Wednesday, 5 October 2016
Tonight Jon and I are packing for an adventure. Not the same adventure though.. Jon and Jett are heading over to Victoria for the Great Ocean Walk 100km race (Jett and brother Paul are supporting Jon). While Zali and I are going to do the Three Capes hike from Port Arthur. I think we are the last Tasmanians to do this walk, and certainly amongst the first to pay the full price - unfortunately we couldn’t do it in the winter 1/2 price window as I was flat out with work, and Zali had school.
But we’re doing it now and I’m really looking forward to it. We don’t have to take a tent or sleeping mats or cooking pans which is great and should have meant that my pack was nice and light, but as I’m not going to make Zali and her buddy carry more than 1kg of food each, it means I’m carrying the rest of the food for 3 people for 3 nights. dang! It should be nice and light by the last day at least!As I started thinking about the preparations for this trip, I decided to dig out the notes I took as I interviewed everyone on the jetty at Echo Point, on the last night of our Overland Track walk.
I asked everyone questions like ‘what item do you wish you had brought’, ‘what item would you upgrade for next time’..
My response to the What Item Would You Upgrade question was ‘my backpack’ - which is great because that’s exactly what I’ve done - I’ve got a nice new Berghaus pack which I think will fit me a lot better than my newish one which I gave away. I also said in response to the ‘What item do you wish you had brought?’ question, was ‘Better Socks’ - so again I’m reassured as I’ve since bought some nice Macpac hiking socks. Here are some other selected responses from that lovely evening reflecting upon what was the most perfect 7 day hike ever..
Best View: CLARE, BJØRN, CATHY, ZALI, : Mt Ossa JETT: The Cirque at Windy Ridge JON: Day 1 descent to Waterfall Valley HutMost Useful Item :CATHY: Ice-cream container (that I used to rehydrate our vegetables, soak porridge and then pack food in). ZALI: pocket knife BJØRN: giant bucket (I suspect that’s Bjorn’s way of saying ice-cream container as I really don’t remember anyone carrying a giant bucket!)Useful Item I wish I had brought:BJØRN: bathersCLARE, JON: spare camera batteryCATHY: better socksJETT: PillowZALI: bucket hat Food Item I wish I had brought:BJØRN: Salty Pork (shudder)CLARE: Honey / WineZALI: More Feta CheeseJETT: powdered gatorade.Biggest Physical Issue:BJØRN: Small Bladder (I suspect I wrote this answer)CLARE: small Brain (I might have written this one too)CATHY: sore hips (from illfitting backpack)Best Hiking SnackBJØRN, CATHY, CLARE: Salted KvikklunsjJON: TrailmixJETT, ZALI: kvikklunsj (regular)What food and drink do you wish you could have airlifted in right now:BJØRN: Norwegian Beer, Lambshanks, chocolate puddingCLARE: American Craft Beer, CherriesCATHY: iced coffee (I have simple tastes)JON: Tomato juice, fish & chipsJETT: Caramel koala, milkshake, salmon, pancakes (Jett was very hungry at this point!)ZALI: coke, sushi with feta, any sort of dessert
So that was interesting - unfortunately we don't have any Kvikklunsj for this trip but I think we'll get by wiht the kilos of Cadbury chocolate I'll be carrying (unless I scoff it all on the boat)
Monday, 25 January 2016
And so it was our last day. We had arranged to meet Clare's parents at Cynthia Bay at about 1pm so we didn't have to rush - we had about 12kms to complete - 3 hours of walking - so we just needed to leave by 10 - which we pretty much did. We had time for a swim before breakfast and then we left. Strangely some people who arrived at Echo Point after us (at about 6pm), who went to bed at about 7pm - choosing to sleeping in the rat infested hut, got up and had left by about 6am. Even more strangely was that we saw them when we arrived at Cynthia Bay. What was their rush? Maybe it was the rats.
Anyway 20 minutes into today's journey I remembered that i'd left my camera back at Echo Point. I'd detached it from my pack temporarily so we could practise putting on our packs over our heads (see video later). Clare and I were just about to jog back when Bjørn revealed he'd actually seen it and picked it up when we left (but deliberately didn't tell me) - and all he asked was that I reward him by covering his swear-jar debt for him (about $35 at that point). My legs were extremely relieved - so I was happy to agree.
Our last major stop was at a little beach about 20 minutes from the end. It was here we had our last Kvikklunsj, and Bjørn had his last swim.
10 minutes later we met Greg and Mary who had strolled out to meet us at the river crossing - then it was just another gentle stroll to Cynthia Bay and we were done. Happy, proud and just a bit sad that it was over. What a trip. Clare, Jon, and I agreed that we will never be able to do it again in summer because it will never be as fun, the weather will never be as great, the kids will never be as delightful, we'll never have the luxury (and extra fun) of having Bjørn accompany us.
Simply put, for that week in January 2016, we were the luckiest people in the world.
Distance: 9k + 5.7k
I think that day 6 was the first day that we were actually the very last to leave the camping site. While most of our tribe were heading down the trail to get on the 1:30pm ferry, a few were going for the 11am ferry, and consequently had tromped past our tents at 6 in the morning. Of course we knew that the overland track isn't truly completed unless you walk all around the lake as well, so we could linger smugly in our tents.
