This is a walk I've been wanting to do for quite a while..... well today's the day!
Shipstern is in the Western part of the national park and is a mecca for surfers, who consider it one of the heaviest breaks in the world. Check out these images...not taken by me, unfortunately:
This is a four hour return walk, and while no previous bushwalking experience is necessary you do need to be reasonably fit and be able to cope with uphill walking.
For this walk I had my sister accompany me which was a real treat as we'd never done a walk together before. The day was fine and mild...perfect walking weather. This walk starts at Stormlea which is easily found...if travelling from Port Arthur head towards Nubeena until you get to the Highcroft/Stormlea turnoff (approx. 8 klms) then a 15 min drive on a dirt road following the 'Cape Raoul Walking Track' signs until you can't go any further. The road narrows at this point and becomes a single track. After leaving the car we headed towards the walking track sign. Interestingly on our left in a paddock was a public sauna, available for anyone's use. Personally I think a spa would be more beneficial at the end of the walk...but then that may be just me!
There is a 200 metre walk through private property before getting to the actual start of the walking track. Now this is a little confusing...straight ahead is a gate laying on the ground, which we merrily stepped over and continued on our way. After walking for about 10 minutes the track started becoming quite unclear and extremely rough. It was at this point that we decided to back track...great decision...got back to the flattened gate and noticed to our left a sandstone stairway..yep this was where we were suppose to go. Phew, who knows where we would've ended up!
Anyway, now back on track (literally!) we walked on a well worn track for about half an hour until the track divides, Cape Raoul track heads left and Shipstern Bluff track heads right...this is very clearly marked! The track from now on, while generally quite clearly marked is a little rough in places. There are some areas where it's not so clear but there are blue ribbons attached to trees at these spots to follow. The next point of interest, about an hour into the walk, is a viewing platform which looks down over the bluff. I read somewhere that some people turn back at this point because the waves don't appear to be anything out of the ordinary from this view. I must say this is quite true....while the aspect is beautiful it's nothing out of the ordinary from other vistas we are use to from living in this spectacular place.
With the photo on the right I've tried to show the steepness of the terrain...not sure if I've succeeded though...you'll just have to take my word for it!
After the obligatory photo taking we continue on with our trek. At this stage of the walk the track starts descending, in places, quite steeply and becomes nothing more than what could kindly be described as a goat track...a very skinny goat I might add! Having successfully negotiated this part of the track we ended up on level ground and followed a sandy trail for another 30 minutes or so until we came to a junction...Shipstern left, Tunnel Bay right...as Shipstern was our destination left it was. The anticipation of finally arriving at our target was building...can't be much further now..we could hear the crashing waves, smell the salty air..must be just around the next corner! Disappointingly no, not to be...just around the next corner we were confronted with another steep decline which couldn't even be described as a goat track more like a rabbit track. It was at this point we decided to stop for sustenance and contemplate whether or not to continue on down the hill. Hey, we'd come this far we need to continue.
Being the younger and more adventurous sibling (ha) I went down the track first...because of the steepness I decided the best way to traverse it was being as close to the ground as possible, and what part of me is closest to the ground..my backside! So here I am sliding happily down towards my destination when I look back and see a young guy at the top of the track who has obviously decided that the best way for him to descend is as fast as possible. He starts running down the track...great...now I need to get a move on otherwise I'm going to get run over by this lunatic, so it's back up on my feet and off I go...wee...not the preferred way but certainly alot quicker than I had been going.
Having safely negotiated my way to the bottom (more through goodluck than good management) the scene that met me was breathtaking. I was in awe of the ruggedness and fierceness of the area. I just can't explain how magnificent it is and unfortunately the photos I took don't show its true beauty...you need to get down there and experience it for yourself.
After spending over half an hour marvelling at the magnificence of it all and also pondering the mind set of surfers who actually surf this area we started on the return trip. While the ascent was quite steep I found it much easier going up than coming down. Once again the old heart was getting a good work out as well as the legs, but the uphill hike was very satisfying.
As stated earlier a reasonable level of fitness is required to complete this walk but the sense of achievement at the end is very exhilarating.