It began over a cuppa. “You should come with us,” said Cody taking a sip from his tea cup. “Okay,” I replied, wondering what I’d just said yes to. With Cody and Lou from Wild Pedder, it’s best just to say yes straight away because it’s guaranteed to be wildly good fun. And the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest Pilgrimage I’d just been told about, seemed a terribly good cause.
Before my cuppa was over, I’d committed to a 40 kilometre trek over kunnayi/Mt Wellington from Hobart to the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival to raise dollars and awareness for the Hobart Women’s Shelter and Bethlehem House crisis and emergency accommodation in Hobart. I was well aware too many people have it hard in winter, so spending a night in icy conditions on the side of a mountain seemed a fitting way to the raise profile of their plight.
We departed from Wild Pedder HQ, which is almost next door to Bethlehem House. Twelve of us (looking rather like we were lost in the city) took to the CBD streets with walking poles and backpacks – the mountain as our evening destination.
We wandered past the mighty Cascade Brewery and in little time were enveloped by the wilderness on our city doorstep. Some 17 kilometres and a few pretty waterfalls later we were setting up camp at The Springs. By a crackling fire in the Spring’s stone hut we shared dinner before settling in for a freezing night in our little cocoons.
Few slept well and 5am came round abruptly as we crawled out with head torches ready for the 23 kilometres ahead. Many hands made light work when Andy and Ciara (of impending venture Walks on Wellington) busied themselves helping out with pack up.
We slipped on spikes and I must admit walking in snow, in pitch black darkness en route to the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival I found a touch exciting. I think each of us had every layer we could muster on – I had a thermal, a jumper, a polar fleece, a jacket, another jacket, two pairs of gloves and was looking decidedly like a Michelin woman but spirits were high. The banter between representatives of Bethlehem house, Parks, the midwinter festival and new friends remained jovial for the entire trip despite weary legs.
At the morning tea stop, coffee was served the Wild Pedder way. Crouched precariously on a rock in the middle of a stream, hot drink orders were taken. I was equally taken by the pure waters thundering past us and over the 40 metre drop that is Wellington Falls. Many kilometres stood between us and the festival but we soldiered on happily and ate lunch near Norris/Thurstons Hut on the shoulder of Mount Montague where we were able to capture our first glimpse of Willie Smith’s Apple Shed.
It was a downhill pursuit from here, traversing private land and entering the main street of Mountain River. This is where locals pulled open their front doors, much to our surprise and delight. We had our photo snapped, we had dollars handed to our cause and friendly waves from a tractor. Smiles spread across rosy winter faces. It was all we needed to continue to the finish line. There at the Midwinter Feast we were welcomed into much merriment, toasty fire pots, warm cider, hearty food and the lighting of Willie, aka Burning Man.
Never have I walked a distance driven by such a worthy cause and with such enthusiasm and cheery comrades. If you have a moment head to the My Cause page that will remain open about 2 more weeks for donations.
Other thank yous extend to: Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival Hill Street Grocer Drive Car Hire Tasmanian Walking Company Wild Island Adventure HireHobart & Beyond Hype tv Osborne Images FIND YOUR FEET Walk on Wellington ABC Hobart Triple M Hobart
Images and words: Alice Hansen (unless otherwise captioned on images)
We push open the pavilion door under the cover of darkness. It’s winter in Tasmania, so it’s barely hit 6pm and stars are sprinkling across a clear sky. I’m not sure if this late arrival adds to the ambiance and sensory wonder that is the new pavilion experience.
The lighting is moodily low. The space is cosily intimate. The scent is rich with Tasmanian timber. The walls are tactile and discovery-prompting. Push lightly and a hidden bathroom shelf emerges. Slide gently and there are plush slippers and robes. Dig a little deeper and we find sketch paper and board games. There’s a sensuous mystery about our new little home. Peek beyond the curved glass and there it is … The outdoor tub. The tap is nudged on at once.
Sinking into rainwater on a chilled East Coast eve is a treat. Pushing open the door, I’m hit with a sharp winter nip to the air. The bath glows warm and begs for a swift entry. Above, those stars are twinkling handsomely, across skies we flew earlier on a scenic jaunt over the peninsula.
The impromptu flight was the result of alfresco tunes at Devil’s Corner Vineyard as part of the Festival of Voices. We took a grassy seat beside what turned out to be the local pilot, happy to launch us into a sunset flight. Now in the bath, the merriment of a surprise-filled day drifts into enveloping silence. I hear nothing but the lap of affable waves beyond our deck.
There’s little to worry about at this moment. My biggest concern is making it to dinner on time over at the lodge and if the resident possums have eyed off our charcuterie platter sitting by the bath. Word on the street is they can be pretty swift on a deck visit.
The next difficult decision is between Cape Grim beef and a dish piled high with local mussels and octopus. This is all the more reason to stay two nights. I go seafood on night one. Excellent decision. That night, an uber lush king-sized bed calls. I pull the velvety curtains across knowing that Great Oyster Bay will be waiting in the morning.
Day two begins with a long breakfast. (Get the brekkie hamper delivered to your room if you prefer to stay snuggled in your pavilion nest.) Our day has only one reference to the clock: be at the Freycinet Lodge jetty at 12 noon. There we are greeted by Nathan in his chariot - the Freycinet Aqua Taxi. He and wife Susan run Freycinet Adventures and I’ve enjoyed exploring by kayak paddle with these lovely folk on a previous trip.
Today, Nathan steers us toward Schouten Island, pointing out coastal features between telling us about his third child on the way. It is equal parts ‘tourism experience’ and ‘boat trip with a mate’ in its feel. Meanwhile, seals nod hello to us from Refuge Island. They barely raise the energy for a quick synchronised swim routine.
Arriving at Bryans Beach is like stepping onto Wineglass Bay’s little brother that few know about. The beach is empty of people, its sand is blazing white and the water is some crazy shade of blue sapphire. I take my sunglasses off to assess reality. The shade is staggeringly correct.
We step ashore and begin the easy three kilometre wander through to Cooks Beach. It’s largely flat and resident wallabies are our only company. There’s a quaint stone hut to peek inside near Cooks then we’re ushered to the beach – apparently a wombat is roaming the sands. Unfortunately, he takes one look at us and gallops off. Who knew wombats could run faster than it takes to turn on an SLR. He departed in a puff of sand.
After delivery back to the lodge jetty there’s little more to do than turn the bath tap again. It’s the most practical way to pass time before dinner. Tonight, it will be the Cape Grim option. It doesn’t disappoint, cooked to mid-rare perfection.
Lying back against comfy Tasmanian Shall Design cushions back at our cocoon, I smile. Floor to ceiling windows bring the starry night in. Slithers of lighting encourage a sleepy feel. Drifting off, I wonder if the morning will bring time for just one more bath …
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