Actually that was one thing that was odd - the trail around the lake is really pretty. In fact it's one of Tasmania's 60 Great Walks - but it feels like the overland track people are almost discouraged from doing it - by both the description in the brochure about the walk from Windy Ridge to Narcissus being 'your last day'…. and by chinese whispers.. walkers were saying that they had heard that it was 'overgrown and unmaintained' which is completely untrue. Thus there's confusion about whether it is a 6 day walk, or a 7 day walk - resulting in people realising half way through that they hadn't allowed enough time to actually walk around the lake. In fact the two other groups who were planning to walk around the lake, realised halfway through their journey that they hadn't allowed enough time, so they had to combine two earlier days so they could stay on schedule.
We had planned to walk the 8 or so K down to narcissus, have a lazy relaxed lunch by the river, then head further on to Echo Poiht for our last night. Our first stop was 5k down the trail at the Pine Valley junction.
From this point we were retracing the path we took 18 months earlier when we walked out of Pine Valley with the kids. In fact it was on that trip that the dream of the overland track was hatched - not for real, but just as a 'maybe', a 'possibly', a 'could it ever happen', - vague thoughts drifting through the air. It was after chatting to some overland hikers at Echo Point that we decided to ditch our trangia and get a new fangled gas stove (which was awesome ). Those walkers also complained that they hadn't been able to use their fancy gortex coats that they'd purchased specially - what a thought ! not needing raincoats on the overland track!
And look at us now! the kids have proper packs, we've got a proper stove, we'd even climbed Cradle Mountain & Mt Ossa, when so many people had failed. We hadn't lost Bjørn, we still had food (unlike 1989!). We had literally, and figuratively, come so far!
Arriving at Narcissus (as it happened about with an hour to spare for the 1:30pm ferry should we had wanted to catch it), and thus catching up to all the people who had left so early - we headed down to the jetty for a lovely lunch and a swim. Eventually the ferry arrived and we said our final good byes to our travelling companions. I recon they were a bit jealous of us getting to stay another night out in the wilderness, postponing our return to the real world.
We still had about 6k to go before Echo Point - we could have camped at Narcissus but that would have made the final day pretty long, and we knew Echo Point was nice - and the kids were very keen to push on. Despite the beautiful scenery (the first section is amongst my favourite) It felt like a bit of a slog, particularly the last few ks. We even had our first injury when Zali tripped on the board walk and had her knees scratch up by the chicken wire they lay on it to make it less slippery. It wasn't serious but it was satisfying to get to use the first aid kits we had with us!
After about 1.5 hours we arrived at Echo Point and we had the beach all to ourselves. It was beautiful, just like last time.
We all had a swim - the first proper one for Jett who just ran straight off the edge of the jetty. Zali was very disappointed, in fact if was the first and only tears of the entire trip - that she couldn't catch a fish and eat it (not because we wouldn't let her, because it was too hard - even with her pocket knife taped onto the end of a stick).
Aside from that it was a beautiful evening. Before dinner we all sat out on the Jetty and I quizzed everyone on their highs, lows, successes and regrets of the trip (I'll post these when I get to the end of the trip). We stayed up late to look at the stars before setting in for our final peaceful night. Almost peaceful - just as we were drifting off to sleep, a weird growl, which Clare described as sounding like a bear dismembering a kitten, exploded across the lake. 'What the *** was that ?" exclaimed Clare , thus depositing another $5 into the swear jar account which had amassed excess of $100 throughout the journey (due to absorbidant rates mind you) . Aside from the kids giggling (probably partly with glee at the thought of all that cash, and possibly also slightly nervously at the thought that they would be the next victims of the kitten dismembering bear., that was the last sound we heard before we all fell asleep.
Sunday, 24 January 2016
Side Trips: D'Alton, Fergusson & Hartnett Falls - combined 3.5k return.
Day five started in a bit of a hurry - it looked like it was going to rain just as we were getting up, which would have dampened our tents and our enthusiasm for carrying them (which was low at the best of times!) . So at Bjørns behest, we sprang to action and got all our gear together. Zali and Jett only narrowly avoided being rolled up and packed within their tent - a fate they probably wouldn't have minded, but they tumbled out sleepily just as I was pulling out their tent poles.
Once packed we decided to have breakfast in the hut (which had already been abandoned by the hut sleepers). It was nice and dry but the drawback to using the huts is that you have to clean them (sweep and wipe the tables) after you have used them - such a boring task when you are out in the wilderness!
As it happened the rain didn't really hold so our raincoats remained packed for yet another day and we set off..
I've walked this leg twice, once from south to north to climb Mt Ossa, and once from north to south, as I've mentioned before. Both times my travelling party has chosen to just do the shorter side-trip to two waterfalls, and miss the longer side-trip to the third waterfall (it seemed like better value). Back in 1989 we actually left Kia Ora and walked all the way through to Echo Point - 2.5 days worth of walking and about 25k. Why? I dunno. We were teenagers, and as Clare has mentioned on her blog, our attitude was more about racing through and ticking it off, than enjoying it. We're smarter now of course. And taller. The time we had together on this trail was precious, so today there was no question about skipping any side-trips. In addition, the weather was clearing up really nicely.
