CHANGE OF PACE
Gourmet Traveller|February 2022
Freed from the daily grind, FIONA DONNELLY finds herself falling in step with nature while trekking Tasmania’s wild Three Capes Lodge Walk.
FIONA DONNELLY
Purgatory Hill. Hurricane Heath. Perdition Plateau. I’m poring over a map of the Tasman National Park at my home in Brisbane, researching a four-day hike I’m about to take – trekking the pristine Three Capes Track in Tasmania. The bleak romanticism of the placenames I’m uncovering is giving me a touch of cold feet about my impending departure. But it’s also ratcheting excitement levels.

There’s a weather warning current for a polar blast. It’s set to bring freezing temperatures, rain and snow from Antarctica to south-east Australia – and could even cause flurries in sunny Queensland. What on earth is it going to be like in already wintery Tasmania?

I’m filling in on this story at the last minute, due to a Covid lockdown interstate, so I’ve had no time to do preparatory work. I’ve never done a multiple-day walk before. I’ve never carried a loaded 10-kilo pack, either. My bedroom is littered with gear borrowed from kind friends, some of which I have little idea how to use.

Why did I say yes? Well, there’s a massive carrot enticing me to fly south – provided I can hold my nerve and stay the course. I’ll be travelling the Three Capes Track guided by the award-winning Tasmanian Walking Company (TWC). And I’ll be doing the trek in sustainable, off-grid luxury, staying overnight at the beautifully appointed yet low-impact Crescent Lodge and Cape Pillar Lodge enroute.

Equally motivational is the news that on the third night, there’s a seat at the launch of the intriguingly named Restaurant at The Edge of The World (RATEOTW). TWC owns the only private accommodation in Tasman National Park. It’s the first time the company has held this event. When it was announced the series sold out in four hours. So, I’m not the only one excited by the prospect of tackling a trek, then having the opportunity to digest the essence of this remote destination over a languorous six-course dégustation.

It’s chef Luke Burgess, who helped to put Tasmania on the food-lovers map cooking at Hobart’s now-legendary Garagistes, who’ll be at Cape Pillar Lodge cooking up a storm for RATEOTW. He’ll be walking the track separately. And he’ll be doing it twice, first delivering a grill to smoke the abalone he’ll serve in one of the dishes, then carrying in the bulk of what he needs for our dinner in a 23.5-kilo pack, without using any single-use plastic. Now that’s an impressive feat which puts my own 10-kilo pack and pre-walk nerves firmly in perspective.

The bus arrives to collect me from my overnight digs in the heritage Henry Jones Art Hotel. It’s an ideal introduction to historic Hobart, all rough-hewn walls, cosy fires burning in the lobby and mist-mired views across the city’s working docks. A smiling Clinton Garratt jumps out to say G’day and guide me aboard. It’s 10°C. Garratt is wearing light shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt. I’m clad in thermals, walking trousers and a fleece jacket, with my rain jacket on top. My new Mongrel woollen beanie and thermal gloves are stuffed in my pocket, just in case.

Garratt, a former IT professional radiates good health. Normally he works as a guide but broke his leg on a run 10 weeks ago, so he’s taking things gently while recuperating. He’s not even using a stick. It’s a shiny advertisement for the benefits of exercise.

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