Last Thursday I had the rare pleasure of a day off from work and fretted over where to go for a walk and take some photos. My heart was set on the Southwest and climbing up Druids Hill but alas the weather had other ideas. I’m a tad out of practice on off track walks and the Southwest is not a place to mess around with, so I made the decision to go with Plan B, Cape Raoul. The drive down was a good chance to take our new car for a spin (It has since broken down so thankfully that didn’t happen on a narrow winding road on the Tasman Peninsula).
I arrived at the Stormlea carpark around 10:30am and although my memory of it is vague from a previous stroll to Shipstern Bluff, they definitely seem to have made some upgrades. Probably have Red Bull to thank for that as they’ve been putting on some big surfing events down at Shippies in recent years. I think we took the “shortcut” down to Shipstern the last time so it was nice to be on a unexplored bit of track for the walk down to Cape Raoul. I say down but it’s more of a gentle up and then a gentle down as you scale the headland leading to the cape.
The walk starts off in some nice dry Eucalypt forest that slowly winds its way towards the cliff face and the first lookout. I made it there in good time and pressed on quickly, eating some lolly snakes for fuel and sipping on my water bladder. I’m always restless whenever I stop on a walk and feel rushed to keep going and finish the journey, needing to get home and pick up Lachie adds to that also haha.
Once through the forest, the nature of where you are starts to reveal itself. The plant life becomes shorter, hardier, sturdier. The wind that was but a calming breeze through the trees becomes a roaring gale whipping up the sides of the cliffs and battering the plants foolish enough to try and grow out on the far reaches of the Dolerite. The power of the air is palpable and you realise it’s effect on the waters below, making them equally monstrous and relentless. We go to sleep in our beds at night, we stop moving, the sea does not, it keeps pounding and smashing into the rocks with a force you can barely imagine. There’s a spot just before you get to the lookouts, a sort of lagoon where a small pond has formed and the wind is absolutely howling through, blowing up the surface of the water and sending clouds of spray in all directions. I had to hunker down and take off my cap to get through it and over the duckboards, it’s quite the rush!
The Dolerite columns were formed during the Jurassic Period over 185 million years ago and pushed up to the surface in the last 10 million or so years. That sheer power of the waves has been battering these columns for a long long time and yet, they’re still almost perfectly formed geometric columns, a mathematician’s dream. We complain about bushwalkers leaving a wrapping paper behind or taking a rock with them. How about using the Dolerite columns of Cape Raoul for target practice? Yes, the Navy……used…..Cape Raoul……for target practice. The Navy did more damage to them with a few salvos of artillery than millions of years of erosion. We really don’t deserve this planet do we?
You get a sense of the power of the waves once you reach the lookouts at the end of Cape Raoul. The beautiful blue of the ocean gives way to patches of white as the water is churned up by its impact with these giant columns of rock. The meeting point between ocean and land is pure chaos, a blender turned up to maximum. Yet just inches away from this, a bunch of Seals are sunning themselves on a shelf of rock, not a care in the world. It’s a spectacle straight out of an Attenborough documentary, just a short….ish walk away from the carpark. That’s the magic of Tasmania, truly epic landscapes and nature on your doorstep but still requiring a little bit of effort to see. There’s no conveyor belt of tourist buses whizzing by as uncaring visitors lean out the window to take the same selfie as everyone on the bus before them. There’s the distinct threat of that elsewhere in Tasmania but hopefully it’s a long way away from places like Cape Raoul yet.