Frenchman's Cap 2020 - Day 4

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Day 4 looked a lot more like what I had expected for day 3 - blue skies and sunshine. We packed up and left at about 9.30 and had a lovely walk back to the car - it’s a mostly smooth flattish track & duckboards until the final climb up over the ridge.



Loddon Swing Bridge 


Right:At the top of the last hill 


checking out the last 5k on the map 


We arrived back just after 2pm and drove straight to the nearest shop for icecreams. 

So all up it was a great trip! I’m so proud of all of the kids for just getting on with the tough bits and getting them done - they were so good!  We were really lucky with the weather, and lucky to grab camping spots on day 2 as well.  Despite having a rushed preparation we did pretty well with all the food planning - the only thing we all fell short of was toilet paper - but I guess since we arrived back with 5 sheets to spare it could be said that we planned that perfectly too!

Frenchman's Cap 2020 - Day 3

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

The ranger at Tahune had advised us that day 3 was going to be hot with a fire ban in place in other areas of the state, so I expected to wake up to clear blue skies and sunshine. Instead we woke to an eerie smoke filled landscape. As we collected our moss-flavoured (ugg) water from the water tank the ranger reassured us that the smoke had blown over from the Victorian fires and we had nothing to worry about.

So we set off at about 9.15 and made our way back to Barron Pass. The smoke created an eerie atmosphere and the views were very much obscured. 



After about an hour the smoke seemed to have magically turned into heavy clouds and it started to drizzle, followed quickly by heavy rain. We were taken quite by surprise and had to scurry to put on pack covers and rain coats. By the time we were back at the pass we were all pretty soaked and keen to just keep moving.  The rocks and roots which were grippy the day before were now slippery so we had to be extra careful descending.


Going over Barron Pass. The visibility was so bad that Alexa didn't even realise we had done it. 


Zali and Jett thinking about how much they love hiking  


Eventually we arrived back at the Vera Hut campsite just as the rain was clearing. We’d taken about 3.15 hours so we were a bit quicker than the day before - mostly due to not stopping to admire the views I think!   Everyone was keen take the afternoon off so we set up our tents on the platforms again and got completely changed our of our wet gear before enjoying lunch in in the hut.   Jon and Jett didn't have pack covers so Jon quickly set up his own laundry and hung all their stuff out to dry.


For the rest of the day we amused ourselves with reading,  frisbee and other games - it was a really lovely afternoon and a much deserved break.  


Playing platform-to-platform frisbee. By the evening all the camping platforms and much of the hut space was filled. 

The clouds were still very low so anyone trying to get to the top of Frenchmans that day wouldn’t have had much view if they tried that day.    Despite the downpour we were very lucky.

Frenchman's Cap - Day 2

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Ahhh Day 2.  Whilst I’d warned the others (not the kids of course, they were better off not knowing the full horror), I was still the only one who had any real idea of what the day had in store for us.  It’s only 6k to the next campsite, but that includes 3km of a tough strenuous climb to Barron Pass, and then 3km of difficult ups and downs before descending down steps that are more like ladders,  to the hut at Lake Tahune.

Due to a long toilet queue, we were the last to leave the Vera Hut campsite at about 9:45.


getting ready to go 

Firstly we had to skirt around the lake (which sounds easier than it is, as even that serves up plenty of tricky walking, ups and downs and tree roots to navigate).  Andy was NOT looking forward to the next bit.


From the end of the lake the trail stops mucking around and just starts to head up. And Up. And Up.



Amazingly though, we all survived just fine. Andy was probably the most knocked around by it due to his combination of old leather blister-inducing hiking boots, and ill-fitting heavy rucksack.  

All the kids did really well, although these happy photos are slightly misleading - they weren’t that happy all the time - it often looked more like this:


Zali nursing a bleeding nose from overheating, and Jett dead-on-his pack.


everyone looking exhausted 

Bleeding noses and general suffering aside, we made Barron Pass after about 2 hours and were rewarded with fantastic views. 



I’d warned everyone about the next section (as the mistake I’d made last time was expecting it to be a cake-walk down to the next hut  - so the toughness of it was amplified by the discrepancy between my expectations and the reality).  In the end it was fine - in fact with the great views, once we’d got past the most arduous section, most of us were able to appreciate the amazing botanical garden type terrain and incredible views. We could see people up on Frenchmans Cap way above us, and we could see all the way back to the Lyell Highway in some spots.   As the weather was so nice we stopped a lot - unlike last time when it was a bit wet to linger anywhere.  






After another 2ish hours we arrived at the beautiful new hut at Lake Tahune.  I’ve got photos of both here so you can appreciate how much better it is now.


There were quite a few people in the hut already but the camping platforms were still free which was great as they are my preference anyway (I have a very low tolerance for snorers).  We set up our tents then had a leisurely late lunch on the new deck in the sun.  


