Workers leave a lasting trail

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 25 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

Three Capes Track construction supervisor Albert Thompson with the view over Arthurs Peak to the Tasman Peninsula. Pictures: SAM ROSEWARNE

LOGAN Higgins reckons he has got the best job in the world.

The 27-year-old from West Hobart also says he has the world's best office -- the ocean-side bushland of the spectacular Tasman Peninsula where he is helping construct the Three Capes Track.

Billed as the new Overland Track, the six-day guided trek is expected to become a global eco-tourism attraction hosting up to 10,000 walkers a year when the last duckboards are put down in late 2015.

Until then, Mr Higgins will continue clearing the scrub and hauling gravel in work he described as "enjoyable but back-breaking".

"I've never really had to grow up," he said.

"I spent my childhood playing in the mud and stacking rocks and it's exactly what I do now."

Mr Higgins admitted his work roster with the Mt Trails company, which involves nine nights camping in a tent city with his colleagues before a five-day break, was not for everyone.

On the Three Capes Track

But he said the scenery and permanence of the track his team was building meant that the life of a track worker had pleasures city folk never know.

"And when you get to the top of the hill and look out over the ocean it is amazing.

"It's just exceptionally rewarding work, which is why I've stuck at it for so long.

"You get to the end of a day and think that part of the track is going to stay there for the next few hundred years.

"There's been a few times I've gone up to the lookout in the middle of the night, with a bright moon, and just sat with a hot chocolate watching the shooting stars and the Aurora [Australis]. Just an amazing spot to be."

Working alongside Mr Higgins on the Three Capes Track is experienced landscaper and part-time Port Arthur ghost tour guide Andrew Holmes.

The 53-year-old Boomer Bay resident was offered work with Mt Trails after last summer's Tasman Peninsula bushfires, in which his immediate neighbours lost their homes and his family was relocated because of asbestos fears.

"The fellows at Mt Trails gave me a go, and it's definitely hard, physical work," Mr Holmes said.

"But the good thing is that the work that we do here will be here in 100 years. So that means a lot to me.

"And it's fun to work out here. It's a beautiful part of the world."

Mr Holmes said being in the bush for long stretches took its toll, saying time away from his wife and children was difficult.

On his days off he looks after his kids and provides some "sanity time" for his spouse.

Opera singer Phillip Joughin, of South Hobart, traded a career on stage in Sydney for a return to Tasmania to pursue his other passion -- the great outdoors.

The 40-year-old father described track work as "good for the soul", saying as soon as he finished the track he wanted to bring his son to see it.

"I'd definitely like to bring the young fellas through to show him the walk, but also just show him the area," Mr Joughin said.

"I really enjoy this work. There are times when it is hard and it's obviously very physical. But the flip-side is that you can see real progress every day."

Mr Joughin said that working outside in Tasmania meant taking his jumper on and off 15 times a day, but to make up for the weather he and his workmates witness sea eagles and "wedgies" (wedge-tailed eagles) flying overhead.

He said that while he was yet to spot a whale off the coast, many of his colleagues had.

"The beautiful things about the weather here is that when it rains the smells come out of the wood, and when you get mottled cloud you get these wonderful bands of sun down over the ocean," Mr Joughin said.

Track boss Peter Guiver understands that despite the obvious upsides, working in the bush isolated for long periods with a small team in variable weather conditions presented unique challenges for his Mt Trails employees.

The company principal has developed a well-trained eye for signs of worker weariness, and had contingencies in place to lift sagging spirits.

"If you see someone's looking a bit down, you might let them head back home for a few days, or just take the next shift off. The problem is that it's pretty hard to get out of here quickly. It's a two-hour walk back to Fortescue then a car ride.

"But it's a lovely life. It's great just being outside."

Mr Guiver also has back-up plans for the inevitable inclement days working in the Tasmanian bush.

Particular work is left aside for wet days -- including clearing vegetation or rehabilitating track edges -- with difficult stonework given a wide berth.

Parks and Wildlife Service acting regional manager Shane Breen has helicoptered in to inspect progress on the track and said he was not only impressed by the product, but by the dedication and the work of the track crews.

"Their professionalism is ensuring the longevity of the track, and one that will require little maintenance."

duncan.abey@news.com.au


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