Simon Benson & Alison Edwards
Walking Tasmania's Overland Track - again
Why did we walk the overland track again? Those who know us well ask us out loud; other perhaps just think we are mad.
This is only the fourth time - and each time is quite different. Two years ago we walked in the end of winter- through snow, down the valleys with clear air, snow topped peaks, animals galore in the warmer (slightly) daytime; and while we met a few people on the track, we had the entire hut to ourselves every night.
This walk was quite different. We elected to start a different way and discovered the east side of Cradle Mountain by walking into Scott-Kilvert hut. There was again a lot of snow on the plateau after last week's wild wintry weather. We arrived there at 4 pm and decided to walk on to Waterfall Valley as the next day's forecast was for deteriorating weather. Right choice. It was a bugger of a walk out, up the side of Cradle Mountain on a narrow rough track, and it was steep, steep uphill. When we cleared the treeline, we could see daylight ahead again and understimated how much more uphill walking there was to regain the plateau track. Other peope had walked it so there was a line of stamped footprints in the knee deep snow to link the occasional marker poles. The light at the real top was again that lovely just pre-sunset colour. Oops. This time we had our crampons and they made the descent into Waterfall Valley much less hairy than last time, and being 2 weeks later, there was light enough to see for a little longer. It as lovely to collapse into the hut though. This trip the hut was very social - there were at least four groups of walkers, one of which came in after us! It wasn't a very sociable night as some people were already in sleeping bags to get a bit warmer and the rest of us were trying to cook and unpack in the dark. It turned out we walked with three lots of these people for most of the trip and hence got to know them well. Some of the others were walking north.
Next day, the forecast was for rain later in the day so we started early and had a very pleasant short day to Windemere, arriving before the rain. Nice one. All afternoon we talked and played 500, mostly with Jess and Sam from Mt Isa. I did go back to the lake for another look in the morning, but low clouds and no sun meant it didn't match my memories of backlit pines etc from last time.There was far less snow on the ground generally this trip and for some reason far fewer wallabies, paddymelons etc
The third day is the longer day to Pelion with an early stop at the Forth lookout. We looked out onto a sea of cloud as has happened before. The track into Frog Flats was as bad as last time and again seemed to go on for ever, Simon has a theory that this part of the track has not been upgraded / maintained as it is midway - rangers coming in from the south go so far and those coming from the north, don't quite meet. I doubt it but there was a lot of rock hopping, sliding, mud and running water. It was complicated by my slipping on icy boardwalk and twisting a knee and an ankle early on. Now I have a much better understanding of "step down on the sore knee, step up with the good leg". Negotiating the track to Pelion with a held straight knee is difficult and I was having mutinous thoughts by the time we reached the hut. The magic of Mobic and a funny night of playing cards and talking restored my equaninmity as did the very generous offer of Sam and Jess to walk with us in case we needed their Eperb. (We didn't.)
The fourth day to Kia Ora was very straightwforward, not as wet as expected and again we arrived early afternoon leaving plenty of time for getting warm and dry. Again the two groups of boys arrived at dark or afterwards after setting their alarms for 6, then 6.15 snooze button and 6.30 and 6.45 snooze - they claim that none of them ever heard them! We all did, but no-one got up before it as decently light.
Windy Ridge hut really is appallingly designed. It is cold, wet with condensation, and plain stupidly designed. The sunny rock and wooden sitting area outside is it's only redeeeming feature . Here we met a group of oldies doing a three day loop, up from Cynthia Bay. Apparently they had spread out their belongings throughout Bert Nicholls hut (that takes some doing as it is a very large space) and were surprised when people started arriving. By bedtime, almost eveyone had abandoned the wet bedrooms and was camped on the floor of the kitchen - perhaps 18 or so.The benches are bolted to the floor so it makes for a haphazard arrangement.
The rest of the walk always seems easier- the packs are lighter and you are more used to them again, most of the track is downhill and the vegetation changes so there is more open country and a chance to look arround rather than watching where you put your feet. There was a little snow at Du Cane Gap but surprisingly little considering hut journal entries about waist deep snow in the weeks previously. I think it has all turned into water - the track was really wet. But the best part of day 5 was a sunny break and the chance to lounge around on the helipad at Du Caine hut. Books were read, coffee made, sketch pads out, talking and chatting - even with the very brash self opinionated Kent who was walking in disintegrated sandshoes bound with gaffer tape and cable ties. The last day into Narcissus was easy - all the others were catching the 1pm ferry apart from us, and the three boys who are saving money and walking out. They are planning to go onto Echo Point. We spent the afternoon, reading a newspaper, (left by someone heading up to Pine Valley) reading, walking around a bit and at dusk, watching platypus at the jetty.
So we had an entire hut to ourselves, arrived dry and could stay that way. The old coal heater has been replaced by the ubiquitous gas heater and the place has been painted and renovated but it is the same size and shape and makes a very snug bolthole. It rained and blew overnight but we were dry. The ferry man is going to radio when he gets to Echo Point so we can go down to the jetty to meet him and avoid the long wait of yesterday.
I don't neeed to walk this track again soon but I would like to see the Beech autumn colours one day and perhaps go back into the Labyrinth or explore the north end of the park east of Cradle Mountain - we'll see.