After tidying up our mess we packed small bags the headed up to the summit of Frenchmans Cap. It’s a steep 1.5k track but compared to what we’d already done with full heavy packs, it felt completely doable.   



We made it to the top about an hour and a half later - the views were amazing in all directions.  We were really lucky!



After spending a while up there absorbing the sun and the amazing vistas we scooted back down the hill again arriving back at about 6.  Some of us had a quick swim in Lake Tahune before dinner.


It was a long, tough but ultimately very satisfying day. 

Frenchmans Cap 2020 - Day 1

Monday, 6 January 2020

I last hiked Frenchmans Cap in 2017 with Clare and her family. You can read about it here, here, here and here.

This time I did the 4 day walk with my family as well as Andy, Alexa and 12 year old Lyra.   I  knew what I was in for but they didn't, and the first day's walk doesn't really give a fair indication of what the 2nd and 3rd day have in store.

We left the car park at about 11:30, after noting that about 7 people had headed off already that day. I was a bit concerned about it being quite crowded at the huts and campsites as many other trails are still closed from last year's fires. 


The first day is longish - 15k, but quite easy with only a few moderate hills to get over. The weather was nice and we stopped at the swing bridge over the Lodden River for lunch.  It was a good day to get used to hiking with a fully laden pack again - it's been a while since we've done that.


Looking at Frenchmans Cap in the far distance 





We arrived at Vera Hut at about 5pm.  Last time we elected to stay in the hut, but the weather was so nice and sunny that it was a lot more pleasant to camp on the platforms out in the sun.  We even had a swim in Lake Vera before dinner.


 Once the sun went down it got pretty cold. In fact some platforms had frost on them the next morning.  This is us making dinner. I'm the only one who knows exactly what's in store for us the next day..

Guessed blog by Clare the favourite family friend

Friday, 3 January 2020

Cathy and her family are bushwalking at the moment, so they have asked me to step in and take over their lives while they are away. Fortunately this isn't difficult, as Cathy and I are often mistaken for the same person - a sort of Clarathy hybrid super-person who can make a three-tiered wedding cake with one hand while conducting an orchestra with the other. At any rate, Pinto hasn't noticed the difference and is currently enjoying a plate of lightly seared tuna that Clarathy prepared for her in between re-roofing the house and running a half marathon. 

Cathy has left me a bunch of photos from their last day on KI, which I have crafted into a totally accurate and uncontroversial account of their day. Now read on...


Hello, Cathy here on Kangaroo Island, just before the end of the 2010s. It's hard to believe that in a few days, my beautiful first born child Zali will be turning sixteen (especially as the 'About Me' section of my blog still claims that I am 35). It's also very hard to believe that I made her in my uterus.

Well, that's because I didn't.  

Jon and I have been dreading this day for a while. You see, for the last sixteen years, we have been keeping a secret - a secret that we vowed to reveal to Zali on on her sixteenth birthday. Yes, Zali and Jett are adopted.

OK, we've only been keeping half of that secret for fourteen years, but we figured that when we told Zali she was adopted, Jett would probably figure out that he was too - I mean, look at the size of his brain:


Sure, Jett looks exactly like Jon and Zali looks exactly like me, but that's only because we went to great lengths to find suitable birth parents. It all started about sixteen and a half years ago, when Jon and I visited the Harry Bates adoption agency on Kangaroo Island. Harry was a local character with many enemies, and sadly his agency - or 'cottage' as it used to be known - was burned to the ground in 2010 by a bunch of local vigilantes when it was revealed that he had in fact fathered most of the so-called 'pouch babies' on the island.  

Luckily for us, a young KI couple - let's call them Katy and Ron - had recently fallen pregnant between recess and lunch under a beach umbrella at Emu Bay and were keen to give the baby up for adoption.


Harry assured us that it was all 'above board', and for a small fee, our journey to parenthood began. (Also luckily for us, Ron and Katy made the same contraceptive error two years later, this time between the first and second quarter of the '04 semi-final between the Kingscote Crocs and the Penneshaw Pandas).  

But how to break the news to Jett and Zali? Fortunately, they both love a puzzle and we warmed them up with a quick jigsaw before presenting them with a series of clues. 

First up, I showed Zali a painting that I had recently completed:


As regular readers know, Zali is a very talented artist, whereas I am a complete chump. Likewise, Jon has about as much artistic talent as a lump of rock:

'Hmm...' I mused. 'I wonder where Zali gets her artistic talent?' Zali took one look at my terrible painting and rolled her eyes. 'Well it's obviously not from you, mum.'

'I know!' said Jon enthusiastically. 'Why don't we go to the sculpture trail and see if we can identify any local artists with similar sensibilities!'

