Should we really be walking out to a promontory 300 metres above the Tasman Sea in gale-force wind and driving rain? That’s the question we briefly asked ourselves at a junction in the trail on the last day of our Three Capes Track adventure.
Cape Hauy is the highlight of the final day. From the top of the cape, you can look straight down into the sea. It’s a two-hour out-and-back detour off the trail. We’d been warned that depending on weather conditions, Cape Hauy could be dangerous.
Ken didn’t hesitate for a second. He dropped his heavy trekking pack and found an extra thermal layer to put on under his rainshell, he filled his pockets with a couple of energy bars and looked over at me. What could I do? I dropped my pack too. Ken stood behind me blocking some of the rain and wind while I removed my rain shell to put on a warm layer. The wind was blowing the rain sideways, snapping each drop into our faces. The trees around us were thrashing around, branches breaking and flying through the air. This was folly, but we headed off anyway.
The track starts downhill for a few hundred steps into a valley. We crossed paths with several of our fellow trekkers. Many told us they’d turned back because the wind and rain were too fierce. In the valley we found ourselves in dense heath scrub about two metres high. Here the surface of the trail was dry, the wind pushing the rain sideways so hard that it couldn’t reach the ground!
As we neared the sea cliffs, the rain tapered off, then stopped completely. The wind eased. We meet more trekkers. One strapping Australian stopped us to say that he hadn’t gone all the way to the top because the wind had literally blown him off his feet. Good luck, he said.
We had to cross two depressions before the final climb. The closer we got to the cape, the more the weather improved. To the West, we could see small patches of blue sky. By the time we got to the top of Cape Hauy, we felt quite safe, at least, as safe as you can, standing 300 metres straight up from one of the wildest seas in the world.