Bay of Fires Lodge Return
Start - Bay of Fires Lodge
Length - 14km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Beach, River, Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 222m
Time - 5-6 Hours
Cost - See TWC website
Date Hiked - 23rd April 2019
The Hike - After such an exceptional day of hiking the day before, it was going to be hard to top that experience on Day Three. Again I woke up early for the sunrise but with little cloud cover around it was a nice, if not a bit undramatic viewing. With no one else really up and the hot water still boiling away (therefore no coffee brewing yet) I returned to the room and warmed myself up under the blankets. We had a bit of a later start to the day but all up we would be covering 14km on both kayak and foot. I thought my GPS would map out the two separate sections and be fine but apparently for it to reconcile it drew a big line to connect the end of the first bit of walking with the start of the kayaking, hence the 21km total showing on the map. The call out for breakfast rang around the lodge thanks to Jessie's impersonation of Joel's effort the previous morning and soon we were all gathered in the dining area for a lovely breakfast of mushroom, eggs and asparagus on toast with fresh coffee.
While we were enjoying our delicious breakfast there was a Paddy Melon grazing on the vegetation just outside the full length glass windows next to the dining table. They must feel very comfortable around the area as it wasn't the last one we saw for the trip. After everyone had finished breakfast and prepped for the day we were to meet in the courtyard area to begin what would be another fantastic day in the Bay of Fires. The day would be split up into three sections, a walk through the forest to catch a bus then kayaking along the Ansons River before walking back to the lodge through the dune system. There is a network of trails around the lodge that you can enjoy on the fourth day but they also serve to take you to different points on days three and four. The first section leading away from the lodge and day spa (more on that in the next day) is used a couple of times on the trip and takes you through some familiar coastal heath.
She Oaks, Banksias, ferns and grass trees line the single trail as you make your way down to one of the 4x4 access tracks. It's a pleasant start to the day and unlike most of the first two days we were all grouped up pretty tight (and in silence). When we reached the 4x4 track we all spread out with the extra room and began the stroll to where Jessie would be waiting for us with the bus. While not a big fan of 4x4 tracks, especially in stunted or coastal landscapes, this one actually turned out to be pretty good. Even in this "dry" part of Tasmania, the ferns lining the track made it feel very lush and reminded me a lot of the wetter and more mature of the Jarrah forests back home. To start with the scenery was very open and sandy but the further we got up the hill (and away from the coast), the lusher the forest became. Charlie, Tom and Lindy were part of the Tête de la Course with Caris and I the Chasse patate so I had plenty of opportunity to take photos of an empty forest and with people in shot.
After a thoroughly enjoyable forest section we saw Jessie and the bus parked up on the side of the road and waited for everyone to catch up. The drive out to the start of the kayaking felt like we were all on Survivor and had done the walk to tribal council out of camp for the cameras and then loaded onto buses for the rest of the journey (I was shattered when I found out they did that). The thin illusion of a being on a proper multi-day hike had vanished but logistically this makes the most sense as walking the entire way to the start would take up most of the day, leaving little time to enjoy the kayaking and beautiful walking to finish the day. Arriving at a functional concrete bridge that crosses the Ansons River we met Jo, the lady who would be providing the kayaks and meeting us on the other side of the bay to collect them again. Judging by the starting point, the kayak was going to be pretty spectacular with the forest towering over the winding river with clear skies and no breeze. The process from getting from bus to sitting in kayaks was a bit lengthy but we had to transfer our gear to any dry sacks we'd brought, put on our life vests and dry skirts along with getting a kayaking tutorial from Joel. Being in fairly stable two person kayaks it was unlikely we were going to capsize but it was nice that Joel went through the motions and prepared us all properly.
I chose Caris to be my kayaking partner as we'd done something similar in Broome a few years ago and she'd done quite well then (not to mention we live together with two fur babies). Hitting the water was a fun experience and I had chosen to bring along my DSLR, hoping that it wouldn't fall in the water or get too wet (I stored it in a small dry sack when not in use). When everyone was in the water we began our paddle downstream as the river meandered through the forest towards Ansons Bay. I was keen to get as many photos as I could of this part so there wasn't a big gap in this post but it was tricky to stop paddling, undo the dry sack, extract the camera and then stuff it back in without losing a lot of momentum. Consequently we drifted back from the main group but Jessie hung back with us and the main group was never too far away in the end. The kayaking was very fun and a good change of pace from the hiking of the previous two days. It was nice to interact with the water in a different way than just getting your feet wet and this was a very lovely way to see the forest from a different perspective.