Our first stop of the day was actually Du Cane Hut - a pretty little hut that Andy and PaulM and I camped beside, on our way Mt Ossa assault. The hut is in similar condition, but the grassy patches around it seem a bit overgrown. Nevertheless it's still a nice stop for a snack and a drink.
Then it was onto the shorter side trip with two waterfalls. - D'Alton and Fergusson. We had a steep descent and then some nice views to the water tumbling over the rocks - despite the overall dryness of the area they were both performing pretty well.. We stopped for more snacks (you can never have enough), then returned to the main trail and continued on to the turnoff to Hartnett Falls. Bjørn was keen to get into the water quickly so he took our fully loaded lunch bag and loped off down the track. Our plan was simply to catch up at the waterfall, when we had finished stuffing around with sunscreen and cameras and the like.
The trail down to the falls was really beautiful - gently sloping and in parts it was like a fairy tale forest, with cute stepping stones through mossy clearings. After a km we came to the top of the falls and bumped into the Austrain Brothers, who pointed us down the smaller trail which went to the bottom of the falls. Thinking that this is where Bjørn would have gone (and keen to go to the bottom ourselves), we walked the further 10 minutes down to the lovely sunny waterhole at the base of the falls and a great place to have lunch. Only there was no lunch. And there was no Bjørn. Hmmm.. we thought, thinking back to the great Toby incident.. perhaps he stepped off the track to go to the toilet (he seems to have a very small bladder after all), and he would catch up. So we waited. And waited…and waited.. Waiting was kind of nice - we swished our legs around in the water and relaxed. The only problem was that we were hungry too, so eventually we decided to go back up to the top of the waterfall.
As we arrived back we bumped into Sporty Family and asked if they had seen a semi-naked Norwegian, possibly recently well fed. Yes ,they nodded, but he'd headed back to the main trail to try to find us, about 10 minutes ago. Dang. We decided to send Jon back (running) to retrieve both Bjørn and the lunch while we had a closer look. Pushing a few metres through some bushes we realised here was an even better swimming hole right there - which is actually where Bjørn had been waiting for us all that time. Clare and I took advantage of the opportunity to have a quick skinny dip while Jon rounded up Bjørn.
Zali discovered that there were fish in the river, and clearly sick of pasta and noodles spent the next half an hour attempting to catch and eat one. Lunch (of wraps, salami and decidedly-dodgy-by-now hommus), was delicious as we were really really hungry by then. Further swims were had then it was time to hit the trail and take on the last climb of the overland track - up to Du Cane Gap.
Despite the fact that Bjørn had insisted on carrying my 3.2kg tent from this day forward, making a big different to my pack weight and comfort (he said he couldn't bear the site of it hanging messily onto the outside of my pack anymore, but i suspect he was just being kind), I felt a bit weary climbing up the hill. The kids were setting a cracking pace, proven by the fact we soon passed Sporty Family who had left the waterfall sometime before us. It was seriously hard to keep up with the kids! Nevertheless my one-foot-in-front-of-the-other strategy worked for me and we were soon descending the trail down to Windy Ridge hut. (which is called Bert Nichols hut now) . The descent was really pretty too - much nicer than yesterdays allegedly 'favourite' section.
At Bert Nichols Hut, we found some camping platforms (Bjørn and Clare got the best site on the entire overland track I recon - sunny with stunning views of the acropolis) and set ourselves up. Then it was time for the other great excitement of the day - rediscovering the food cache that Jon had left a month ago. Our weariness was forgotten as we skipped the 1k or so down the trail to a nondescript track bend, near a nondescript log which luckily jon had GPS tagged when he laid it.
It was so exciting! Just like buried treasure but more edible! We were all excited. Although I was a bit worried about expectations - we'd planned to leave the cache for months, and discussed what should go in it (we didn't have all the much space), but what with everything else we had to do at the time Jon was going to put it out, it was suddenly needed to be packed in a rush, and I wasn't sure I'd done a great job - mindful of this I'd been careful to keep expectations low, so the kids (all 4 of them) were happy to discover a lollypop each, some Darrel Lea Giant Jaffas, some weird mini toasts that Zali had requested and proceeded to dole out one by one over the next few days, and, excitingly for the grown ups, 2 packets of gnocchi with spicy tomato sauce. And goodness that gnocchi tasted delicious. Especially as we ate it on the viewing platform, where other campers and the hut-dwellers had gathered to enjoy the sunset and to chat - it was a really lovely evening.
Bert Nichols is the newest hut on the Overland Track, and by all accounts, the most hated! We read the visitors book - and despite the lovely drying areas, separate sleeping rooms and spacious eating areas, it is apparently freezing, literally, inside. Many commenters noted that the outside temperature in winter far exceeded the inside temperature - and despite the large dining area, the gas heater looked like it was more suited the ensuite of a caravan. Very strange.
This note in the visitors books says:
"Burn this bloody hut to the ground, at least it would be warmer then, and better designed too..ps outside temperature is 6 degrees, inside it is 1 degree…Another camper is staying here, we haven't seen her since she went to the freezer room (sleeping platforms), we should probably go and defrost her.."