'What a fabulous idea!' I agreed. 'And on the way we could check out the local bovine artificial insemination facility.' Jett and Zali looked at us like we had lost our minds, but by now they were used to being dragged out on lame adventures on the flimsiest of pretexts, so they reluctantly agreed to come along.  

First up were the cows:

'Isn't it amazing how these cows all look the same, yet they probably all have different parents.'

Jett shrugged. 'I guess,' he said.
'How do you know they have different parents?' said Zali. 'I mean if they are artificially inseminated, they might all have the same parents. Isn't that what artificial insemination means?'

This wasn't going well. 'Er...' I said, looking at Jon for assistance. 

'We'll cross that bridge when we come to it,' said Jon out of context, grabbing them both by the scruff of the neck and marching them over the nearest bridge, which just happened to lead to the sculpture trail. 


As luck would have it, we soon came to a beautiful flower sculpture:


'Will you look at that!' I said to Zali. 'This flower looks exactly like the flower you made for the top of Jett's birthday cake.'
'So?' said Zali petulantly. 
'And look at the artist!' Jon forged ahead. 'Katy Smith - aged 32. Why, if she'd been a teenage mum...'
'...her child would be about your age!' I finished. We were on a roll now. 

'Ew, gross,' said Zali, and stalked over to a sculpture of an owl.

Unfazed, Jon continued. 'Another great sculpture - by another young artist, Ron Jones. Hey, I wonder if they were a couple?'
Jett, meanwhile, was staring at both of us in turn, a look of growing incredulity on his face. You could practically see the cogs whirring in his giant brain. 'What the hell...?' he said. 

At this point Jon's mum could stand it no longer. She turned to her beloved grandchildren. 'You're both adopted,' she said. 'Deal with it.'

'Yippee!' screamed Zali. 'I never have to go orienteering again!' And she promptly ran at full speed towards the nearest beach.

'I think that went well,' said Jon, gazing off into the distance as as his only daughter disappeared from view.  

'Word,' said Jett. 'I always knew I was gangsta.'

KI Day 2

Saturday, 28 December 2019

I've been to KI at least 10 times I reckon now, so it's not always easy to find something new to do, but today we did just that. 

First up we all went for a run though. The kids and Jon all did their own things (the kids sticking to their bargain of doing 3 runs a week until we go to NZ in a month) while I ran up one of the relatively new tracks to the top of the ridge then along the road past the fields of hay rolls - it's been a bumper year for the KI farmers apparently with the rain coming at just the right time. It's a nice run with lots of better views than this but I didn't stop to take many photos.


Afterwards we had breakfast, made lunch, then drove down to Vivonne Bay (in Jon's mum's fancy new car), and went on a self guided kayak tip up the Harriet River. I was in two minds about booking this last night as it seemed pretty pricey for 2 sit-on-top kayaks but it was really good fun so I'm glad we did it.

I didn't even realise there was a viable river that on the whole of the island so that was quite a surprise!  It was also a surprise to go past a koala sitting in the water having a drink. All up we spotted about 10 koalas, lots of birds and one large kangaroo on our 2.5 hour trip.





We paddled about 4km upstream until the river got quite narrow and we got quite hungry - so we turned and  headed back to the car and our sandwiches!


It was great weather for kayaking although we now seem to all be sporting odd spots of missed sunscreen patches on our bodies!

Back at home we spent the rest of the afternoon doing a puzzle and other sedentary activities. 


KI Day 1

Friday, 27 December 2019

After the usual full-on McComb Family Christmas in Adelaide, we're now on KI, enjoying slightly cooler (but still hot) weather, and the usual beautiful landscapes and hospitality.

Today we revisited a few of our favourite stops. Firstly we climbed Prospect Hill, which we haven't done for many years as the stairs were closed. They have now been replaced and are looking good.


Then we continued to Flour Cask Bay, which is a spectacular beach but it's always particularly fun at low tide when the holes in the limestone rocks funnel water into spouts and the waves crash onto them.  





From there we bee-lined it to Clifford's Honey Farm where we had some delicious honey icecream and forced the kids to take part in this photo:


If I searched hard enough I'm sure I could find a similar photo of the kids but when they didn't need to practically bend double to squeeze their big head through the holes.

In the afternoon we worked on a puzzle then wandered down to the local beach for some paddling and frisbee.  



Monday, 23 December 2019

Over the last month or so I've been working out how to make sourdough bread.   I was inspired by our friend Rob who makes bread for himself in Japan, then keeps making it when he goes places (like Tasmania) on mapping assignments. Sourdough bread making is a surprisingly long process, but now I've got the hang of it, it's not actually very difficult - it just takes time. For example, I started the three loaves I baked this morning (Monday), on Saturday night.  

