Sunday 15th June Launceston

Our flight from Melbourne was leaving at 9am; as usual, on a Sunday morning, no good for the usual train / bus route to the airport. But we were lucky and Louise (now 18½ weeks pregnant) drove us. A good start.

The flight was slow, thanks to fog at Launceston airport. We had to circle around for a while before landing; interesting, as we approached the airport in clear sunshine but entered the fog just at the beginning of the runway. All straightforward, the shuttle into town to the (usual) Grand Chancellor hotel, leave our bags, and go out for a walk.

Tasmania is a very different place to the mainland. The country and the buildings all look different. We had a very ordinary coffee in town at a cafe staffed entirely by juniors, then walked through the park (passing a Boer War remembrance, complete with 2 horsemen in Boer War uniforms) to the Plaza Shopping centre. We had lunch here at the cafe (much better than this morning's), shopped for the last bit of food and gas for the stove. Gas now comes in packets of 3, not 4; we wondered whether to buy 1 or 2, and opted for 2. So we should have no limitation on stove use on the walk!

Back to the hotel and we were allowed into our room. The cold of this morning had given way to a warm sunny day and I was very happy to get my boots and legs off.

We went out again, this time me in shorts wearing my crocs on my feet; back through town, not quite knowing where we were going; finding ourselves at the zig-zag path up and over to Cataract Gorge, so that's where we went; crossing the river on the causeway beneath 1st basin, and returning on the other (flatter) side of the river. We could see rock climbers on the other side, of whom I felt not at all envious. By the time we got back to the hotel it was 4.45pm, getting dark, and getting chilly as well.

Dinner we had at the nearby Royal Oak Hotel. It was very good and very well priced; busy when we arrived, but when we left (7pm) almost all the other diners had disappeared. You don't want try to eat out late here! Back home, we looked up the weather forecast; the day we plan to start, Tuesday, has a rather bad forecast with cold, strong winds, rain, and snow. After that it all improves, though temperatures are predicted to hover around zero. We'll see how it all goes.

Monday 17th June Cradle Mountain

The bus was coming to pick us up at 7.30am, so we rose at 6.15 and went to the “Eatery” next door for breakfast. Neither of us was hungry, so we just had a raisin toast and hot chocolate. We checked out, and the bus picked us up.

Who else was going? Everyone else was on a day tour to Cradle Mountain, so we got a commentary as well on the way there. We had a stop in Sheffield and then continued, getting to the Cradle Mountain info centre about 11am.

The day had begun cool and foggy, and was so a lot of the way here, but it cleared a bit as we got close. We'd booked in to a Waldheim Cabin, at the start of the walking tracks; we couldn't get the key till 1pm. We had a vague thought of just setting off today, while the weather is half reasonable, but not for long; we decided to stay and go tomorrow anyway. We've rented a personal distress beacon for the week so we can hopefully have ourselves rescued if things went very wrong.

So we had a couple of hours to kill. After having a coffee and a chat to a walker who had just arrived from Lake St. Clair – and who told us there was little snow on the plateau - we walked out through the huge carpark (5 times bigger than I remember it), then through the large camping ground, and the Highlander Lodge. There seems to be much more development here than I remember – and a new huge visitor Centre is being built as well. We had both thought that old age would be the thing to stop us doing this walk, but it looks like it will be the big increase in visitor numbers.

Eventually we were able to pick up our key and take the shuttle bus to Ronny Creek, from where we walked the 15 minute track up to the cabin. By now there was a bit of sun and I had to stop halfway to take my top layer off, leaving only a shirt. The cabin is very comfortable, and has the heater left on – so it was toasty inside. We sat down, unpacked, read a bit, had some lunch; and then a 3pm went out for a walk, to the Waldheim Chalet and Weindorfer's Forest. We walked back with the sun shining intermittently on the mountains, and with the evening chill moving in.

But with its good little heater, and the hot shower outside, we were able to manage to wash and dry all our clothes – so we can set off with everything clean and dry tomorrow.