One highlight that Joel had told us about was a Sea Eagle nest high up in one of the trees and so just near our first break for the day we spotted it and paddled over for a closer look. Unfortunately the sun was almost directly behind it so my photos weren't very good. The small clearing where we could have landed was already taken by a couple of boats when we arrived so we had to land in an area of the same rainbow vegetation we saw at Broad Creek the previous day. A spongy type of ground covering, apparently it can be used in gourmet dishes to add a saltiness to the meal but we all settled on the chocolate and trail mix that was on offer from Joel. After a quick snacks and drinks break Joel explained that the start of Ansons Bay was on the horizon and we would paddle there to decide whether we would cross to the other side or not. Given the fairly calm conditions he didn't think it was a problem and as we all departed along the now much wider river it became apparent that crossing the open bay would not be an issue. As we powered on to the edge of the bay, the decision was made to go for it and with 3km of open bay to paddle through it was a matter of letting everyone go at their own pace. Between my stopping for photos (which I quickly abandoned) and the slightly choppy water on the route we'd taken we fell to the rear as the group spread out.
Amy and Gordon jetted off into the distance and were soon a tiny speck on the horizon (they go paddling at home almost every week and were heading to the Whitsundays after this trip for a paddling trip). Jessie once again hung back with us and after about 40 minutes we were within reach of the lunch spot so I put the afterburners on and finished strong. Jo was there waiting for us on another rainbow vegetation pad with a blanket to sit on for lunch. With the paddling over we ditched our nerdburger dry suit outfits and joined everyone for a spot of lunch. On the menu for today was a Thai Noodle Salad with optional tuna and it was very scrumptious. Reflecting on the kayaking, it was agreed that it was a great change to the hiking and the place we enjoyed lunch at was very idyllic. Ansons Bay isn't strictly an area you would call untouched with holiday homes and farmland bordering the open bay but the spot we were enjoying lunch was a good combination of natural vegetation and distant farmland. Still being slightly wet from the kayaking it was nice to lie down and catch some sun to dry off as we enjoyed another perfect day of weather.
With lunch over and hot drinks and biscuits consumed we assisted in the packing up so Jo and Jessie (think it's a Tasmanian Walking Co requirement to have a name starting with J) could take the kayaks to the waiting truck and Jessie return the van back near the lodge. Joel would escort us on foot back to the lodge via the edge of Ansons Bay and then through the dune system to the beach. This required getting our feet wet once again but luckily we already had our boots off from the kayaking so made our way barefoot the short distance to the creek crossing and successfully navigated the shallow waters to the other side. With our boots firmly attached we made our way along the narrow strip of sand and seaweed towards a very photogenic collection of paperbark trees. The contrast between the whites of the bark, the blue of the sky and the green of the canopy caught my eye and I stayed here for a while trying to get the shots I wanted. The path through the trees was fun to navigate and threw you into a completely different world to the usual coastal heath we had walk through on the trip so far.
It would only be a short journey through the paperbark as soon we were spat out into a circle clearing where it was sad to see the circle work that some bogans had done on their dirt bikes in the ground covering. My experiences so far in Tassie had been quite pleasant with little environmental damage done by dirt bike riders where they shouldn't be so I'm sure this was just the exception to the rule. It didn't dampen my mood as we headed into the heath and up into the dune system. With views looking back to Ansons Bay we could see where we'd just come from and the farming lands to the south spreading out on the horizon. Ahead of us was the light coloured sand that we'd become familiar with but a little more hilly than the usual beach walking. Once we'd struggled up to the top of the dunes the views were breath-taking and we were about to enter one of my favourite sections of the entire trip. The area we were walking on was the narrow strip of land that protected Ansons Bay so was essentially just one long dune system as far as the eye could see.
This gave a desert feel to the landscape and in parts you could imagine yourself walking through the dunes of Namibia or the Sahara (big imagination essential). Making our way down the dune face it was a matter of choosing whatever way you wanted to walk but we all ended up taking a similar line following Joel towards the beach. In the mid afternoon sun and with little to no breeze this place had a very special atmosphere that I enjoyed immensely. There was a calming sensation to the walking and I found myself stopping a lot to take it all in and photograph the different scenes that were all around. Having lived around Fremantle for most of my adult life I am very familiar with the limestone and sky blue colour palette so was loving the vast amounts of it spread out before my eyes. One particular frame I liked was when you came across a section of beach then tiny sliver of ocean, both in turquoise and dark blue, followed by bright blue sky. I called it "Desert Noir" due to the feeling it evoked in me but Caris would later disagree with me about the name because it technically doesn't fit the genre.
Whatever description I gave it, right or wrong, this was a very special place and the images will always stir something in me, reminding me of how I felt on that day. Passing Amy on the walk along the sand I commented on how great it was here and she gave me a knowing look and an agreeable response. Not everything is made to last and after reaching a large collection of shells we made our way to the edge of the water where the scene started to look more familiar. The calm conditions mirrored our stretch of walking from the previous day after lunch but this time we were walking north instead of south. At the end of the beach I had one last look back at the dunes before we all ventured into the iconic orange granite that is most often associated with the Bay of Fires. Unsurprisingly this section was not too dissimilar to the finish of the previous day but we had much better weather today with clear skies. This made the orange and the turquoise waters stand out a little more and was a fantastic way to finish what was an excellent day all round.