I started the 'starter' from scratch with just flour and water (as per the instructions on the SBS website) and promptly killed the first one by mis-feading him almost straight away (R.I.P Ned), but the next one -  Fred - is going very well.   My first few loaves were quite doughy but they've steadily improved since then and now they have suddenly hit completely-delicious status.   I've been sticking with the SBS instructions and using their plain loaf recipe mostly (although I've done some wholegrain ones as well which have also been good).

We are heading away for a week, so I've split Fred up and put him in the fridge as well as in the freezer.  I'm hoping that one form of him is able to survive (or be revived) so we can make some more.



It amazes me that these delicious loaves of bread are made of plain flour, salt and water.   





Sunday, 22 December 2019

A few days ago Zali discovered my supply of polymer clay. I last used it to make some pirate stuff for Jett's birthday party. Those crafty party jobs were fun - I miss them already.

Anyway - once Zali discovered the clay she was immersed in making tiny earrings for the next few days. We've even had to go to spotlight to get 5 more colours. 



Now we have more pairs of earrings than people we know who have ears.  


Zali's Christmas Craft

Saturday, 21 December 2019

This year Jon was devastated to discover that we are no longer able to legally cut our own tree from Seven Mile Beach.    He's taken it hard and has even mentioned that it's taken the gloss off his whole Tasmanian life which is somewhat worrying.   So while Jon barricaded himself into a darkened room to grieve the end of our family tradition (and possibly pack his bags), Jason, Clare and I went out for a run.

While we were out we found a community garden that was selling trees for just $10.  We started to rifle through the trees just as rain started to pour down which made the whole experience even more memorable.  After selecting what we thought was the best and leaving Jason's $10 in the honesty box, we attached the tree to the roof and brought it home (getting completely soaked in the process).  We left it outside so Jon and the kids could get a nice surprise when they returned from the darkness & school respectively.

Instead of the accolades we were expecting (and deserved), Jason and I (with our hair still wet from the rain storm probably)  received a series of complaints from people about the size and volume of our tree.  hmmph.  In the end though, beggars couldn't be choosers and once the tree was inside and decorated it looked quite fine. Sure it didn't touch the roof, or have enough branches for all the decorations, but it looks good. 

One of the things which has definitely helped the overall look of the tree is that Zali has painted some new baubles to hang. They look very nice.. 



In fact she's been on quite the arty & crafty roll lately.  Not only has she painted the baubles but she did lots of painting of cards and present tags with me which was fun.


Also once news spread that we weren't having crackers at our christmas brunch (due to environmental concerns) she made a full set of christmas crackers from reused household items with lindt balls inside which I think we will all agree is a much better prize than the usual stuff.   Of course this meant that quite a few of our rolls of things (wrapping paper, baking paper, al foil), had to be unrolled so that the inside tubes could be removed and re-used.  I'm sure our house sitters will wonder what on earth happened to the al foil.



Farwell Taroona High

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Today was Zali's last day of high school - it seems to have gone by so fast!  

She wouldn't let me take a proper photo of her in the morning so this is the best I've got as we approached the assembly hall.


At the end of the final assembly it's traditional for the Grade 10s to be clapped by everyone as they leave the hall for the last time (mirroring the way the Grade 7s are welcomed into the hall for the first time at the start of the year).  I hope the digital screen is not a reflection of their academic achievements.



Underwater Cake

Sunday, 15 December 2019

To lighten the mood, here's a cake Zali made a week or so ago for her ETO teacher (exploring the ocean). Zali would be a good student to have in your class for this reason alone. I'll be outraged if she doesn't get an A. :)




Sunday, 15 December 2019

We spent the afternoon in an olive grove outside of Launceston, celebrating the life of a lovely young orienteer. Her mum said she had always planned to have her 21st in this place, but because of ongoing cancer treatment in Melbourne she couldn't.  She was only 22.  


Back in the south we learned that a very dear family friend and lifetime buddy of mums is very close to leaving too.  Cancer sucks.

Final Days of High School

Saturday, 14 December 2019

I'm sure that Zali only just started high school, but now it seems she's just days away from leaving. Amazing.  Anyway the grade 10s had their formal at the Grand Chancellor the other night.


We couldn't convince her to go to the hair dresser but despite that her hair looked better than mine at my grade 10 formal:


Although that wasn't the worst haircut I had during my teenage years.   In other interesting observations, Zali's dress cost about $50. Mine cost about $90 in eighties dollars  (and the one I really wanted was $120).  It's incredible how cheap clothes have become.


Schools Relay

Saturday, 7 December 2019

I seem to spend most of my days at the moment either teaching orienteering to primary school students, or doing orienteering related stuff.  This week the Schools Relay event which I've been planning all year finally happened. With the help of lots of volunteers we managed to get all 30 kids all around their courses without too many mistakes or mishaps. They looked like they all enjoyed it so next year we'll try to grow the event even more.


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