The Overland Track Apr/May Report  
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Why would anyone want to return to The Overland Track?

I met an elderly bushwalker at Pelion Plains who was on his fortieth trip on the track. For me it was my second yet I felt that it would also be my last for a long time. Not because I don’t like the place … far from it.

I was somewhat sad as I stood quietly by myself next to Lake St Clair when I was thinking these thoughts. It was typical Tasmanian weather. Snow on the peaks, heavy cloud cover, a brisk north westerly wind pushing cold rain into my face.

What was I doing?

Hoping the weather would clear a little so I could take a photograph. Me, the masochist, at it again.

The trip started 12 days earlier at Cradle Mountain. My plans were to photograph the Cradle Mountain area then walk through to Narcissus Bay, pick up some supplies and head into Pine Valley and The Labyrinth for a week. My reason for going was the Fagus had turned its beautiful golden colour for that brief period at the end of April/early May. A must do photo opportunity.

My first two nights I spent in the Scout Hut, next to the Horse Track. I was very lucky to be given permission to stay there. My being Secretary of my son’s Scout Group I suspect is the reason I was allowed to stay it is not available to the general public.

Last year, in March it snowed and rained for the three days that I was at the Scott-Kilvert Hut, below Cradle Mountain. This year it was fine.

The Parks and Wildlife Service have done much work around Cradle Mountain. They have closed a few of the tracks. There are now three tracks they want The Overland Track walkers to take. The first and most direct is from Waldheim, up the Horse Track and straight to Kitchen Hut. An outstanding view of Crater Lake can be seen. The second is from Waldheim but goes via the edge of Crater Lake before heading up to Marions Lookout. The last is from Dove Lake but back tracks via Wombat Pool before heading up to Marions Lookout. This is the best scenic track and if you are not in a hurry worth the effort. For some reason the Parks and Wildlife are saying the Marions Lookout track via Dove Lake is closed, yet I spoke to people who used it with no problems. This is the most direct route.

I was impressed with the tourist track around the base of Dove Lake, very pretty and within the capabilities of white haired old ladies. Day-trippers I met said they easily walked from Dove Lake up to Hansons Peak, across the Face Track, back to Marions Lookout and back to the lake in four hours.

My only disappointment was that due to the location of the hut I was a little too far away to get to Dove Lake in time to take another of those well-known dawn shots of Cradle Mountain. I was told that Maxwells, the Bus Company, for $10 will run you up from the Lodge or Camp ground for the dawn. I did see it make its way up to the Lake just before dawn.

The shots I got of Crater Lake more than compensated.

By the time I got to Lake Windermere it was wet and miserable. I thought I was going to have the third night alone, again when two Yugoslavs arrived. Here was me thinking it was going to be a quiet trip.

At New Pelion Hut the weather was also cold and wet and because of a bad experience with a particularly nosy possum last year I again elected to stay in the hut. A happy time was had by all in what was a full hut. The ratio of Australians to foreigners was about equal.

It was here that an unusual event occurred. I was unpacking my tripod when the girl next to me said, "Are you a photographer?". "Sort of", I replied in a non-committal way. "What’s your name?" "Wise" "You’re Geoff Wise!", she said. I looked at her sideways, with a slight narrowing of my eyes. The annoying aspect was that she said she could not remember where she got my name.

That night when we went to bed, the other annoying aspect of staying there became evident. About 10 minutes after the lights went out a crash/bang/scurry/scurry caused us to break out in laughter. The mice had arrived with a vengeance.

An inexperienced American was forced to get up and retrieve 10 mice from his pack. Eventually they too went to bed after they tried to get into everyone’s pack.

The following day proved to be very interesting. The temp began a little above 0°C and it was raining. This did not make that steady, long climb up to Pelion Gap any easier. Just after coming out of the rainforest at the Gap, the rain suddenly changed to horizontal wind driven snow. By the time I had donned warmer clothes and walked half way across the plain the snow suddenly stopped and out came the sun. Typical Tasmania.

