Bushwalking

Tasman Peninsula Walk

Two weeks ago, the ‘Nunatak’ Adventure Tour Guiding students were out and about for three days following the Tasman Peninsula Circuit along bush tracks, long stretches of board walks and steep, slippery wet eucalyptus banks.

This was our final bushwalking trip within the comfort of the Adventure Tour Guiding program before heading into the summer season as qualified guides. Some students had already been assessed on previous trips and could happily tag along as ‘customers’ while others were bearing the full load of guiding, catering and interpreting.  The scenery was spectacular, food was palatable and the weather was kind.

Managing the group whilst navigating unknown terrain proved a great challenge for the up-and-coming guides who all did their best to provide a great walking experience, whilst keeping everyone safe, happy, hydrated and fuelled across long days of walking.

After an easy first day heading inland from Fortescue Bay along the Cape Pillar Track we based ourselves at the Wughalee Falls campground for two nights.  We headed out on the 17 km return trip to Cape Pillar’s stunning cliffs overlooking Tasman Island on Day 2, and braved the steep ascent over Mount Fortescue on Day 3.  By this stage, the final track to Cape Hauy was just a hop, skip and jump.  By the end of it all everyone was relieved to have made it back to the bus at Fortescue Bay as the day was slipping away rapidly.

Highlights included a look-behind-the–scenes of Tas Walking Co.’s brand-new hut along the Cape Pillar Track, the enchanting rainforest around Mount Fortescue and, of course, the vast expanse of ocean crashing into Australia’s highest sea cliffs.  Other key learning points from the last trip of the year included:

  • As a guide, be caring and compassionate!  Check in with individual group members to make sure everyone is in good spirits!
  • $500 to walk the Three Capes Track is well worth the investment; and if you want to get pampered, spend some extra on the Tas Walking Co’s experience!
  • Just because it’s raining and freezing doesn’t mean you have to put on extra layers! (Look after yourself, Rhianna!)
  • Cooking on camp stoves always takes longer than estimated!
  • Snakes and spiders are much less frightening and dangerous than their reputation!
  • You can disguise fake-meat in a Bolognese and no one will notice!
  • Walking meditations are a great way to quieten the group and connect people to their surroundings. (Nicely done, Tristan!)

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Navigation Skills

Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation students hit the bush again recently.  The vibes were high and the snow flakes were falling.  The students spent the four days consolidating off track Navigation skills such as walking on a bearing, interpreting micro features in the landscape and observation of vegetation changes.

The group split in to two teams, and were lucky to be accompanied by Instructor and legend Sue Beaumont and Teachers Assistant and champion Ash Kestle.

Navigation on the Central Plateau

For the final three days before the Adventure Guiding students disappeared into their mid-semester break, they found themselves learning how to not get lost up in the Central Plateau.

Navigation is an essential skill for a guide and we learnt how to use a compass, get a bearing and figure out our direction of travel; how to read a map and identify features such as spurs, gullies, ridges, knolls, crests and other features and then identify these in the landscape (and vice versa).

We learnt that Naismith (a rule for estimating the length of time a distance can be walked in) is an optimist, especially when hiking/stumbling off-track.

This trip was a first for the students in many regards.  The Tombolo class were separated into three smaller groups for this trip and we did not see each other again until we reunited back at the bus on the last day to depart.  It was the first time that many of us had hiked ‘off-track’ which meant slogging through thick scrub, cold creeks and scrambling over boulders, depending on which path the “navigator” had set the group on.  Everyone took turns to lead their group using various navigational techniques to get to their destination, and no-one got lost … for very long.

Not following a track really gave us a new appreciation for the Tassie wilderness and by using natural features in the landscape such as waterways, ridgelines, the contouring of the hills as catching features and handrails (navigational terms) we were able to identify where we were and find our way.

Something that was quite special was getting up to the high plateau and seeing cider gums and cushion plants where wallabies wandered.  It was also our first real winter trip and we experienced some high winds and wet weather, but the first opportunity for some of us (mainlanders) to experience snow/sleet (it’s cold!).

After a particularly windy wet night of wild weather the groups converged almost simultaneously back at the bus.  All a little less dry but more confident and capable in their ability to navigate.  A big thank you to the staff; Gemma, Renee and Tom who spent 6 days out in the field between both classes of students to impart their knowledge and remind us constantly to orientate the map!

As the bus drove back into Hobart and we entered the semester break, we were well on track to becoming Adventure Guides.

 

Freycinet Bushwalk

“MSR up too high, not up high enough?  Do we have the portion sizes right?  Careful not to burn the sauce!  When is the water ever going to boil?  I hope everyone’s had enough to drink.  We definitely didn’t have any dietary requirements in this group, right?  I need to put my tent up. Careful, don’t burn the sauce.  Man, my co-guide had my back today!  Why did the MSR just go out?  I really messed up that interpretation, I wonder if Tom (our teacher) noticed?  This ground is hard, why didn’t I bring a piece of foam to kneel on?  Don’t burn the sauce!”

As you prepare entrée and the main for the night you have a million different thoughts running through your mind, almost all of them centred on the hope that you are keeping everyone happy and faking it enough to show you’ve learned something during the last 6 months of the TasTAFE Adventure Guiding Course.

With waist-deep snow on Pelion Plains our original trip to the Overland Track was abandoned and our contingency of the Freycinet Peninsula actioned. Two options in virtual polar opposites from each other, but a sound contingency plan at this time of year, given Tassie’s notoriously predictable unpredictable August weather. Despite the disappointment (and perhaps some relief) of missing our chance at the Overland Track, we headed off for 4 days at the Peninsula with plenty less warmies and plenty more water. Mild temperatures and light winds meant shorts were the order of the trip as we made our way around the Peninsula.  We took in the vistas of Mt Freycinet, Davonian Granite, Schouten Island, and practiced our flora and fauna identification.

