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I stood in awe looking at the scene before me. A single track snaked over the steep undulating cape before me.
“Is that it? Is that Cape Hauy?” I call out to my husband.
“I hope so,” he replied. “It’s got to be, doesn’t it?”
Now I’m worried, I don’t have it in me to do more than a few more kilometres carrying this weight. The weight in question is my two-year-old. My husband is bearing the load of our four-year-old and both kids have gone on a walking strike. I certainly don’t expect them to walk the whole 8.8km at their young age, but I can usually count on them managing 1 km per year of age before retiring to the hiking carrier.
I was on a mission to prove that hiking with kids can be fun and at this point, was feeling doubtful we would even achieve our first hike in Tasmania.
I find a seat, unwrap the peanut butter sandwiches and peel a banana. With the heavy load removed from my back, and now happily running around, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race, I decide to push on. The descent is steep and the views from the bottom are also incredible. The huge dolerite cliffs that dominate South-East Tasmania’s coastline rise proudly like sentries, white in contrast to the turbulent dark blue waters of the Tasman Sea.
The same sea, over who knows how many hundreds or thousands of years, has assaulted the cliff face long enough to create an archway. As I rest my legs before the next ascent, I watch mesmerised as the waves smash against the cliff and flow violently through the archway, where the colour changes to a turquoise that contrasts with the white peaks. It recedes again just as quickly as it enters, and the process repeats.
The kids talk non-stop between snacks and there are a couple of safe opportunities to let them walk, which they make the most of by poking at things with sticks.
The view at the track end is both geologically fascinating and ruggedly beautiful. The tall sea stacks known as the “candlestick” and “totem pole” are thankfully, not part of this walk, but I was a bit disappointed there were no climbers on them. The kids have fallen asleep on our backs and miss the view.
The walk back was a one foot in front of the other affair with not much talking. Both of us trying to cover as much ground as we could whilst the kids were sleeping. Once back at the seat, the hard part is over and it’s mostly downhill back to the white sands of Fortescue Bay.
Conclusions were made that the walk, whilst not laugh out loud fun, was absolutely worth the effort. The wildlife, the views, and Tasmania’s pristine air all combines to one sweaty but enjoyable experience.
My legs didn’t think so the next day, or the day after that.
With the theory that my legs needed to get moving again to fully forgive me, I planned to hike into the Apsley River Gorge on Tasmania’s East Coast. Rated a grade three hike, it’s much easier than the grade four Cape Hauy track.
The walk begins with an easy path down to the Apsley River waterhole. It’s quite a pretty spot and apparently popular with locals in warmer weather. The group that arrived prior to us, had stripped down to their underwear and were attempting to submerge themselves in the water. Most didn’t get past their knees before deciding it was too cold.
We cross the water hole, using dry rocks as stepping stones. The kids are excited for this adventure, after all, this one involves water and rocks. The ascent is not too hard, even my four-year-old manages it, using his hands to scramble up. Once at the top, the walk is pleasant and uneventful, but the company is fun.
You can sense the gorge long before you reach it. The unmistakeable sound of water trickling, the way the dry eucalypt forest becomes lush and green. Even the birds become louder, their chirpy songs interrupting my thoughts. I follow the bright yellow tree markers, picking my way down a series of steep, but carefully placed rocks. My daughter is safe in the carrier on my back, and my son is being carefully shadowed by his dad.
The foliage opens up, and there is the Apsley River Gorge in all its glory. The river bed is partially dry with pools of water, in which the kids decide to throw rocks. The river must be dangerous after heavy rains, but for now, a small waterfall trickles about 30 metres away, backdropped by high dolerite walls. It’s nothing short of pristine and it feels like we have found a secret paradise.
We spend an enjoyable hour skimming stones, eating lunch, and exploring. I joke that I’m ready to sell everything we own and move to Tasmania to live in the wilderness, except part of me isn’t joking. Both kids agree it’s a good idea.
I’m told that if it’s dry enough, instead of hiking back on the track, you can also boulder hop all the way down the Apsley River until you reach the water hole that you passed at the very beginning. Now that would be fun!
A few days later, we also complete a 6km walk around Dove Lake in the Cradle Mountain area. The track was for the most part, completely obscured by snow. I can’t begin to describe how picturesque the combination of snow, greenery, looming mountain, and lake were. Nor how fun it was to throw snowballs at each other for the first time.
I felt like I had achieved what I set out to do, to prove that hiking is both possible and fun with young kids.
Overnight hiking with young kids? Is it achievable? Can it be both fun and achievable? That’s a story for another day!
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