Monday, 6 July 2015

The Overland Track: June 28- July 02 2015

Today puts me exactly a week out from the start of semester two and the official beginning of third year nursing. Kinda exciting! What's actually more immediately exciting to me is another week of doing as little or as much as I want, without the burden of university and the guilt associated with slacking off. Yep, I've been on holidays for about three weeks now and it's been blissful. So much time has been spent doing absolutely nothing, for the first time in a long time and it's been just the break I needed. After a tumultuous start to the year which ultimately left me on the back foot playing catch up all semester, I ended my recent exams feeling pretty fed up. This break has allowed me to refresh and I'm excited about working hard and achieving as I should be in the coming months.

So with holidays coming to a close and no more 'university free time' between now and the end of my degree (Feb 2016), I thought I'd recap on the most exciting part of my holidays- a five day winter walk along the Overland Track.

Planning started for this walk months out when Rich put in for annual leave. Soon after, I got overly excited about planning the logistics of the walk and many lists were drafted and plans were discussed over the next few months. We got incredibly lucky when we were able to organise a car swap with a friend who was planning to walk the track at a similar time to us, in the opposite direction. This saved both parties time and money and worked brilliantly! Yay. So, Saturday saw us driving north. After a few stops for essentials such as coffee, ice cream and fudge, we made it to Cradle Valley mid afternoon. Given Rich's fantastic Parks connections, we were lucky enough to stay in Mt Kate Hut for the pricely sum of $2. We got the fire cranking, drank some cab sauv and had a pretty special night in among the Pencil Pines.

Day one:
Rested up, we had a leisurely morning and started walking from Ronny Creek at 11am. We walked up to Crater Lake in fairly mild but wet and windy conditions before tackling Marion's Lookout (never as bad as you think it will be) in worsening winds, up to 40kt.

Photo credit: Richard Dakin
The rain was still falling as rain (we were hoping for snow) and we made it to Kitchen Hut for lunch by about 1pm. After warming up (or was it cooling down?) we continued to walk around the cirque, which surprisingly more sheltered than the Cradle plateau, before the final stretch along the ridge towards Barn Bluff and the descent into Waterfall Valley. It was a wet but otherwise perfect start to our walk.

Day two:
The weather looked pretty similar to the day before but soon cleared and within ten minutes of walking, our coats were off and Rich was taking photos of rainbows and sunlit mountain tops etc etc. It was pretty nice. We decided not to go to Lake Will, having been before and as we had a long section of track to cover, hoping to get to New Pelion Hut for the night. We continued along the open plains, enjoying limited views to our east and west before dropping down to Lake Windemere and the Hut by 11am.

Photo credit: Richard Dakin
 We pushed on for about another two hours over more golden buttongrass plains, past tiny, shallow lakes and through dark enchanted forests before enjoying lunch in the sun with a glorious view of Mt Oakleigh's northern cliff face. After lunch we descended along the flank of Mt Pelion West where, after successfully negotiating the tree roots and mud, I got my foot caught up in the long tendrils of a stand of cutting grass and fell. The walking pole of my right hand got awkwardly caught between my body and my left forearm which on impact with the ground caused an impressive bruise that is visible on both sides of my arm! It's pretty cool.

I got up, feeling pretty lucky to have avoided a broken wrist and we kept walking. A quick scroggin break at Frog Flats (or 'is this the flat frog?' according to a French walker I met a few seasons ago in the same spot) perked us up for the short climb up to Pelion Plains and the Palace that is the New Pelion Hut. We opted for the tent as the hut was pretty busy (read: noisy, smelly and clammy) and had a beautiful sleep in the cold quiet.

Day three:
We woke up to frosty conditions providing a beautiful scene as the warm morning sun lit up the mountains around us. We weren't in a hurry, knowing that the walk to Kia Ora Hut was short and easy so we lazied around in the sun, drank some coffee, went for a jaunt down to the Old Pelion Hut and the mine and momentarily thought about swimming in a magical water hole before finally hoisting our packs on and starting the climb to Pelion Gap at around midday. The sun was out and there wasn't a breath of wind (e.g. the type of winter weather bushwalker's dream of) so I laid in the sun reading while Rich summited Mt Pelion East. We strolled down to Kia Ora in an hour, enjoying the new track work and the changing light as the winter sun set over Mt Ossa.