I must say the construction raised some questions too, even to my untrained eye - there were many gaps in the woodwork and the orientation of the hut seemed to position it in the spot least likely to get any sun at all. Very strange. Once again it was a lot more pleasant to be outside.
Basking on the observation deck was the first time I felt that our fantastic amazing OT experience was coming to the end. And to this point we couldn't have asked for any more. The weather had been great, the company excellent, the laughter was plentiful. Bjørn was still well on track with his swim-every-day-in-Australia regime, and we'd lacked for nothing. In fact when I'd written the motivational messages on the outside of our food-cache container I was thinking that we'd would have suffered a lot more hardship up until that point and thus we might have been in need a bit of perking up! But no, we only needed to be cheered up because it was feeling like it might end soon.
It hadn't quite finished yet though- we had one more night and big day of walking still to come.
Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Side Trip: Mt Ossa - 1617m, 5.7k
Day 4 was described as Mountain Day in my guidebook. We decided to call it Peanut Butter Day instead, as Clare was sick of carrying an almost full jar of peanut butter in her bag. Her plan was to increase consumption and decrease pack weight by raising awareness.
Either way, we had to climb from 850m, up 300 metres to Pelion Gap where we would park our packs and head on up Mt Ossa. Whilst at Pelion we bumped into someone who was attempting their seventh climb of Mt Ossa, having not seen the view on the previous 6 attempts! After our failure in 1989, I returned to Mt Ossa from the south in about 1998 with friends Andy and Paul M. We got to the top but due to heavy fog we couldn't see a thing the entire way - in fact the only way we could discern that we had actually reached the top was by the abundance of food wrappers (no-doubt from celebrating summit-ers) which had fallen down between the rocks. But today was looking perfect, a once in 100 days type of day.
We set off at our usual time, having watched most of the population of Pelion traipse past our camping site as we packed up. The path up to Pelion Gap was quite rocky and rooty, but we made good time, despite stopping to check out a waterfall on the way.
I think it took us an hour or so to get to the gap. It's been upgraded since last time I visited - with a platform and log seats all around. A lovely place to just lie back and enjoy the sunshine.
But extended lazing around would have to wait - we had the highest mountain in Tasmania to climb. We ditched our packs, gathered together raincoats, snacks and water and headed on up Mt Ossa.
Mt Ossa is a much longer climb than Cradle Mountain, and certainly more demanding fitness wise - there were three or four really steep sections, two of them were interspersed with more gentle ambles. We also had a couple of slightly hairy technical sessions to overcome, but as we discovered on the way down, that was our own fault for missing a couple of trail markers and instead following our noses up a steep chute, rather than around the safer route. Oh well. Luckily we had Bjørn to anchor himself to the rocks and make sure no-one fell (well except Jon, as he came up last, and was quite put out by the fact we didn't stick around to witness his possible demise).
Quite a few of our travelling companions had been so put off by difficulty of the Cradle Mountain summit that they chose to climb Mt Pelion East, a shorter climb that also started from Pelion Gap. Others were so put off they decided to skip both, despite the perfect weather. And we also passed a few climbers who were turning back after the first steep section. But we made it all the way to the top, and it was awesome.
We were rewarded with amazing views and the twin joys of the special Kvikklunsj with sea-salt (this time fully authorised by Jon), and mobile photo reception (see photo above right). Bjørn tried to ring his parents, but luckily for them, given it was about 1am, he was unsuccessful while Jon was able to receive a message assuring us that Pinto was doing fine without us. Phew.
Like Cradle, Mt Ossa is surprisingly flat on top. So flat it even had some very small tarns, or very large puddles (depending on whether you are a tarn half full type of person or not I guess). That's one of them behind me in the below left photo. After fully admiring the views, scoffing our chocolate and congratulating ourselves it was time to head down - it was well past lunch and we were looking forward to our daily wrap rations.
Back at Pelion Gap (I think the entire side trip took about 3.5 hours), I retrieved the items the currawongs had removed from my pack and spread about the platform, and we feasted on our lunch rations before setting off down the hill towards our next stop, Kia Ora.
The guidebook described this last leg as 'the favourite part of the overland trek for many'. This description left all of us flabbergasted. I mean it was fine and pleasant and all, but favourite part of the track? no way.
On our way down we kept ourselves amused with a few rounds of "would you rather?" My question to the group was: "Would you rather turn around and walk all the way back up Ossa and down again, OR, walk the remainder of the day's hike naked? The answers were so overwhelmingly receptive towards walking naked, I was a bit worried that Bjørn and Jon were going to fling their clothes into the bushes right there and then (it had already been established they would be allowed to keep their shoes on). Luckily the hut came into view before they got the chance.
Our fellow travelling companions who had already arrived were kind enough to leave us with the larger camping platforms, as we were the largest group in our herd. Everone except 'Sporty Family' (of 4) was travelling in pairs, and Sporty Family were part of the Hut Dwellers sub tribe, so we didn't have to compete with them. Also in the huts were 'Retired Teachers, Sue and Pru (from Manchester), and the Brightly Coloured Belgians. As you can see, we were all getting to know each other bit by bit, and we were a good group, passing each other occasionally on the trail, saving sites for each other, and generally having the odd chat - it was a really nice nomadic community. By day 4 we realised that as a larger group, we weren't socialising with the others in our herd as much as we could, so we set ourselves a challenge - each of us had to discover a 'nosey fact' about one of the other travellers. For example we discovered that Sue and Pru met at teachers college, and Bright Belgians had never done an overnight hike before and that the Norwegian couple was in fact Swedish. It was fun. Zali asked if she could get her fact by eavesdropping, rather than asking, which we said was fine.
