Going Overland

Going Overland

May 19, 2019 4 By AJ


All is in readiness for Mike (my Dad), Stewart, Tim and my most excellent adventure! There isn’t much time for turning back now. The Overland Track is waiting for us.

via GIPHY

Practice walks are done. Food is prepared and packed. Gear is sorted. All superfluous items have been discarded.

The Overland Track is an adventure I have been wanting to complete for years. Unfortunately, my health issues over the past three years have put this goal way off track. Don’t pardon the pun.

I have some minor misgivings about my situation and I’m very much the junior in terms of bushwalking experience, expertise and any discernible usefulness. I am aware of my ongoing asthma issue, which could, and possibly will, make itself known over the next few days. A ziplock full of medications are ready.

In truth, completing the Overland Track would be an achievement for each one of us.

Road Warriors

We are fortunate to have Tim’s mate, Brad, join us for the drive from Hobart to Cradle Valley. Brad would be our driver to and from the Overland Track.

Logistically, the task of getting to Cradle Mountain from Hobart is not easy. Unfortunately; there are limited transport options available. I advise to come from Launceston instead (more on this in subsequent posts) – It was long in distance but in reality it was short in time. Stops in New Norfolk (Norfick) and Bothwell (Bofwell) for eats and drinks give us some important stretching time.

We drove “up the guts” via the Central Highlands

It’s late afternoon as we arrive at Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain. I find the dormitory accommodation suitable to our needs. Apart from pitching a tent, cheap as you will find in these parts.

Tomorrow’s fresh ham and cheese buns and other bits and pieces are stored neatly in the kitchen fridge ready for collection tomorrow morning.

We go to Cradle Mountain Tavern Bar and Bistro for dinner; the place is a tad crowded, but we get seated and fed soon enough. They do a nice parmi and chips.

The next morning we arrived at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and it is undergoing an expansion to cope with all the tourism. We take ourselves to the Overland Track registration point. As our spiritual group leader (the guy who organised it) I show relevant registration papers and the older statesmen (Stewart and Dad) have to show evidence of their seniority. Tim wanders off to get a coffee.

Setting Forth

The queue for the shuttle bus moves quickly but we are forced to wait for the next bus with enough storage for the lofty packs we’re hauling.

Ronny Creek is where the Overland Track begins. I sign us in the registration book. The weather is a bit cloudy but not cold.

Last minute pre-walk photos are taken by Brad. Good lucks and thank yous are exchanged between Brad and us.

All smiles at Ronny Creek. (from L-R) AJ, Tim, Mike and Stewart.
Image courtesy of Brad Harris.

Let the adventure commence!

9:00am was our anticipated time of departure on the track. 10:05am actual. This would become a common theme.

The sky is clearing by the minute as we take on the friendly welcome of the duckboards. 65 kilometres to go.

It is imperative to have your pack fitted to you properly. Packing your pack correctly is important too. However, if your pack is weighted badly it can be bloody uncomfortable and feel like it weighs an extra 5kgs. I was discovering this in the first kilometre. I was lagging behind, not yet in my rhythm. My pack was heavy. Fair dinkum, it weighed a bloody ton. 

I keep putting one foot in front of the other as I walk alongside the running Crater Falls. The others are now well ahead of me. The first stop on the track is at the picturesque Crater Lake. I air my grievances once I catch up to the group. Straggling far behind was pissing me off too.

Overland crater lake
The still-as Crater lake and the boatshed

The fagus (deciduous beech) is yellow and green in its tufts around the lake and path. The turning of the fagus occurs in early autumn. It turns from green to yellow and orange and red. It is quite stunning.

At this point it’s realised that lunch for Dad and I has been left behind. This was not the best news.

Next point of call was Crater Lookout.

There a plenty of day hikers at the lookout and the boat shed. I am envious of their light packs.

We reached Crater Lookout and it was re-weighting time. Dad and Tim set about checking my pack out and re-packing it. I’m very happy about this.

The Rise to Marion’s

The next section of the walk would take us up via a steep climb to Marion’s Lookout. This part is regarded as one of the toughest sections of the entire Overland Track.

We spend a lot of time giving way (read: catching our breath) to day hikers. By this stage we are very aware of our lack of pace amongst our agile contemporaries, and the track is not wide enough for easy passing.

Overland Marion's Lookout
Up and up to Marion’s Lookout we climb. Tim is way too cheery at this point.
Image courtesy of Stewart Peacock.

This route takes us up the backside of the hill. The steps, ledges and foot placements are big for a short-arse like me. The chains are useful to haul yourself up. Clambering up Marion’s would appears far simpler to do without a big pack strapped to your back.

Marion’s Lookout

Made it! And by the looks, so has everybody else. On. The. Planet. Cradle Mountain is popular at Easter.

The views are astonishing. There is cloud but the 360 degree views are worth it. 

Overland Cradle
Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake in all their glory. View from Marion’s Lookout.
This image and feature image (top) courtesy of Scott Palin.

The iconic Cradle Mountain sits there peacefully waiting for everyone to take their snaps and Instagram stories.

Dove Lake is dark and broody beneath.

I realise that I’m hungry. The reality of not having our prepared lunch sinks in. 

Stewart kindly shares some of his wraps. I could’ve eaten four of them. Missing my ham roll. Big time.

After a 30 minute stop to rest, eat, drink and take in the superb views the inevitable comes and it is time to go onward. 