The rest of that day and the following morning it continued to snow. This made the trip through Du Cane Gap very pretty and the views of The Cathedral and Mt Pelion East outstanding. Mt Ossa was again covered in cloud.

From Kia-Ora Hut I went straight to Narcissus Hut – a six hour trip. Having photographed the falls on the Mersey River the year before I was keen to get into Pine Valley.

By now I was getting a little annoyed with some of our foreign backpacking visitors. I guess for them it was another grand adventure. Some, however, tend to be a little inconsiderate of others and want to stay up late yacking or perhaps scoring points with each other about were they have been. Please don't get the wrong impression, I just felt a little crowded by these exuberant groups after the first week.

To me these long term Backpackers seem an aimless lot. Adventure junkies, I guess.

Who am I to comment as I willingly spend long periods by myself looking for the perfect photograph.

I felt sorry for the Irish leader of a commercial group, from Tasmania Bush Tours (the no frills type), who had a loud mouthed Canadian in his group. You could tell he was a Canadian as he, like many of his countrymen, had his country’s flag on his pack. They don’t like people thinking they are Americans. I am amazed that people spend $1300 with Cradle Mountain Huts to walk with them. Light packs, hot showers, scones and wine with dinner in palatial huts must be too strong an attraction to some.

Having picked up supplies from Narcissus Bay I headed into Pine Valley. Passing the Cradle Mountain Hut group, I caused the leaders to come running back to me with a puzzled look on their face, asking "didn’t you pass us yesterday near Kia-Ora?". These guys earn their money. One has to stay behind at each hut and clean up then run to catch up with the group.

The people who operate the ferry at Cynthia Bay for $5 brought over a parcel of food that I had posted them before I left home, thus giving me an extra weeks food. Because of my camera gear I was unable to fit in my pack all that I needed to complete the walk in one go.

By now the weather had changed to sunny.

The next day I was in The Labyrinth. An outstanding place. When it came time to leave I couldn’t understand why I kept stuffing around. It took forever to pack up the tent.

It hit me as I was about to climb The Parthenon on the way out. I did not want to leave. I became so emotional that I nearly cried. I have not had this experience before. It was a deeply spiritual experience.

Whilst in The Labyrinth it felt a little odd. The air was so still. I had the company of a Raven who would sit in a dead tree above me. His cry was so painful. I asked him if he knew something I didn’t … was I his next meal? The only other humans I were aware of were two women about a kilometre away.

Mostly it was sunny. Except of course when I wanted to take a carefully planned series of photos. Even that was strange.

I had scouted a place I thought would give me late afternoon sun on Mt Geryon, reflected in Lake Elysia. Quietly in came the cloud cover. I prayed to have a break in the clouds. On the horizon there was a slight gap. I waited yet the Sun did not break through. Sadly I walked back to the tent. As it was starting to get dark, suddenly the sun broke through in a narrow beam of light that lit just a ridge in the middle ground. By the time I got the camera out it was gone. It would have been the shot of the walk.

The following day I attempted to climb The Acropolis and again it was covered in cloud.

By the time I had arrived in the region most of the Fagus had dropped its leaves. The sides of the Acropolis and in The Labyrinth had been ablaze in colour and I was told that the place was full of photographers the week before. I compensated for my missing the action by spending time in Pine Valley photographing that remarkable rainforest that exists there.

At Pine Valley Hut I met a group of Tasmanian Police from Hobart, who were on a boy’s long weekend. Six casks of Port, numerous cans of Melbourne Bitter? They were a great bunch … singing in the dark on the helipad looking for shooting stars, then playing a game called Pass the Pig in the hut, would you believe. Surprisingly they were considerate of the other people and did not stay up too late. It was entertaining listening to them, especially as the booze took its effect and they started to talk shop.

Another interesting character at Pine Valley was a dairy farmer from The Gippsland, in Victoria. He had been in Tasmania for five weeks. I first met him at Kia-Ora. He had just come out of The Never Never from The Walls of Jerusalem and was with a party of Victorians en route to Cradle Mountain. His reason for being there, by himself, was he wanted to visit The Labyrinth because a big weather front was coming and he did not want to be caught in the Western Arthurs when it hit. The interesting thing was that he was single handedly taking on the Victorian electricity authorities over power leakages affecting the dairy industry and he was winning. It had cost them thousands.