So after another very refreshing swim whereupon Clare and I managed to permanently misplace our sunglasses, Old Grandpa Jett settled in to read his book while the rest of us went off to get some facts..
Clare did a great writeup of our results, which I'll reprint at the end here for my own convenience, but I encourage you to go and read her version of our trip as well - it's being written over here .. clarevh.socialfx.net , it's very funny, with a lot more swearing.
Dinner that night was Satay Noodles, which were OK, more of a triumph for Clare's peanut butter awareness program than for our tastebuds, but after the 2 long days that we had had, almost anything was edible.
Nosey Facts, by Clare
In no particular order, here are the nosy facts we gleaned about our fellow hikers:Lily and Max: From Melbourne. Lily a lawyer, Max a plasterer. They have twin daughters, one of whom was about to get married. Lily went skinny dipping in Lake Windemere.The Austrian Brothers. From Austria. Cathy guessed correctly that they were brothers. We never found out their names but did discover that they were four years apart. Amateur photographers with very large cameras. Thought the OT was ‘all right’ (which seemed to be damning it with faint praise!) Recommended a hike in Austria to me called the Berlin High Trail, which I later discovered looks absolutely horrendous (although undoubtedly spectacular).Prue and Sue. Their real names. From the UK – Manchester and Wiltshire to be precise. Retired teachers who met in teacher’s college. Prue has a son who lived in Adelaide and another who is married to a Swede and lives in Sweden.The Family. A sporty family of mum, dad and two strapping teenage sons. They also had another daughter who didn’t come with them. The mum (possibly called Kathy – there seemed to be many Kathy/Cathys on the trip!) had decided that she was going to do 50 walks for 50 years to mark her half-century. She actually started when she was 49 and was up to about 35. She was counting each day of the OT as a separate walk, which nearly resulted in a punch up with Prue, who was outraged by this double counting. In her view, the OT should be one walk (with side walks separate). Zali and I agreed with her but Kathy was unmoved.There were a number of other groups that we met gradually as the walk went on, but those were our main nosy facts from Kia Ora. This caused us to reflect what the nosy facts about our group might be:ME: Did the walk in 1989 with Cathy. Met through orienteering, friends for years, can't get rid of her. CATHY: Did the walk with me in 1989. Used to be Bjorn’s Au Pair (which prompted many gratifying comments along the lines of: ‘You don’t look old enough to have been his Au Pair’. Especially gratifying given she was dirty and smelly after I inadvertently pushed her into a bog)BJORN: From Norway. Cathy used to be his Au Pair. Imported to Tasmania to help carry food for the trip (except when Bjorn told this story, it seemed to imply that he was carrying ALL the food for the trip. Which wasn’t true - I was carrying some cheese, and Cathy was carrying a packet of Ryvitas)*JON: Got up every day to run for 1-2 hours before the day’s hike, in preparation for the OT run which he is undertaking in February.
ZALI: Twelve, and therefore very impressive.JETT: Ten, and therefore very impressive.
*and Jon was carrying about 6kg of snacks - although if we'd had our way, he would have had a pretty light pack after about day 2.
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
Side Trips: Old Pelion Hut & Douglas Creek
Day 3. The Long Day. Day 3 was the reason I had the kids do an 18k hilly day walk with me at Mt Rufus in December. Day 3 was what we'd trained for. Day 3 was what they'd fretted about. Day 3 was finally here..
We started at 1000m elevation but dropped down to the lowest point of the trail 700m at Forth River, at the half way point, before climbing back up to 830m. According to the guidebook, 37% of the overland track is covered in some form of boardwalk. Most of this can be found in the first half of the 80k trail - and I'd say a lot of was a featured in today's walk which made most of the going quite easy.
It's been so dry that when the trail was on so-called 'natural surfaces' it was completely dry anyway - in fact, aside from when Clare threw me into a bog, my shoes barely got damp all week - unheard of walking conditions really.
setting off across the boardwalks
A lookout, 4 km into the day
This stretch had some memories for Clare and I. In 1989 we left Windemere under clearing skies. So much so that Toby (1 of our party of 4), stopped to put on sunscreen about 10 minutes after we left. 'you'll catch up' we said as we marched on. However not too much later, for reasons we can't quite remember, the 3 of us somehow left the trail for a few minutes - I suspect it was to look at a view, but the details are hazy. Unfortunately Toby came past us at this exact moment, and not realising he was overtaking us, he then spent the rest of the day thinking he was behind us, while we were actually chasing him. Upon reaching the nominal end the hiking day - Pelion Hut, Toby didn't find us, so he went on and walked another day's worth of distance. We must have realised he had done this so we were forced to walk on too - passing through Pelion Gap under beautiful blue skies but with no option of stopping for the 3hr side trip up Ossa.