The Otherside of the Mountain

We trundle along the gravel highway, being passed by most going in the same direction. The ‘nipple’ of Barn Bluff is now in sight.

Kitchen Hut is busy with several groups making a pit stop. Kitchen Hut is a day hut & emergency hut. It’s basic but serves a purpose to escape from the elements and is a regular stopping spot for day walkers.

Us “Overlanders” will continue on toward Waterfall Valley Hut. Everyone else will head back to Marion’s Lookout and back to cosy beds.

Kitchen Hut is a popular day walkers recuperation lounge

The track switches between rock, gravel and duckboard as we edge closer to the lightside of Cradle. Like the dark side of the moon, the other side of Cradle Mountain is not a sight I have seen before. Beneath the mountain there is a smattering of fagus with much more colour than at Crater Lake. More burnt orange meshed with the yellow and green.

Overland Cradle back
Cradle Mountain – The Otherside
Image courtesy of Scott Palin.

The vast valleys capture my attention as I gaze in awe. I feel like an insignificant speck. Barn Bluff protrudes out in front of us, it is a behemoth rock mass standing 1559 metres high and is actually higher than Cradle Mountain.

The erect Barn Bluff, more fagus and the valleys beneath.
Image courtesy of Stewart Peacock.

At the Sign of Waterfall Valley

Time is ticking along and my legs are getting weary. We reach a sign. The sign says, “Waterfall Valley Hut 1 hour”, approximately 15 minutes later next sign says, “Waterfall Valley Hut 30 minutes” – Based on the sign-to-time ratio hopes of a near conclusion to today’s hike are on up. There is renewed cheer in our voices and buoyancy in our steps.

On the descent to Waterfall Valley Hut, 15 minutes becomes 30 minutes. 30 minutes stretches out to 45 minutes. Have we missed the track? Save for the setting sun lighting up Barn Bluff,  this additional walking time is torturing me. Our optimism has deserted us.

Overland Barn Bluff2
The last rays of the day illuminate Barn Bluff as we descend to Waterfall Valley.

Finally, we reach the junction for Waterfall Valley Hut! I am expecting us to be pitching our tents as it is almost dusk, and the hut will be fully occupied. Not to be! There is space for four weary trekkers. Saved!

What’s for Dinner, Chef?

Dad prepares our last “fresh” meal for seven days. Dinner is a treat. Smoked salmon with pesto fused fettuccine with sliced pear, rocket and grated parmesan cheese. So delicious! This was a great way to end day one on the Overland Track.

Time limits our interaction with fellow walkers.

Like the Force, gear and tech envy is strong in me. All walkers were wearing their best bushwalking gear – fashion contest style. I could have been correct in thinking there were a few sponsorship deals going on. Kathmandu, Macpac, The North Face, Arcteryx, Patagonia, Marmot, Sea to Summit, One Planet, Black Diamond, Buff et al – they were all heavily represented.

Out of it all, I decide I would like a Jetboil. Thanks Santa.

Slept soundly. Thanks for asking.

Waterfall Valley to Windermere

Awoke to a beautiful and clear morning in Waterfall Valley with the sun shining brightly on Barn Bluff.

Overland Barn Bluff morn
In your best Robin Williams voice “Good mornin’ Waterfall Valley!”

Day 2 was upon us. Waterfall Valley to Windermere.

Aches and pains were realised in the morning. The oldies were up for a direct route to Windermere. Dad’s achilles was sore, and Stewart found the descent to Waterfall Valley tough on his knees. Tim and I were OK.

At 7.8km day two is the shortest walk hut-to-hut of the entire Overland Track. Rock and gravel was the track for the day.

The Lake Will side trip would add another (guidebook says) 30 minutes each way to our day. This would no doubt take us longer than that estimated time.

With the necessary doses of caffeine and brekkie we were up and good to go.

Nice Day for a Walk

Cloud cover extends over the plains but otherwise perfect walking conditions are presented to us.

Lake Will is the main sidetrack on day 2 of the Overland. We come across the junction about an hour in. It is laden with abandoned rucksacks. After a quick discussion, it is confirmed that Lake Will is an unnecessary adventure today. Windermere Hut and a cosy afternoon is our priority. 

We opt to stop for a re-fuel, sharing the time with Paul, Suzanne and their effervescent son Nate, and their adopted walking companion Debbie.

The wind picks up and the chill is felt immediately out on the exposed plateau. We move on to keep warm. 

Far reaching valley views are never-ending.
Image courtesy of Scott Palin.

The plateau shows us clear views stretching far and wide. We can see small lakes for as far as the eye can see. They are remnants of a long gone ice age some 18,000 years ago.

Lake Windermere and Lake James are to the left and right of the track respectively. Upon sight of Lake Windermere we let out a “Hazaar! Lake Windermere!” cheer, as an ode to a Youtube video blog.

“Hazaar! Lake Windermere!”

We soldier on, descending down, down, down from the 1000m plateau. It’s not the easiest walking with plenty of rocks to keep us all alert. 

Walking around the lake we have a quick catchup with the ranger who “checks us in”. We finish the days walk (in the daylight!!) and claim our sleeping quarters for the night in the hut.

Overland Windermere
Havin’ a giggle at Windermere Hut

A scrumptious dinner (referred to a bacon cook-up in my family – it is called gumbo in the hut) is scoffed down, and after evening hot drinks are imbibed, it is goodnight world from the Overland Track.

Day 2 is over and out.

To be continued…