Tassie, week two

With twenty consecutive work days finished, I took a much needed rest and spent a couple days just staring across the harbor from Tim's deck...

Being an organic farmer myself,  I really enjoyed Tim's backyard garden.   Well cared for and not too big, it rewards him and Deirdre
with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and equally as important, a connection to the land and the cycles of life.

After spending two full days alternately staring into a mug of coffee and sleeping,  I found the vigor to once again seek out trouble. 
My partners in crime this day were Greg, Eddie, Tim, and Geoff. 

Starting in Fortescue bay on the west coast of the Tasman peninsula.  We paddled out to five detached offshore islands
known as "the Lanterns"  the most impressive of which is the incredible 200 ft freestanding dolerite pillar known as the Totem Pole. 

Looking very much like California sea lions,  the southern fur seals possessed a much gentler temperament and took little notice of our proximity.

Heading north along the coast we explored a series of tall arches and caves.

The dolerite gave way to uplifted sand/limestone seabed, which is soft and is easily carved by the waves.

A creek tumbling into the sea is always special.

After leaving this magnificent cave...

...we passed through this very tall arch...

.and slammed into this very stiff wind!   This two foot wave was generated by a vertical wind blowing straight down a three hundred foot cliff.   Forecast at 20 knots, the Sou'wester this afternoon slammed into us at a solid 30 knots gusting to 40, a typical Tassie weather pattern I've come to realize.   Everywhere you paddle you need to be prepared for winds that dramatically exceed the forecast, but here you need to expect it.   We clung to the cliffs as long as we could and had to work a bit to get back to shore when we turned into the wind.

The next morning me and Eddie head out for another trip on the peninsula. 
Tim loans me his kayak but only with the stipulation that I "don't treat it like I treat my skinboats."

Eddie and I launched at the legendary 18th century British prison Port Arthur,  headed for Tasman Island, the far southern tip of Tasmania.   Criminals, sometimes guilty, some dissenters on trumped up charges, were sent here to what still feels like, and in many ways is, then ends of the earth.

We paddled east in heavy refracting seas.  I snapped a roll after a moment of inattention.  

A couple hours paddling brought us to the 1000 foot tall sea cliffs of Tasman Island and the adjacent Cape Pillar.   The dolerite columns here are amazing.  Unlike the similar but more friable basalt of the Pacific coast of the United States where I live, this dolerite is solid and thousands of unclimbed but very climbable cracks rifle skyward from the waters edge.   It made me miss my days as a rock climber.

photo Eddie Safarik

Here both Eddie and I were lured into a fun game with the dozens of fur seals.  We would surf the swells next to Tasman island and the playful seals
would chase us.  Normally I don't like to bother the wildlife, but in this case, they were bothering us!

We got tired long before the seals but I learned to hold my camera underwater while they chased.  
It took about 400 shots to get these 2, in case you were wondering.

This decrepit old structure was used to supply the lighthouse above.  The crane and cable hauled supplies to the platform.  
There is nowhere else even remotely feasable to land on Tasman.

Eddie ties up the boats after our seal landing on the rocky shelf.  Tim specifically forbade this sort of activity
before he loaned me his fiberglass Euro X kayak, sorry Tim!  I had to do it!

Home sweet home, complete with a dead seal (top left).

This is what happens when you don't brush your teeth.

This is about as good as real estate gets on lower Tasman island.

We both agreed that the platform look pretty unsafe...

...and we both crept out onto it anyways.

A quick peek over the edge.

Being a mostly pelagic creature, I was happy with our current altitude.   Eddie, however, had other plans.

So began our grueling ascent up the impossibly steep rail that used to supply the lighthouse.   I made sure to complain continuously the whole way.

A cardio workout later, we stand triumphant adjacent to the substantial bluffs of Cape Pillar.

The giant winder that must have pulled supplies up the track.

Shouldn't this sign be at the bottom of the island?!

The Tasman island lighthouse is now automatic and sadly needs no lighthouse keeper.  I can't think of a better place in the world
 to spend a winter with a huge stack of books and bottle (or two) of expensive scotch.

We were startled when these two ladies suddenly appeared!  It turrns out that generations of lighthouse keepers and their pets left behind a feral cat population.  These researchers arrived by helicopter to study the problem.

The long climb back down.

Almost there.  If I ran the world, I would make sure there was a giant slide installed immediately.

I delicately slip Tim's Euro X back into the water.  Eddie doesn't have to be quite so careful in his plastic Nordkapp.

Then.... my camera ran out of batteries, which was sort of a relief.   With the advent of quality, inexpensive waterproof cameras, we have all become a little crazy.  Every trip is like being chased by the kayak paparazzi and sometimes I see things in my photos that I don't remember seeing in real life.  It's fun to share the experience, but it's also fun to leave it behind.