Finally at the end of some 25km, we found Toby sitting on the bridge at the Kia Ora camping site. He was probably eating a Mars bar, as much to my amusement, he had packed some 18 mars bars for the trip. Between the other 3 of us I don't think we packed more than 1 family sized block - which was of course a huge mistake. I don't remember if anyone was cross when we finally reunited, but I do remember being fairly tired and a bit disappointed about missing Mt Ossa. Toby was a nice guy, very easy going and a popular relaxed guy at school. He was also a talented artist. I didn't know him all that well but I liked him. When I returned from Norway I discovered that Toby had died in a motorcycle crash not long after we walked the OT. It seems very unfair that Toby hasn't been able to experience all the years we've been lucky enough to have since that time. In fact on this trip I've brought along actual hard evidence of the intervening years and adventures I've had - my husband and children, my experiences in Norway and my enduring friendship with Clare (bog tossing aside)... I'm very grateful.
It had been a long day already (12k to that point - walking at a pace of between 4k and 5k an hour). I wasn't walking near her as she started to flag but I've since heard that a combined distraction effort from Jon and Clare kept her moving until we caught sight of the Pelion Hut.
relief! almost there!
Pelion Hut was the flashiest of all the huts we encountered - it had a huge balcony for admiring the views of Mt Oakleigh, and the inside had separate bunk rooms which each slept 6. Luxury! It was still nicer to be outside though as the huts got dark inside quite early.
After putting our tents up at the group camping platform (from which we got booted off from later in the day when an actual booked 'group', of 3, came along). We relaxed for a few minutes then headed back down the track to the old pelion hut, where we could all have a well deserved swim. The water was freezing but it was still nice to get wet.
Our short-lived stay on the group camping site..the grass was nicer anyway.
That evening we cooked up one of my recent camping meal inventions - marakesh curry with cous cous, which was damm right delicious, then Jon and Bjorn gave each other back massages, much to the amusement of the kids.
After dinner we had our hot chocolate rations, then we brought out the specially packed Toby Eaton memorial mars bar. "To Toby", we said, as we each ate our share.
Distance : 7.8k
Side Trip : Lake Will 3k return
Dawn of day 2 broke under grey but not threatening skies (well it might have, I got up a bit after dawn, so I’m making assumptions here). Jon, Bjørn and I started the day with our porrige ration - I had vacuum packed our combined daily serves - each was about 500g including milk powder which made two pretty large serves each once it was cooked - too much for me, but given the weights of their packs, pretty much what the boys needed to get through to lunchtime. At the start of the walk I was really looking forward to our hot porrige breakfasts. By the end of the walk I’d started calling it our daily Splodge Ration and I haven’t been able to look an Uncle Tobys box in the eye since then.
An hour’s walking brought us to the halfway point, and we were presented with the day’s side-trip option - a 3k return flat walk to Lake Will. The option of a side trip without packs to further explore the area was appealing to everyone. As evidenced by the piles of abandoned packs at the turnoff, it seemed that most of the other walkers felt the same. At all the side-trip junctions, Parks and Wildlife have built nice places to leave your packs and/or sit and wait for your side-tripping partner which is a nice touch.
On the left, Lake Will Junction, and on the right - who exactly is the Norwegian? - the one with the Norsk flags and the orienteering top, or the one with the aussie flag hat?
So without packs we practically skipped along to the lake and enjoyed a 1/2 hour sit down and snack stop as we chatted to some other walkers.
On the way back to the main trail I managed to daydream my way right off the edge of a boarded walkway and into the mosssy bog below - Clare, who was in front of me, turned when she heard me yelp. Attempting to curtail my fall (which was well underway by then) she somehow sort of caught my shoulder and unwittingly swung me even futher out across the bog so I sort of landed right on my feet, right in the middle. I immediately sunk up to my knees in moss so I tried to use my forward momentum to continue stepping in a semi circle back around towards the boardwalk. Which worked, but I left very deep footprints in the otherwise pristine looking bright green moss-bog - horrifying Jon to extent that he suggested I needed to immediately revise the 'leave no trace' section of my guidebook. I'm glad I didn't perform that manouver with a pack or my entire body would have left a much larger, body sized 'trace' . With sodden boots I continued sheepishly back to our packs.
For this side trip we were smart enough to put pack covers on our abandoned packs so the Currawongs weren't able to steal our snacks in our abscence, but we did notice that some other campers items had been presumably stolen and dropped under the platform. Including a nice yellow camping spork, which we sent Zali underneath to fetch before continuing.
An uneventful hour’s walk later and we arrived at Windemere - in 1989 this was our first stopping point and due to the rain, the first (and thankfully last time) we slept in a hut. The hut had been upgraded extensively since then - I remember quite clearly the stench of wet woolen socks and sodden walkers drying themselves in front of the wood heater when we pushed the door open in 1989...
The hut in 1989
The enhanced hut
Now the heaters are all gas powered and physically won't turn on unless the temperature inside is below 10 degrees. There are also new verandas on most of the huts - great for cooking and drying. A lake has since been added to the camping site as well (ok - so maybe we just didn't see it back then), and we all had a swim in it that afternoon. These photos are at 6.30 the next morning as the lake-fog was lifting and the water was completely calm. This lake was by far the warmest swimming spot of the week - Clare and I almost did a lap of the island but were thwarted by submerged rocks that we kept thwacking our knees against as we swam - that water is clean but very dark – you can’t see your feet when you look down.
