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  • Writer's pictureKate Halfpenny

Heavy backpacks, no showers, sleeting rain. My new definition of luxury.

The first terrifying bit of our terrifying holiday came at Tullamarine airport when I nearly did a hip flexor getting my backpack from the car to the check-in desk. If I couldn’t lug the cursed thing 200 metres, how would I get it around Tasmania’s 48 kilometre Three Capes track?


Good news was that once we arrived, there wasn’t much time to worry. Our boat captain Tim beamed as he kicked us off, barefoot and with pants rolled above knees, at a beach opposite Port Arthur. At least I think he was beaming – hard to tell through the sleet running down our necks and into our hearts.


It’s 34 years since I backpacked. The European rite of passage, 12 months of hostels, Dunlop Volleys and Hard Yakka shorts. Of lightness. My one indulgence was a Walkman with a mixed tape my boyfriend made, heavy on the INXS.

Happy days. But I was 21 then. Now I’m a woman who travels with a silk eye mask in Coach hand luggage, is blasé about airport lounges, fussy about pool villas.


So it was hilarious to be a long way from that ’80s warrior, wading ashore in southern Tassie during a week of epic rain. With adult children, a husband, a dicky knee and self-doubt.

Up to 48 people start the Three Capes hike every day. We booked eight months out, wanting a full family adventure for the first time in too long. The debut hike was mercifully short. Panicking about sharing a cabin with randoms and running out of Savoury Shapes distracted me from the fear of being owned by my luggage.


The set-up is simple and stylish: cabins crafted from local timber, no curtains, heating, electricity. Circadian rhythms were in charge. We saw sunrises, crept into sleeping bags at 8pm. We had a pact to only use phones to take photos. No Wordle, emails, social media.


The scenery was in-your-face incredible – cathedral organ cliffs, whales, wildflowers – so I had to look harder to find what turned out to be the best bits. One was community. Holidays for me have become about five stars, privacy, isolation. This one had geographical isolation but shared everything else: drop toilets, bunks, laughter, wobbly moments.


It was the most fun I’ve had for ages.


Thrown together, we got to know other hikers fast. Geri from Brisbane bandaged my creepy blistered toes. Karl from Canberra donated his last pack of Sour Worms as first prize when my daughter threw a trivia night. Tanika from Cairns produced Hydralite for a dicky tummy.


I also went feral fast. First night, I washed my face, applied hyaluronic serum. Next morning, I had my son’s girlfriend Pip do my ponytail so it was perfect. After that, all bets were blissfully off. Not sure why. Maybe the lack of mirrors, showers, self-consciousness. I padded about communal kitchens in thermal underwear, didn’t bother taking off my one bra even to sleep, didn’t care when our rationed cask wine inflamed my rosacea and I had no makeup to cover it. I possibly brushed my teeth. And the backpack was fine.


Then there was the gloriousness of being with my kids. Picnic lunches of salami and hummus wraps, new in-jokes, discussions to take our minds off screaming quaddies: best Fooeys song, best movie soundtrack, all-time favourite AFL player. The weird part was their holiday style was the same as adults as when they were little: one practical, one stoic, one whimsical.


he last 14 kilometre day, we shucked our packs to wait for a bus at a tiny camp ground with a beach. The ranger had warned us that the water was eight degrees but the kids ploughed in. I suddenly found myself getting the kit off and running in too – finally a chance to wash my smalls – and my son Felix hoisted me above the swell in triumph.


So exhilarating. Being grimy. Being social. Being connected to nature, not the internet.


Being challenged in all ways. Being present. Being with family. My new definition of luxury.


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