At the extreme tip of Cape Pillar, a dramatic current swept past as the East Australia current slams into the hook of the pillar.  The flow looked about 4 knots and this is a low current year.  Combine this current with a sou'wester and the tip of the cape could develop a fearsome sea state.  Eddie and I crawled around the corner, making progress north only in the back eddies right on the cliff walls, until we were far enough in that the current lost its sting.  As we headed north from Cape Pillar and finally back to Fortescue Bay, we explored caves so deep that eventually we could go no further, for fear of being lost in the blackness.  We ran a deep slot cave so narrow that its ever constricting walls funneled down to literally only inches wider than the kayak, and the pulse of the swell shot us through this 150 foot slot like a bullet and spit us out into a large dark cave, that led back out to the ocean on the other side.   Amazing.   We explored a cave with a waterfall pouring across its entrance, the rock covered with bright green lichen, and of course, we stopped back by the Lanterns and the totem pole.  We arrived back at Fortescue Bay in near darkness, eleven hours after we'd set out, making this the slowest I have ever paddled 22 miles of coastline.   It was worth savoring.

photo Eddie Safarik

I came to Tasmania for the least romantic of reasons, to make a buck so I could afford to keep buying greenhouses for my organic farm and paying for the land it sits on.  Everyone has to make a living and I'm incredibly fortunate that this is mine.  Still, I was less than enthusiastic about leaving my rainy paradise on the northern Oregon Coast to fly halfway across the planet to a very similar paradise, except one with venemous snakes, poisionous spiders, stinging jellyfish, and aggressive sharks;  even if it was summer there.   I probably don't deserve such amazing travel opportunities and when I arrived back home I was happy to see the rain again.   The logistics of teaching kayak building 8000 miles away were daunting but I had wonderful help and honestly I've had much harder classes much closer to home.   Some people have accused me of having the best job in the world, but that is hardly true, as is evidenced
by the two gentlemen I met in the local distillery on my last day in Tassie.

Professional Single Malt Scotch Tasters

For most people the scenery would be the reason to visit Tasmania, though it needs to be treated with much caution and respect, this truly is one of the worlds most amazing kayak destinations, rivaling Norway, Scotland, Hawaii, or the Oregon Coast; but for me it was the people that I enjoyed the most.  I meet so many amazing people in my job, but the Aussies, and especially the Tassies have always had a special place in my heart.   Brash, independant, funny, gregarious, and just a little bit crazy, (or a lot crazy), I relate well to them socially.   Up here on the Oregon Coast, charging hard water in handmade boats, it's easy to feel a bit lonely at times,  so it was refreshing to find a tribe of people halfway across the world who are still building things themselves and pushing those things in a challenging environment.   Sea kayaking clubs wax and wane with the ambitions of the membership and the quality of the leadership, but what impressed me most was the sense of continuity, the unbroken connection this group has to it's roots.  Several founding members still push hard on Wednesday nights after thirty years in kayaks, hardware, and sails that are distinctly Tasmanian in origin.   These guys have a lot to be proud of and I really enjoyed the time I spent down there.  I only wish it wasn't so far away so I could invite them back to my farm for a beer and a paddle.
 I think they'd feel at home here.

I decided before I even made this trip that I'd never travel so far to teach again, but now I'm not so sure.   Thank you so much to Tom Nicholson for bringing me down to Australia in the first place, and to Greg and everyone else who made this possible for me.   I do love the long cold rainy nights, I'm strange that way,
still, maybe I should spend at least some of next winter down under....

Seven Australian words defined:

Wallaby:  a small nocturnal suicidal kangaroo whose natural habitat is in the middle of the f***ing road.

Bogan:  an unkempt individual with too many kids who wears flannel shirts and passes the time slacking off and drinking cheap grog.  ie: Britney Spears.

Mate:  A term of endearment for a close buddy, or a grave accusation leveled just before flattening someone in a pub.

Wanker:  A term of endearment for a close buddy,  or a grave accusation leveled just before flattening someone in a pub.

I reckon:  an excellent phrase to replace 'I think, or I suppose', heard constantly in Tassie AND in the best Clint Eastwood movie ever, The Outlaw Josie Wales

Budgee Smuggler:  An especially homoerotic tightly fitting form of  swimwear favored primarily by macho Australian lifeboat rowers.  (a budgee is a small australian bird, the smuggler is a skin-tight speedo, you get the picture.)

Knackered:  The state one finds oneself in after teaching two consecutive kayak building classes halfway across the planet.

Back to Cape Falcon Kayak, mate