Our tent site on Day 2 was on some beautiful camping platforms which looked back at Barn Bluff. This was my first time ever using camping platforms - and Clare has found they can be a bit of a pain to anchor tents to, but because we had our cheapie self-standing tents, and a few bits of extra rope, we didn't have too many hassles (Bjørn and Clare both had Macpacs which are better in serious weather but a bit more of a hassle on platforms).
Monday, 18 January 2016
Side Trip: Cradle Mountain - 2k, 1545m
After a restless night for me at least (which was a shame as it was the last night with a mattress for a while) we were all up and out the door by about 9.30 after a delicous cooked breakfast.
Then we posed for some photos, saddled up and wandered the 1/2 k down the road to the official start point (stopping just a few times for Jonno to say his final facebook farewells).
Then we were off. At the speed of, well, reasonably slow moving things. By 10 minutes in, Bjørn had reverted to standard Norwegian hiking attire, whilst Jett had been bitten by the first of many mosquitos while posing for a quick photo by a waterfall.
The first small climb brought us to Crater Lake...
Then it was onwards and upwards as Day 1 contains the steepest section of the entire track - the climb up to Marions Lookout. With full packs it was fairly brutal but not as brutal as in 1989 when Clare and I climbed up the Face Track up from Dove Lake instead (we thought we were being clever by saving a kilometre or two but instead we gave ourselves an even rougher and steeper ascent). On that day the rain was pouring down and I remember falling face first into the slope and being unable to move from the weight of my pack. This time around the weather was much nicer, and despite heavier packs the route to the lookout was a lot less harrowing.
Which was good as I'd been dreading this section since we walked up with daypacks in October - so it was also great to get it out of the way so early into our journey. I'm not sure why I don't have any photos from the top of Marion's lookout - perhaps we were all too out-of-breath to reach for the cameras. We did have the strength to break into the first of our chocolate supplies though.
Bjørn missing the point of the sign, just near Marion's Lookout
Then it was on to the junction of the overland track and Cradle Mountain. Regular readers will know that we had an unsuccessful attempt at Cradle Mountain in October, when we turned back and what we dubbed the Pillar of Despair, as it looked like the already difficult climbing simply got harder and harder and everyone who was returning told us stories of sketchy snow patches we would have had to cross.
Bjørn & Zali approaching the pillar of despair
This time around, Me, Clare, Bjørn and Zali were all keen to give it a go (Bjørn also had to rectify a not-quite-completed attempt on the summit from 2009). Jon wanted to join us but I didn't think his back would be up for it, and Jett was happy enough to sit it out. So we let them continue onto the first campsite at their own pace (about 6 k away), while the rest of us ditched our packs and joined the throng of people heading up the trail (most of them having absolutely NO IDEA what they were in for!).
We reached the Pillar of Despair about 45 minutes into the climb, and sure enough it was at that point that 1/3 of the climbers were turning around brokenhearted. Knowing what to expect helped and we scrambled and hauled and dragged ourselves up to the top in about 1hr 15mins -yay! another of the 60 Great Walks ticked off my list! I was really proud of Zali who I would have thought would be the least likely member of our party to be going up voluntarily! At the peak we opened a version of Kvikklunsj that is Bjørn's favourite - and we discovered that it is the best hiking/adventure chocolate in the entire world - all the delicousness of kvikklunsj and chocolate but with hints of sea salt thrown in. It was so great we ate the whole bar, which, when Jon (who was head in charge of snacks) discovered this later, caused him to rethink his entire snack distribution strategy and give us all a stern lecture on rationing.
Back at the bottom of the track, I discovered that the signs that I had practically leant my pack on (like a chump), warning that the currawongs could open zips on packs, meant that the currawongs could actually open zips on packs, and I found my emergency supply of lollies spread about the grass. It didn't stop us collecting them up and eating what remained though. Then it was time to resaddle ourselves and head off towards our first campsite.
Due to the weather in 1989 we didn't see a thing in the entire first two days worth of walking (which we raced through with raincoats on and heads down all in one wet day) - so in 2016 it was as if I'd never been there before -the views were absolutely spectacular - some of my favourite of the whole trip. An hour or so of delightful walking later we arrived at beautiful waterfall valley, worn out but surprisingly as the first Overland Track campers of the day.
We were greated cheerfully by a volunteer ranger whose job it is to let us know about the hut and where to wash, clean, camp etc. I was impressed that she already knew Jett's name by the time we arrived. Later that day a professional ranger came in by helicopter (each site has a helipad) and he made a point of chatting to everyone and ensuring we all had our OT passes. It was all very friendly.
Barn Bluff behind our campsite, and the Waterfall Valley Hut
Setting up camp was the first time we got to see who our travelling companions would be for the journey. 35 people can book each day and I was a bit worried the trail would feel a bit busy. But it wasn't at all - the campsites are very relaxed, even with full bookings there was always plenty of room for everyone and no reason to rush into camp to secure a spot (and in any case 50% of people chose to sleep in the huts). We met hikers from Sweden, Belgium, Austria, the UK, and the mainland made up the other 50%. We were the only locals we encountered.
