocky headlands to Weatherhead Point where the current abruptly eased. We took 1.5 hours for breakfast on the sandy beach at Cooks Corner, wandering up the beach to an old stone hut set amongst gracious trees. The water became calm and smooth as we paddled north past more low rocky coves to long Hazards Beach. There is a popular loop walking track that crosses the isthmus here and returns to the trail head along the coast and there were many walkers on the beach. 

We had lunch in the smallest sandy cove at the north end of the beach and, just as we were ready to depart some hikers arrived and gave our boats a push out into the water saving us a bit of work. Around Fleurieu Point we got into the northerly wind but it was much lighter than forecast and we made reasonable time past the final few scattered rocks and coves to Richardsons Beach and the end of our trip. 

 Morning at Crocketts Bay

Style Points:

Friendly Beaches to Richardsons Beach is about 70 km, with over half that distance on the exposed east coast where landing sites are few. Without doubt, it is one of the most spectacular paddles I have done in Australia, the experience made more intense by cold water, rolling swells, confused seas, and the ever present wind. As long as wind and sea conditions do not deteriorate, the paddling is exhilarating, and, for reasonably competent paddlers, quite safe. But, always, at the back of your conscious mind is the notion that everything could change in an instant and you'd be in that situation, familiar to all alpinists and mountaineers when "everything was fine until it wasn't." 

Our trip felt strangely easy. By walking out to the road and our caravan during the two days of storms following our paddle from Friendly Beaches to Wineglass Bay we had avoided both the angst of being stuck in camp without an updated weather forecast fretting about conditions and the inevitable wet, cold and cramped camp as we huddled in our small tent. We walked back in when the forecast was favorable, paddled south in improving conditions and escaped again before the weather deteriorated. During the early morning hours of the day we paddled out, the forecast storm came in with wind, rain, lightening and thunder - we were snug in our beds. If I didn't know better, I might be inclined to think that adventure can be free. 

 Morning Friendly Beaches

No comments:

Post a Comment