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Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Sons walk the Overland Track

The Overland Track is Tasmania's most famous walk; the kind of well known walk tat requires (at least outside of winter) booking long in advance for a permit. It goes from Cradle Mountain in the north down to Lake St Clair in the south, and is usually walked in about a week. Huts are spaced along the route, but you are required to take a tent (and indeed it's often nicer to camp). The huts are basic - wooden bunks to sleep on, no power bedding or food of course. A lot of people walk it in very odd ways, of which more later! But for all that it is a major tourist attraction, it's also one of the most marvellous alpine routes in the world. If you can walk it in reasonable weather (and we were very lucky with that) it's astonishingly beautiful.

We headed out on a Friday from Cradle Mountain visitors centre having come from Launceston by bus. If you plan to do it, the only sensible way to go is to fly into Tassie through Launceston, get the bus to Cradle Mountain, then get the bus from Lake St Clair to Hobart and fly out there (the bus company will deliver any excess stuff you aren't walking with to Hobart)

Day 1: Cradle Mountain to Waterfall Hut

The weather was perfect, so off we walked through button grass and pandani, then up a little climb through alpine rainforest to meet our first waterfall:

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A little further climbing gets us to Crater Lake; not in fact a crater but a glacial cirque. This photo is taken from a tiny boat shed left from before the park was declared:



Climbing up from the lake (via a climb which seemed to defeat many of the walkers) we get to Marion's Lookout, which gives us our first view of Cradle Mountain itself and Dove Lake:

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Moving on from here we come to Kitchen Hut, and emergency hut which is the point at which you leave the track to gain the summit of Cradle Mountain:

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Cradle Mountain would be a 400m ascent from here, and lots of fun, but we don't have the time on this fairly long first day.

Moving on from the hut we get our first glimpse of Barn Bluff, which will dominate the landscape for the next few days. It's the little bump on the right, Cradle Mountain is to the left:

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Barn Bluff soon begins to loom impressively; also the weather shows signs of getting a little grim:




After some truly glorious walking across a high plateau we descend to Waterfall Hut. Here's the eponymous waterfall (and to a certain person, that is how the word is supposed to be used!)

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Then it's time to put the tent up and get some sleep. Pretty soon it starts to rain, so possibly the hut would have been a good idea!

Day 2: Waterfall Hut to Windermere Hut

The next day dawns wet, putting paid to our intended ascent of Barn Bluff, reputed to have the best views of all the peaks. The wet and wind would not only make the ascent unsafe, according to the ranger, but also there would be no view as visibility is in the single digits of meters!

By lunch it clears a bit, but not enough for the Bluff, so we head off taking a side trip to Will Lake. Here's a view of the much missed Bluff from the lake:

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After Will Lake things start to look impressive on the high plateau. The next photo shows why people used to (literally) be up to their armpits in mud before duckboarding was installed at key points:




Walking along the plains a view of the Pelion and Traveller ranges starts to emerge:
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Eventually we find ourselves getting closer to Lake Windermere, where the next hut is:


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After a meal and setting up the tent on a platform near the lake (the mossies are ferocious! The price we paid for generally marvellous weather was the mossies and March flies, which apparently both only became severe in the last couple of weeks) we head off to explore the lake. Here it is being loomed over by (still!) Barn Bluff

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And here's the lake in the last rays of ruddy light:

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Day 3: Windermere to New Pelion Hut


This is truly glorious days walking. It dawns fine and off we set, rising to button grass plains and the Pelions:

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See those little purple flowers in the bottom left? They are carnivorous! They are semi-aquatic, and trap aquatic insects in traps around their roots and stems. Here's a closer view:

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It's a very varied day; soon we are descending through a forest of Leptospermum (tea tree) that is all in flower, with a carpet of petals on the ground:

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And then we go through a forest of Pandani, as the Tasmanians call it. It's in fact a giant version of Richea, the candle heath genus. This one is called Richea pandanifolia, because it's leaves look like Pandanus (the flavouring of so many Indonesian and Malay sweets).



Then the terrain opens out as we approach the descent to the Pelion Plains:



A sharp descent though the gap in the last photo and we can see the plains emerging with Mt Oakleigh through the last trees:



We arrive soon at New Pelion Hut, which is extremely comfortable (we stay in it rather than camp) and has a balcony with the most amazing views of the Plain, and Mt Oakleigh. The view changes marvellously as the sun sets:



Notice the last light on Barn Bluff to the left, still visible after three days:



Day 4: New Pelion to Kia Ora Hut

The next day dawns with mist on the plains:



It's well worth exploring the plains while the mist is still there:



Exploration reveals Barn Bluff again, and some lovely grasses. Must come back to climb the Bluff!