Tuesday 18th June Waterfall Valley

We may have set off dry, but it didn't stay that way. Neither of us slept so well – the heater in the hut made it a bit stuffy, and I should have got up and opened a window more. I was also a bit apprehensive about today; there is a cold front coming, bringing cold temperatures, strong winds, and rain and snow. And in a white-out up on the Cradle Plateau we could easily get lost.....

So I listened the rain starting to fall on the roof of our cabin; and being used, now, to getting up early, we woke before dawn, at 7am. But we were in no hurry; we had a last shower and at 9.10am, wearing our ponchos, walked out into the rain. I was wearing only a thin shirt and my zip-offs and gaiters under the poncho, because there was a steep uphill up onto the plateau and I knew I'd get hot.

I did get hot, on the way up; but by the time we got to Marion's Lookout (where there was no view at all) the rain was turning to sleet. The walk was reminding us of the Kungsleden in Sweden; a lot of the track we walked on was also watercourse. We said hullo to some day walkers near the lookout (the only other people we saw all day), and continued on to Kitchen Hut, by which point the sleet had turned to snow. We'd planned to stop here and make a coffee; we managed, just, because our tin of butane was too cold to burn properly; with a lot of shaking we got it to go – just. And in the shelter of the hut we emptied the water out of our boots, and put on a lot more clothing. We needed it.

We continued. The snow got heavier. We had one spot just after leaving Kitchen Hut where we took a while to find the next snow pole, and thus the track; but despite my apprehension about it. this was the only situation like this. There was a lot more track / watercourse. We continued on through increasing snow and increasingly strong winds (it was very photogenic, but also very difficult to take a photo in driving snow wearing gloves); and at ~3.40pm arrived down to Waterfall Valley Hut. We were very glad to get here – especially as we found no-one else here, so we could light the heater and drape all our wet gear around it. I thought no-one else would arrive – it's only 3 hours from Windemere, the next hut; and I didn't think anyone would have been silly enough to come over from Cradle like we did. (We wouldn't have either, if we didn't have Brian and Vicki picking us up at the other end on Monday / Tuesday).

The wind has eased but rain continues, so we've stayed inside, made dinner, made our bed. It is very cold – the thermometer inside the hut said 5 degrees when we arrived, and doesn't seem to have changed much since.

Wednesday 19th June Windermere Hut

I slept with 2 layers of themals, top and bottom; and it was just warm enough. But a quite good sleep apart from some cramps. For the first time for days, we had no reason to get up early; so we didn't. But when we did, we found it had snowed more overnight and it was all quite beautiful. I tried the stove without heating it on the heater, as I'd done last night after it had been too cold to burn at Kitchen Hut; it worked fine despite the thermometer saying 2.5 degrees. How cold had it been up at Kitchen Hut?

We were in no hurry, but eventually we set off. We put on our new crampons, and they were very good for walking over the lots of new snow. After yesterday, I wore more clothing when we left; I had to remove my neck warmer and unzip my down vest as we walked, because of overheating. But it wasn't really very warm; you could see areas where there was sunshine, but we got snow more often than sunshine on us. The snow made it very photogenic, and taking photos was much easier with ungloved dry hands than it was yesterday.

We stopped ½ way along to Windermere, after 1½ hours, and took off our packs and had some food. But there was nowhere to sit down, and while we we there it started snowing again. We continued, and shortly after we saw our first mountain for the trip – Mt. Oakleigh appeared out of the cloud, above Lake Windemere. You could see some of Mt. Pelion East as well, but it was covered in cloud. Then, on and then down to Lake Windermere. The track from the lake up to the hut was further than I had remembered; it was good to finally arrive, though (as we'd been told) the heater there didn't work. (We weren't nearly as wet or cold as last night, either).

We settled in; there was no-one else there, and it's a nice hut. It had been left not quite as clean as we would have liked, so it got wiped down and swept out. We had 2 cups of coffee and then went out for a little walk, meeting a mother and daughter coming towards us; so we are sharing tonight. Snow began again, so we came back home again.

