The Overland Track-Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair
Thinking it might be his last meal of bacon and eggs, Allthego ordered them for breakfast on the morning of the start of the 60 km walk from Cradle Mountain down to Lake St Clair. Breakfast was at 6am and we then had to gather at 6.40am to meet the others and get set up for the walk. The bacon and eggs were good! Around 8am or so we were off in the bus for the 2.5 hour drive up to Romney Creek, a little way from Dove Lake which sits beneath Cradle Mountain. Allthego, had earlier fessed up to our guides that he was experiencing a little left heel pain and may not trot along at the right pace. There was some concern about this and they said they would need to review progress along the way (there is an opportunity about half way along to walk out). I said fine, but that I was pretty determined to do it.
There are seven (2 blokes and 5 ladies) of us on the walk, supposed to be eleven but four didn’t show up! This made it a good group for the two guides to manage. Two young ladies Sakura and Danah , obviously very fit. They were carrying 20kg (?) packs, compared to our 8 or 9kg (mostly clothes, lunch and water). They were carrying the fresh food, salad vegetables and some meats as well as safety gear, first aid kits and other gadgets. The oldest in our party was celebrating her 70th birthday, a spritely individual and very well travelled/walked. The next oldest was Allthego, not quite 70. The other five were around 50-60, all quite experienced walkers. Some more fit than others.
Here is a sketch map of our route and overnight stops. Each of the six days involved walking an average of about 10km a day, the first two days were the longest at 12 km each. It felt a lot further! Additional kms were done on a number of side trips off to special features such as water falls, lakes and mountain tops. My guess is that I walked and climbed about 65km. It seemed that about 15% of the journey was on boardwalks, no idea really. The rest a series of gravelly paths, rocks of various sizes and shapes, water and mud, tree roots, steps up and down of various depths and heights (some easy some challenging on the knees), hops across small creeks.
We are staying in five ‘private huts’ along the way; hot showers, warm beds, some nice dinners with a little wine and fresh baked bread each morning. There are a number of other groups and individuals on the track as well, carrying tents or sleeping in the ‘public huts’ nearby ours. There is plenty of water and facilities (no hot showers!) at these public huts.
In terms of physical effort the toughest day was the first. It was a long haul up the track past Crater Lake, followed by the climb up Marions Lookout , the steepest section of the whole walk. The posts and chains along this section were of great assistance in getting up the deep steep rocky steps to the top. Up the top there was supposed to be a great view down over Crater Lake, Dove Lake and the up to the spires of Cradle Mountain. Crater Lake was great but Dove Lake and the spires were whited out with mist, fog and light drizzle. So we suited up in wet weather gear and plodded off down the track, arriving at Kitchen Hut where we had lunch. Just as we were leaving Kitchen Hut, the skies cleared and the spires of Cradle Mountain made a magnificent appearance, Dove Lake was no longer in view.
Onwards we went down to Waterfall Valley and our hut for the night. Allthego was at the back of the pack, someway back being followed by one of the guides who kept the pressure up to keep going. We arrived at the hut around 6pm, it had been a long day. The hot shower, cheese platter and Pinot Noir followed by grilled salmon with a salad pleased all. Off to bed about 9pm, looking forward to starting off the next day around 8.30am after breaky and being strapped up (each day) by fellow walker Janet, a physio. Made a huge difference to my heel problem, forever in gratitude for her care!
And so that is what happened roughly for the next five days. The glaciated landscape and vegetation ever changing, from button grass plains, cool temperate rainforest with mosses, lichens and all sorts of ancient trees. Bit of dry scrub too. It rained heavily for most of our second night but cleared the next morning before we set off. The rain livened up the streams and little waterfalls making it quite special. No more rain for the rest of the walk, cloudy skies and patches of sun made it great walking weather in short sleeves. Some great sunsets reflecting on the ancient mountains, glowing red almost like Uluru.
Some of the group climbed Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak. Allthego passed on that climb, going as far as the ‘Japanese’ garden below Mt Dorris for lunch, a special alpine place indeed.
The track went up and down, long downhill stretches followed by long uphill stretches. The trip notes described it as ‘undulating’. Allthego plodded along at the back, got a reputation for this. But like the tortoise eventually arrived at the huts not too far behind. So they let me finish!
It was a great experience and I could go on and on, but will not. On reaching Lake St Clair it was onto the ferry for the twenty minute journey down Lake St Clair. Allthego will not forget the last three or so kilometres of track down to the ferry. Somewhat behind the pack and closely followed by Secura I was urged to lift my pace significantly, we wouldn’t make it in time otherwise. I sensed she wasn’t being humorous and so I lengthened my stride and upped it a bit. Arriving at the wharf just on 1pm, departure time. No lunch! I suggested to the group it was good timing. And it was, although a bit stressed and sore.
After an hour at the Visitors Centre at Lake St Clair the bus arrived and we returned to Entally Lodge, through the Central Highlands, about a three hour trip.
The Lodge has a neat restaurant with a great side room and a cattle head staring down at the table. I enjoyed a steak before heading back to Brisbane after a memorable time!