On a climbing trip in Australia – to the rock formations below Mount Wellington near Hobart – Murdo MacLeod gets more drama than he bargained for
It was turning into a trip of high drama. Moments earlier, a rock the size of my head had come crashing down. Myself and my fellow climbers shouted at the top of our voices and watched with relief as it came thudding to a halt a couple of hundred metres beneath us. No one was hurt.
And, truth be told, it was all my fault. I have only been climbing for little more than a year, and I’d been abseiling down an adjacent face in Rockaway Gully, Tasmania, when I dislodged the rock with my foot. I’d been hoping to get a better shot of my guide John Fischer, who was about to give our climbing trip another dramatic twist. But we’ll get to that later.
I’d come to Hobart principally for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, an event held every two years to celebrate all types of sailing vessels, from tall ships and dinghies to canoes and kayaks. The docks of the old whaling port were awash with masts and sails, and sunburnt sailors littered the harbour.
I’d rowed into town with a crew of Scots and Tasmanians aboard a traditional five-oared St Ayles skiff. We’d been part of a 10-day small sailing and rowing boat expedition from Recherche Bay in far south Tasmania to the boat festival, a distance of 100 nautical miles. By the time we arrived, we all poured into the historic Hope and Anchor Tavern on Macquarie Street to down a few well-earned ales amid the cutlasses, hagbuts and harpoons that decorate the walls, and lead the raucous mob in rowdy sea shanties.