And so it was time for dinner (pasta with the last of our fresh vegetables), hot chocolate, and bed by 9. A perfect start to the week.
Sunday, 17 January 2016
Cute isn't he! Actually that's him in 1991. Luckily for us he looks like this now..still cute, but much much bigger and stronger..
Even after removing the excess packaging and vacuum sealing I still ended up with an overwhelmingly large mountain of food spread across the floor. Uh Oh! I took a photo but unfortunately I can't find it. dang.
Thankfully Bjørn had the foresight to bring a backpack with 110litre capacity. In comparison, my pack, which looks like a perfectly normal sized hiking pack, has a 65 litre capacity and I'd say Jon's is about 75 litres. So like a tardis, he was able to drop fully laden bag after fully laden bag into the main section of his pack without so much as flinching. Like many Norwegian men, he'd done a years military service, where hauling 60kg packs through marshy terrain was what they did for fun after they'd finished parachuting and playing with the armoured tanks for the day (probably).
I love these cabins - they only cost about $100 per night and they are the only place you can stay actually within the park - all the other much more expensive options are 6k up the road outside the park boundaries. I also stayed here with mum and my granny back in about 1982 so I have fond memories of sitting at the table while rain pelted down outside and Denny and I making fun of Granny's knitted bum-warmer that she used to wear (sorry Granny). The cabins have been upgraded a little since them - they have electricity now, but they are still very basic and cosy. Not surprisingly they are very popular amongst regular tourists and overland trackers alike. You have to book early.
Anyway we arrived early enough to have time to temporarily disgorge our packs at the cabins and go for a nice walk on the Boardwalk trail before dinner.
.the view from the top bunk to the floor, moments after we arrived..
I love the boardwalk - it's about 5.5k long and winds it's way up the valley from the information centre to the official start of the Overland Track at Romy Creek. Our cabins were just a 1/2 K away so it was a prefect way to spend the afternoon and spot wombats (12) before returning to the cabin for the last fresh food for a while.
Clare and Mary on the left, Bjørn and I in front of Cradle in the distance on the right
There were so many wombats we practically tripped over them..
Out of interest, for dinner that we had Latina Fresh pasta, the remains of Zali's birthday cake, and some tim-tams which had failed to make the packing cut the previous day. Then it was off to bed for a nervous nights sleep. As I tossed and turned, thoughts kept spinning around in my head.. Would we make it? Would Jon's back be ok? Did we have enough Kvikk Lunsj?…
Thursday, 14 January 2016
Yes you are right, progress on my Overland Track writeup has been slow, largely due to my participation in some sort of Norwegian Tourist Bootcamp operation, whereupon we get up at 6am and participate in all manner of adventure sports (kayaking, paddling, trail running and/or swimming) until it's time for me to rush off to work.
In fact the very next day after we completed the overland track, we were up going for a run followed by a swim at the beach. Bjørn is so keen to return to Norway having swum every day that despite the bad weather, and during the only 5 available minutes between a trip to the supermarket and returning home for dinner, we drove down to the beach. Once there I started my watch and he sprinted out of the car and all the way into the water for a very fast dunking. Once saturated he sprinted back to the car - the entire operation having taken less than a minute. The people parked in the car next to me looked across at me and shouted "Is that guy crazy??" "No." I replied.. "..he's Norwegian" I added sadly, shaking my head as if it were an incurable disease - which, well, it sort of is. This activity also provided much amusement and enjoyment to a group of elderly ladies out for a stroll in raincoats and gloves, who paused their walk and gave a cheer as he dove into the waves.
So anyway - I've been busy. So here's some more of my favourite photos to go on with..
Lake Windemere - 6am
Bjørn (doing a Norwegian rain dance?) on Mt Ossa
The view from our tent back to Barn Bluff on day 3
Our procession on day 2
Jett laughing so much he nearly bubbled his hot chocolate out his nose he was so amused by the thought of Zali going on a 'date' with a boy in the foreseeable future
Monday, 11 January 2016
..which basically translates to "get off your lardy arses, pick up your packs, and get walking" which is what we've been doing for the past seven days on the overland track.
It was fantastically awesome and fun, and I have an overwhelming large selection of photos and lots of words to write but I thought I'd just post a photo from each day for now, until I can catch my breath and compose something more significant.. Here we go:
Day 1 - Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley - Bjørn and Clare on the ridge before the descent to the hut:
Day 2 - Waterfall Valley to Windemere - a side trip to Lake Wills
Day 3 - Windemere to Pelion - on our way..
Day 4 - Pelion to Kia-Ora - Happy and half way at Pelion Gap
Day 4 - Mt Ossa side trip - descending
Day 5 - Kia Ora to Windy Ridge - best dinner ever looking across at the glacial mountain range
Day 6 - Windy Ridge to Echo Point - Jett at Narcissus Hut
Day 7 - Echo Point to Cynthia Bay - one last swim for Jon..
And ok - just a couple of others I can't resist posting from Mt Ossa..
spot the Norwegian:
Clare and the magic views..
a cute echidna..
more to come..