This was the first opportunity in the course for students to practice their interpretation topics. Situational interps led by students were a particular highlight. Learning about the endemic Tasmanian Froglet as it called from across Hazards Lagoon, or the Tasmanian sub-species of the Wedge-Tailed Eagle as they soared above Mt Graham and beyond the clouds, or, that Oyster Catchers don’t actually eat oysters as we watched them frolic in the shallows in pairs, made for a far more memorable learning experience than those obtained from within four walls.

Off track navigation to peaks at the southern end of the Peninsula provided student guides with an additional challenge, but the scrub scratches were worth it with a lunch-time view over Schouten Island.  As we watched the sun set over water on our final night we contemplated two things, almost simultaneously.  How lucky are we to do a course like this in a place like this; and, damn, I can’t wait for the last 2 months of this course, and the work associated with it, to be over.

Photo Credits:  Ollie Bryant

Bay of Fires Bushwalk

The second week of June saw the last trip for the Certificate III in Guiding students and our first overnight hiking trip.  We left Hobart bright and early on Tuesday morning in two mini-buses for the long trip up to Ansons Bay and the Bay of Fires area.

The groups of ten students each, called ‘Larapuna‘ and ‘Wukalina‘ were led by Cody McCracken and Tom Keith respectively, who are alumni from our sister program – the Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation course eight years ago and now work for Tasmanian Walking Co.

The new teachers posed a refreshing change in style, with all the students gaining a valuable personal connection with the Bay of Fires region and learning the realities of adventure guiding.  We walked between Stumpys Bay to Ansons Bay via Deep Creek along the Bay of Fires coastline, with the two groups walking in opposite directions.  This trip was ran in a similar fashion as the commercial trip ‘Bay of Fires Lodge’ 4-day walk and was a great learning experience for all.  The dinner provided by the caterers in each group were spectacular, which was a great achievement for the first groups cook entirely on the shellite MSR stoves rather than gas camp stoves.

Hearing the experienced interpretation of the local landscape, continuously engaged and awed students.  Interestingly, we learnt how the beaches became different over the winter months due to increased southerly storm systems, piling up metres of soft sand at the northern end of some of the beaches making for difficult walking.  We also learnt about the Bay of Fires lichen; composition of sand; ocean currents; rocks and Aboriginal History among many others.  The communication skills presented in these interpretations by our teachers provided great examples of how dense information can be communicated simply and concisely – a goal we can all work towards.

Eddystone Point Light House was also a special experience for everyone, learning the history, understanding the granite and seeing Southern Right whales offshore!  Both groups also got the chance to go swimming near several dolphins playing in the surf, which was spectacular.

On the final day, the ‘Larapuna’ group had a wonderful Sun Salutation yoga and meditation session overlooking the ocean at sunrise, ran by our student leader for the day.  After a relaxed morning packing up, we met up with the other group and headed back towards Hobart.  After well-deserved pies for lunch at the Bicheno Bakery, we got back to Hobart in the late afternoon.

As the last trip for the Certificate III in Guiding program and our first overnight walk, we are all keen and ready for Certificate IV in Guiding and the many fantastic winter walks starting in July!

Hazards Traverse

Two weeks ago our Certificate III in Outdoor Recreation students enjoyed a two-night trip to the Freycinet Peninsula, where the group further developed their bushwalking and navigation skills.  Accompanied by Cody McCracken of Wild Pedder and TasTAFE Teacher Renee Harrington, the group were blessed with glorious weather and stunning scenery.

Departing from Sleepy Bay, the group followed the coastline to the summit of Mt Parsons and then ascended Mt Baudin where they enjoyed a night sleeping in a cave.  The next morning saw student’s abseiling down a cliff which put many participants out of their comfort zone but proved to be a very rewarding experience.

After descending back to Sleepy Bay, the group continued on to Wineglass Bay and were greeted by a friendly wallaby on the beach and a pod of dolphins in the bay.  The students spent the night sleeping under a blanket of stars on Wineglass Bay beach.

The final day consisted of a small group of students hiking up to the Mt Graham lookout, whilst others enjoyed the glorious beach before returning to the bus and back to Hobart.

The trip was a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their leadership and guiding skills, occupational health and safety policies, cooking, food hygiene practices, weather interpretation and off track navigation.

 

Lost Falls

The Certificate III Outdoor Recreation group set off on the first bushwalk for the year to Lost falls in the North East of Tasmania.

With a wonderful high pressure system sitting over Tasmania the group had lunch and photos at the Lost Falls Lookout.  After providing the students with a thorough bushwalk safety briefing we began our hike, in a warm 22 °C, sunny skies with a slight breeze.

This bushwalk was an evaluation bushwalk for all students and Course Coordinator, Renee Harrington and Coordinator of the Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation, Nate Welch soon took the group off track, to really test their bushwalking abilities and equipment.

Using maps of the area, a pre-planned route and compasses, we arrived at the highpoint of Crossing Hill, which we had a stunning view of the abundant White Peppermint Eucalyptus, (Eucalypts Pulchella) the steep Sclerophyll valleys, and in the distance the calm, blue waters of Oyster Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula.

Following the ridge line towards the Wye River and introducing the students to the unit ‘Navigating in Controlled Environments‘ we arrived at our destination with an opened and cleared campsite and close to the water, which was just perfect our needs.

The aim of this trip was not only to evaluate the students on their bushwalk abilities, but to also make a connection with all group members, the environment and for Renee and Nate to emulate the standards in which TasTAFE requires their students to conduct themselves on their journey as aspiring Outdoor Recreation professionals.