Photo credit: Richard Dakin
Day four:
Another morning started with porridge and multiple cups of tea and coffee whilst I finished my book and Rich did all the work and packed up the tent, did the washing up and probably even tied my boot laces for all I know, I was too busy reading. It was pleasant walking after a night of showers, the rainforest that this section of the track is famous for looking greener and more lush than ever. We stopped briefly at Ducane Hut and quietly appreciated the life that Paddy Hartnett and his family lived in such an amazing place, so long ago. I get a strange sense every time I walk through the clearing surrounding his old hut, even having done so many times. I think it's just a sense of disbelief that this little pocket of light in the middle of a rainforest was once a hub of life in such a remote and wild place.

Dalton Falls. 
We visited the waterfalls and hugged the Mersey River up to Hartnett Falls where we had lunch and saw some people I know from uni (as you do) before continuing on up and over Ducane Gap. The section south of Ducane Gap is some of the most amazing wet schelorphyll forest I have ever walked through and I savoured the thirty minutes we spent descending down to Bert Nichols Hut despite the strengthening winds and the noticeable drop in temperature as a front approached from the south west.

Day five:
We woke to somewhere between 8 and 15cm of snow on the ground (depending on who you ask: Rich is a notorious exaggerator while I am constantly striving for accuracy) and two very excited Queenslanders hooting and carrying on. It was a short and fast walk out to make the 1pm ferry from Narcissus to Cynthia Bay made all the more interesting by great conversation and the occasional snowball from our mate Will. Once back at the car, we struggled and I mean really struggled, to get changed into our warm, dry clothes. At one point, I started to think that I may never wear pants again as I sat half naked in the car, unable to move my hands or feet. Thankfully, the car's heater started to warm up, the deep fryer was ready at the Hungry Wombat and before you know it, we were pulling into the drive way.

What a walk. It was wonderful and surreal to walk the track with the time and energy to explore and wander about the place- something that seldom happens when I'm walking it as a guide. Spending time with other walkers and at the PWS Huts was great too, although at times, the behaviour of other walkers was pretty disappointing. We cleaned up the huts on a number of occasions despite not even sleeping in them and it annoyed me how many people continued to run the heaters, until the atmosphere in the huts could only be described as sauna/old, wet shoes, with an apparent disregard for the PWS efforts to conserve heating supplies throughout winter for those who really need it, not those who want to dry their socks and wear tshirts in the hut. Ignorance, I guess.

We spent the last few days recuperating by watching movies, sleeping in, eating fish and chips in the glorious east coast sun and baking cookies. Shit, that post got really long, really quick. Thanks for reading!

Dee x.


Here are some notes on the food we took on our walk:

I spent the week prior to the walk cooking our meals and dehydrating what I could including a mexican bean stew, cooked rice, spaghetti bolognese and a pumpkin risotto. I also dried some apples bought from a wheelbarrow on the side of the road (they were the most delicious apples ever, by the way), some canned apricots (which, if you're interested, works out as being about 25% cheaper than store bought Australian dried apricots) and some hommus for instant flavour in our lunches.
I also made the most amazing scroggin ever which included apricot cubes, nougat, dried fruit, roasted nuts, dark chocolate buds and panforte. It was bloody delicious.

My plan had been to dehydrate all our main meals but due to an electrical fault in our dehydrator, we ended up buying a few Strive meals to see us through. We had Beef Massaman (good but a bit runny and salty), Spagbol (delicious) and Minestrone (kind of bland but good as a warming meal after a cold descent to Bert Nichols Hut).On the track we ate porridge every morning, wraps for lunches with either tuna (for me) or salami (for Rich) with assorted salady items (worth the weight in my mind) with instant hommus and a cuppa or two. Scroggin provided us with snacks throughout the day and we ended walking each day with a cuppa soup before some red wine and dinner.
Extras along the way included some brie and crackers, two chocolate self saucing puddings and extra dark chocolate in the evenings.

(Yes our bags were heavy, yes it was worth it.)

General info on the Overland Track can be found here.
There are some good books on the walk too, check out The Overland Track by Warwick Sprawson or one by John Chapman.

No comments:

Post a Comment