It is cold tonight, but we are not as wet and cold – and tired – as we were last night. But with no heater I think it may be early to bed. It's just after 6pm, it's been dark for an hour, and it is getting quite chilly.

Thursday 20th June Pelion Hut

It was chilly. I slept with my neck warmer and hat on, as well as my thermals, all night; and Alison took a water bottle / hot water bottle to bed. I heard the others there saying “its so cold!” during the night. They got up before dawn, about 7am; so we got up soon after.

We left Windemere at 9.15am. The track was very pretty; lots of ice making patterns, snow here and there. Views came into view; there was even some blue sky and sunshine. Not very much, but a bit. A touch of a rainbow, as well, though it didn't rain. We stopped at the Forth Valley lookout, where I had actually got warm enough to take off my down vest. And then on through forest and some open areas, before we got to the last 1½ hours of narrow muddy wet tree root track, which went on and on – as we sort of remembered, but Alison commented that she may have culled it from her memory. At last, we got to Frog Flats. Hooray! We stopped for a bite and I took off my windstopper top as well – down to just a shirt!

We knew it was not so much further from there, but it was more uphill, wet, and rough than we remembered. Finally, 6½ hours after leaving Windermere, we arrived at Pelion Hut, with about an hour of daylight left.

No-one else here, and no heater again – as we'd been told. We unpacked, made a coffee, and both had a very quick wash. It started to rain a bit. A group of 3 others arrived, having walked straight through from Waterfall Valley. They are reasonable company; one just read the thermometer – 4 degrees. We can handle this but we look forward to a hut with a heater tomorrow.

Friday 21st June Kia Ora Hut

This morning, I went into the other half of the hut for a broom – and found someone there! He arrived at 11pm last night, which explains why someone opened our bedroom door last night. I had wondered.

We were in no hurry to leave; the weather was low cloudish with light rain on and off. After a look around we set off at 10am. The track was still a bit muddy, but it was much better than yesterday's; up and up, into a bit of snow, and at 12.15 we got to Pelion Gap. It was all snow-covered, very beautiful, and quite cold as well. Mt. Ossa remained in cloud, but Mt. Pelion East came and went from view. We didn't stay long, and started our way down; a pleasant descent along lots of snow-covered boardwalk, and then getting back into forest again. We got to Kia Ora Hut a little before 2pm, after a little diversion to the private hut Alison found just before getting to the “real” hut.

And since then we've had a good pleasant afternoon around the hut. We have the three from last night with us, and a couple of boys from ANU who turned having walked straight through from Windemere. A reasonable lot.

And here, there is a heater – which has been a bit intermittent in lighting but a great bonus here.

Saturday 22nd June Narcissus Hut

The ANU boys got up and left about an hour before dawn. Everyone else got up about 7am, still before dawn. It was a pleasant sociable breakfast time, and we set off at 8.40am. The day was fine – but there was a lot of moisture on the trees, which landed on my legs and on my pack – from overhanging branches. We thought we'd walk straight through to Narcissus Hut – a 7-hour or so walk – because neither of us like the Bert Nichols / Windy Ridge hut, halfway along.

That's what we did. The walking was easier than yesterday's – more reasonable track, and more opportunity to look around rather than where your feet are going. A stop at Du Cane hut, after an hour; past the turnoffs to the waterfalls; and then up to Du Cane Gap, and down the other side.

Shortly after, we got to the Bert Nichols Hut. It was as it was, except for some workers there installing a new gas log fire – the silly radiant thing high up on the wall was gone! This will improve the hut, but the heater is still heating a huge area and the sleeping areas remain cold. We had a coffee, and offered one of the workers a coffee – for which he traded us a mandarin and 2 apples. Nice. The ranger helping told us that they were going to replace the Waterfall Valley hut. Why? It's a really nice hut. Because there are increasing visitor numbers and a bigger hut is needed. If the new hut is anything like Bert Nichols it will be a retrograde step.