Also at the hut was a part time park ranger, who had spent time in NSW. I overheard him say to the girl from Pelion Hut that The Coast and Mountain Walkers was an exclusive club of eccentric bushwalkers. I guess the word has got out.

Pine Valley Hut is my favourite hut.

The day of my departure and the day the dairy farmer went to The Labyrinth it started sunny but by late afternoon it was snowing with a vengeance and remained covered in cloud for the next few days. My time from Pine Valley to Narcissus was two hours three minutes … a record.

My joy was short lived. Upon arrival at Narcissus Hut I found a store of food I had left for my return had been stolen. This confirmed my suspicions of backpackers. Ironically there was an entry in the logbook to be aware of "a winging Pom who mooches food".

Hobart was interesting. I spent an enjoyable night with the owner of the private hotel I was staying in and his brother, a leading solicitor in Hobart. A number of stouts were consumed and I learnt a lot about the real Hobart.

Typical Tasmania struck again. I had booked a day flight over the south west of Tasmania to have a look at that rugged wilderness, with a boat trip in Bathurst harbour thrown in. What happened? Flight cancelled due to bad weather.

What do I remember most favourably? The Labyrinth. A German photographer. He was on his fifth trip here to Australia. With him was a friend, who carried the food and tent, he carried 30kg of camera gear. He had unsuccessfully attempted to photograph The Labyrinth for the third time, yet he still had a passion for his craft. We joked about the frustration of wilderness photography whilst waiting for the ferry. He wants to publish a book on Tasmania.

I admire the courage of his convictions … his total commitment to his dream. He is a braver man than I
am.

He looked a little sad as he sat quietly in the boat as everyone else was talking excitedly about their experiences. I think I understood what he was thinking. I wasn’t feeling very talkative myself.

Trip Summary

Accomodation.  Launceston - Lloyd's Hotel, 23 George St.  Tel: +61 3 63317507.  Cheap rate, clean and quiet, older style pub close to the town centre.  Hobart - Astor, 157 Macquaire St.   Tel:   +61 3 62346611.  Not licensed, private hotel.  Nice place with lots of character, Marshall Kimber, the owner is a good bloke.  Quiet and central.

Transport.  Tasmanian Wilderness Transport, out of Launceston.  Tel:   +61 1300 300 520.  From Launceston to Cradle Mountain and Cynthia Bay to Hobart.  Winter transport ex Cynthia Bay is only Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to Hobart and Cradle Mtn/Launceston.  A long trip to Cradle Mtn, via Queenstown and Strahan.  The bus to Hobart leaves about 4pm from Cynthia Bay.

Lake St Clair Wilderness Holidays runs the ferry and the campground at Cynthia Bay.   Ferry runs passengers, three times a day.

Walking times.  From Cradle Mtn it is advised you do not start walking after 3pm.

My walking times were ... Waldheim to Lake Windermere, including photos and lunch about six hours.  Lake Windermere to New Pelion Hut, about five hours including lunch and photos.  New Pelion to Kia-Ora Hut, about three hours.   Kia-Ora to Narcissus Hut, about six hours including lunch and photos.   Narcissus to Pine Valley Hut, about two hours twenty minutes, as it was slippery.   Pine Valley to The Labyrinth campsite, about two and a half hours as it was slow going due to being very slippery.  Pine Valley to The Acropolis, about an hour to the base of the mountain, on the ridge.  Pine Valley to Narcissus Bay Hut, two hours and three minutes.   (Official Parks and Wildlife Service time is three hours.)

Sunrise. About 7:15 am.  Sunset:  About 5:30pm. (@ the end of April)

 

NOTE:  This trip report is now a few years old.

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Any text and images found on this web page are copyright © Geoff Wise, 1998 - 2009All rights reserved.

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