Category Archives: Flinders Isl and Cradle Mt walk 2022
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!
More of Flinders
We continue to wander around the Island taking in the sites and some of the food of course. There are four main places to eat on the Island it seems. The Flinders Interstate Hotel in Whitemark (not far from the airport and our Yurt) has been there since 1911, the Furneaux Tavern at Lady Barron (over on the south east coast and where the port is), The Wharf ( a new establishment on the site of the old Whitemark pier complex) and next door to the Yurt the Mountain Seas Lodge.
We took the opportunity to eat at all four. All good. The hotel in Whitemark did a very steak. Probably Flinders beef. There is currently no abattoir on Flinders, although a small one is due to reopen soon. The cattle go to Tasmania to be dealt with and are then sent back to Flinders to eat. The locals try to get the Flinders meat back but it is not guaranteed. The Furneaux did some good fish n chips as did the Wharf ( a little more sophisticated with some fancy salad to go with the gummy shark). Mountain Seas Lodge has a great position and views, Homealone was very pleased with her lamb shanks. Conclusion, food on the Island is in good hands and worth trying!
We have seen a couple of Australian icons in the wild. Cape Barron Geese and Wombats, a few of these not just one! Coming back to the Yurt in the late evening we were guaranteed to see one of these fellows basking in the warmth of the late sun. A great sight, they scuttled off into the scrub if you got too close.
The coastline though is what continues to amaze, some great scenes along the way. Trousers Point and Lilly’s Beach were standout spots to visit.
We did the Trousers Point walk around the coastal cliff line, great lichen covered boulders and wind and salt adapted vegetation clothed the track. Took us a little over two and a half hours to complete. The frequently cloud covered Strzelecki Peaks in the background.
Allthego was tempted to do the Strzelecki climb, but thought better of it in order to preserve himself for the Cradle Mountain walk! So he just climbed over and the back across the fence at the start of the walk to get the feel of it. Maybe another time?
Our time at Flinders has come to an end and we left the Island today, flying back to Launceston. Homealone departed for Brisbane and Allthego headed off to the Entally Lodge on the outskirts of town to join the walking party for Cradle Mountain. Allthego will return with something on the walk in a week, no internet out in the wilds!
The north of Flinders
Flinders Island is really an island in two halves. The south is more developed and has most of the island’s social infrastructure and economic activity. The north is more ‘au naturel’, a few small settlements on the coast with scattered farm houses and a growing number of tourist accommodations; some rough and some very nice with great views. We are staying in a Yurt at the bottom of the island near Trousers Pt beneath the Strzelecki Range peaks. Mt Strzelecki at 756m is the tallest peak in the range and is a five hour walk to the top and back.
A yurt ‘house’, in the traditional sense is of Mongolian origin, is lived in traditionally by semi nomadic people. Of circular shape and made of skins etc the yurts were portable whilst being sturdy and protective from the elements. Our Yurt is twelve sided, a large single room with side annexes for bathroom, kitchenette and store rooms, cupboards. Not portable! It looks out over two small ponds that supply water to the property. Drinking water is filtered rain water, recommended to be boiled. In the old days Allthego used to drink unfiltered rainwater from tanks and never boiled it!
Following the island’s discovery by Europeans in the early 1800s it’s main claim to fame was as a site for sealing. The sealers were so ‘successful’ that they effectively wiped the seals out, they are only now slowly returning, we didn’t see any.
Flinders is also the location of a place that is infamous in the European treatment of the Tasmanian aboriginal. Wybalenna, on the west coast, is the location of a settlement to which upwards of 140 aboriginals were brought between 1833 and 1847 to ‘escape’ the elimination and removal programs of the Tasmanian authorities. The majority died from poor living conditions over a three year period, after the failure of the settlement the remainder (47) were returned to Tasmania. All that remains of the Wybalenna settlement is the restored chapel and graveyard.
Mutton birds call Flinders home and thousands of them return here annually after their long flight from the Bering Sea in the far north Pacific. Mutton birding is a continuing industry on the Island, with a short recreational and commercial season. Mutton bird chicks are ‘collected and milked’ for their oil, then snap frozen for human consumption. A lot are exported to New Zealand. We tried a mutton bird arancini as an entree, before some fish n chips. Harmless but wouldn’t rave about it!
There are numerous wallabies around, quite small fellows, and one has to have an eye out for them on the road lest they meet their maker. Most cars have bull bars! Some menus we saw featured ‘wallaby rump’ and there was a wallaby sausage roll. So there is a bit of industry here in wallaby meat as well!
In the early 1900s there was much land clearing and today sheep and cattle are everywhere.
We were filled in on numbers: around 950 humans, 30,000 cows and 3,000,000 wallaby. The wallabies are winning.
The coastline certainly has some wonderful features of lichen covered granite rock shelves and boulders. The water is crystal clear and the beaches postcard sights. Castle Rock is particularly impressive and a prominent feature on the shoreline. More coastline next time!
Off to Tassie
We are setting off for a bit of an adventure in Tasmania. It is a short trip to do two things. Visit Flinders Island, largest island in the Furneaux group, at the eastern end of Bass Strait. This is another instalment in our quest to visit Australia’s islands. We have done a few now and the pleasure goes on. Homealone, will return to Brisbane on the big island after five days on Flinders to be homealone and get back to craft! Allthego is to head to the small island to undertake the Overland Track walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, all up about sixty kilometres of walking over six days and five nights.
Virgin takes us down to Launceston and after a short stopover Sharp Airlines makes the 35 minute flight across Bass Strait to Flinders. Take off was a little rocky but the flight very pleasant with a good view of the islands on the approach to Flinders.
The planes windows were rather dirty and scratchy making photos problematic, so there aren’t any! After landing we picked up our Corolla hire car and headed off to our accommodation, a short drive from the airport in the shadows of the Strzelecki Range.