We continued on. It was another 3½ hours on to Narcissus, and it was OK though we were feeling it a bit by the time we got there. We found the hut warm, and inhabited by the ANU boys, Eden and Jerome. We dumped our packs and walked down to the jetty. It is a lovely area. Then back to sort out our bedding and have dinner. Alison gave some dinner to the boys, and we have excess food (as usual) and their food is very basic. They were very appreciative.

And now, Alison is teaching them how to play “500” in front of the heater. In this little hut it is very effective. We ended up playing “500” with them till nearly 10pm – which is, I think, the latest we have been up while on this walk.

Sunday 23rd June Echo Point Hut

We slept quite well, and – for a change – didn't get up until it was light. We walked down to the jetty, where we could see the sun starting to hit the tops of the snow-capped mountains. Today, for a change, there is not a cloud in the sky.

We returned, had breakfast, and packed up; and walked off at 9.45am. To where? Towards Cynthia Bay, but maybe stopping at Echo Point hut for the night. The walking was better than some has been this trip, but there were still some swimming pools to cross, fallen trees, and (to start off with) some underwater duckboard as well. But in general it was good walking, at least for the first 2 hours. Then we expected to be a Echo Point, but it was a long time coming; it took 2½ hours.

But we got here to find most of the jetty still in bright sunshine. Bright sunshine, but still chilly. We made a coffee and discussed staying or not; we decided to stay. It's a beautiful day, we have plenty of food and gas for the stove, and it's a beautiful spot as well. So we moved into the rustic hut. Coal heater, not gas; wooden bench, not stainless steel. And quite small / cosy.

I heated some water for a wash while Alison went to find some kindling to light the heater. This was not an easy task; it kept going out, and in the end I put the stove in the ash tray compartment, and with continuous flame like that we were right. So it's been burning away ever since and it's nice and cosy inside, while outside gets colder.

We've both had a wash, which feels really nice. I've washed less on this walk than ever before – though with it being so cold I haven't sweated much at all.

And we've had plenty of time to make our bed and get organised. I even found we have both internet and phone reception here, which surprised me (there was none up at Narcissus). So we've contacted Brian and Vicki and they'll meet us a Cynthia Bay at 1pm tomorrow. And I've spoken to Louise as well. And Alice. And Rob.

Darkness fell and we were comfortably ensconced in our little hut, warmed by the effective coal heater. Bed made, everything ready to cook dinner. Nice! When, soon after 6pm – over an hour after dark – I heard voices outside. My heart sank. In came a group of 4 twentysomethings from Melbourne, who'd flown in this morning. They were all tired, one had walked the track before, but the rest were, I think, very inexperienced walkers. They were also not very sociable.

So I cleared our things off the bunks on one side; we compacted all our belongings, had dinner; and by 7.30 pm the rest of them were in bed. We sat up reading for a while, next to the heater; but this hut is so small we felt unable to talk to each other much at all. So soon after 8pm we went to bed too – much earlier than we had planned to, but what can you do?

Monday 24th June Hobart

It was a long night. At 7am, as the first light was starting to appear, I got up. We packed up our bedding and soon the others got up as well. And at 8.40am we left them there and set off for the end of the track. It was a better easier track mostly than the track we'd been on the past week; we had a break by a beach halfway along, and after 3 hours got to the end.

But not really the end. The end of the Overland Track was at a wide gravel road which led to the Visitor Centre. It was boring, featureless, and had no indication of how far away the Visitor Centre was. We walked at a good speed but I think it took us over 20 minutes to get there. A disappointing finish.

Neither of us have any desire to walk the Overland Track again. It has become too busy / popular.

It was midday. We had a coffee in the cafe, handed our unused EPIRB back; walked down to the lakeshore. It is again a sunny day, but a cold sunny day – temperature ~4 degrees. We came back and shared a chicken parma in the cafe (yummy!) while waiting for Brian and Vicki to come and take us away back to Hobart.

And that is what happened. All very straightforward. And we are very fortunate because the lady in the Parks office told us there is no other way to get to Hobart.