Off we go, the plan is to get to saddle before the final peak of Mount Ossa, the highest peak in Tasmania. We reach the Pelion Gap, which has lovely views, and have some lunch before heading off track to Ossa. Here are a few of the lovely people we were walking with:



After a bit of climbing we reach Mt Doris, and are rewarded with this view of Ossa:



The country around Ossa and Doris is astonishingly beautiful, often looking like a cultivated garden by some culture not a million light years from the Japanese:



A blight killed a lot of eucalypts some years ago, but their white remains are spectacular:



We descend and then head on and eventually arrive at Kia Ora hut just in time to set up our tent, and admire the moon and alpenglow:



Day 5: Kia Ora to Windy Ridge

The first stop on this day is Du Cane hut, an historic hut that is kept as an emergency shelter:



Check out the bunks!



There's a nice example of the old signposts you sometimes see around the track:



Our next side trip is the the spectacular Hartnett Falls. Sorry there's no scale in this picture, but they are about 100m high:



Here they are from the top:



The rest of the walk this day is through varied forest:



Day 6: Windy Ridge to Narcissus and then ferry to Cynthia Bay

On the last day of the main walk we aren't sure whether to spend an extra day out and visit Pine Valley or to get the ferry from Narcissus. It's raining, but by mid morning we head out thinking it won't get much better. It doesn't: and we end up walking through the forest in an impressive thunderstorm. It's quite exhilarating, but it also decides us not to camp out another night, especially when we run into rangers who tell us that the Pine Valley track will be mud up to the waist. We also consider ignoring the ferry and joining Wendy, Charmaine, Vaughan and Jayne at Echo Point and waking along the lake the next day. The storm makes a dry hotel room and a laundry that much more appealing so we go for the ferry (besides, he justifies to himself, once the ferry started the last bit of walking really became a day walk from Cynthia Bay rather than the true Overland. I reckon it ends at Narcissus!)

We reach Narcissus as the storm abates, and after lunch head to the jetty on Lake St Clair:. There are some glorious view on the way.



The jetty itself is lovely, small and peaceful with amazing views:



Soon enough the little boat they use as a ferry arrives for us:



From the lake you get to see the amazing forest we were walking in from a different viewpoint entirely. It really illustrates the old expression about not seeing the wood for the trees! The red spots will be soutnern Beech of the Nothofagus genus. I'm not sure if the colour is due to it being new coppery growth, or whether they are turning: Tasmania has among others the only deciduous Nothofagus.



The ferry stops at Echo Point, where the gathered folk give us a hard time for not roughing it with them! Here's Vaughan and Charmaine:



We get a chance to step out and have a look; here's he famous view of Mt Ida from Echo point:



After that it's a short trip to Cynthia bay, where non dried food, a laundry and showers await! But what a truly magnificent piece of country, and what an amazing walk! Thanks to all the wonderful people we met on route, and to the NPWS and all the rangers who look after this treasure.

Appendix: Day 7 to Pump House Point

The next day we think we need to walk some more, as our bus doesn't come until evening. On the ferry trip we see an amazing deco-ish building in the distance, which turns out to be an old pumphouse for a hydro scheme that was never really used. We decide that would be a good target for a day walk, an head out there along the lake shore.

Here's the pumphouse starting to appear:



And here's the only person we pass: a fly fisherman wading out in the lake:



Finally we get the pumphouse:



There is some amazing driftwood; this piece look a bit dragon like:

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On the way back I can't resist trying to photograph some of the tiny flowers that seemed to grow in moist soil everywhere; these flowers are about 3mm across!

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Somephotos from one of our former walking companions, who did the overland track a few weeks earlier here













2 comments:

  1. Hey guys great photo's! What camera and lens did you use to take the pics?

    Jayne and Vaughan

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  2. Jayne! Vaughan!

    Good to hear from you; we lost the emails coz they were written on paper or in my head!

    The pics were taken on a Panasonic GH2, and a 20mm lens and a 7-14mm wide zoom and a couple on a 45mm macro. The thing is very small, the lenses are great, and the quality at low ISO is very good. It's not as good as the full frame SLR I use when I can, but it has very similar capacities and it's not to big or heavy to lug around...

    So glad you found the blog! If you have the google earth file that'd be cool...

    Hope all goes well with you

    cheers
    d

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