09 December 2011

Day 1 - Overland Track, Tasmania

Dove Lake to Waterfall Valley.
Distance to cover: 10km
Forecast: Fine, late showers
Dinner to look forward to: Risotto with bacon and fresh mushrooms
Socks and Boots: Clean and dry

This morning we apprehensively start our trek from Cradle Valley, over Cradle Mountain, to the first hut on the Overland Track. We spent last night in the luxurious surrounds of Cradle Mountain Lodge, a stunning hotel nestled at the edge of the Lord of the Rings-esque national park. We wined and dined - well, I wined - and enjoyed our last luxurious hot shower for the week. I saw my very first Wombat here. So exciting!

nom nom nom

Contemplating the view of CM over a glass of Pinot
Vertical profile of what lays ahead. Huts in blue.
From http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=7827

The guide book has told us that today is the hardest day and the climb up from Dove Lake to the Cradle summit looks pretty steep on the map. Adding to that, today is the day where we have the most weight as we have full bottles of fuel (metho) and all the food we can stuff into our packs. I wish we had some bathroom scales this morning but I think we are both starting with about 16-17kg. Not too bad considering that includes all clothes, wet weather gear, food, cooking stove, sleeping bags and mats, a tent, water, toiletries and medical kit, a DSLR (each!!) and a couple of treats like fresh tomatoes and a bottle of port. I will link a packing list somewhere later as I think we did a pretty good job. *It's in the comments for day 6*.

Looking disturbingly energised, clean and matching.

From the start point. CM looks far away!
So, off we go. We are very lucky with the weather, it is a stunning day and nice and cool for walking. The bus driver tells us that there are only 32 cloudless days here so we are very lucky to have started on one of those. The days before and after were not so fine!

Boatshed on Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain in the background.

Our trek mascot Womby the plastic wombat starts the journey with us. Made in China, rescued from Geelong, traveling through Tasmania.

Womby, Japanese tourists in goretex, Dove Lake.

I notice that I have less high tech camping clothing than the group of Japanese tourists who pile off the bus with us at the lake, take photos and get back on the bus. Hm.

a wombat went over a mountain
The walk is steep but there's nothing you can't tackle by taking it slow. We stop at Marion's lookout for lunch and refill our water bottles with clean snow!! The views are breathtaking in every direction. We pass Kitchen Hut through some more snow that fell last night. This hut is only used in emergencies now. It has two doors, one at ground level, one 6ft high for when the snow is too deep to open the bottom one, and a shovel for when the snow is too deep to open the top door! From here, people can drop their packs and climb to the summit of Cradle Mountain. Even though it's a beautiful day, we are running a little later than expected so we push on.

Last night's snow, near Kitchen Hut.

Ahhhh, so this is what those walking poles are for.
Kitchen Hut and the CM summit is the end of where the day walkers go. After this point, we are properly on the Overland. The first thing we notice is that the track degrades significantly! Up until now it has been cleanly marked gravel tracks, steps made of rock or planks, and long sections of thin boardwalk where you walk over marshland. Immediately after Kitchen Hut we start prodding in deep muddy bogs looking for elusive planks or rocks that might be used as stepping stones. At this stage we naievely don't want to get out boots and socks wet. Ha.

After a few more km of rock hopping between puddles, we have traveled around the base of CM and walk out along a ridge toward the first hut. The habitat changes from "alpine" heath to drier eucalypt forest to marshland in the lower areas. I think we slowed down a lot toward the end of the afternoon as the last section took a lot longer than the recommended 1.5 hrs. Eventually Waterfall Valley hut is in sight and we can put down those heavy packs!

There is quite a crowd at these first two huts, both are full plus some extras camping in their tents. I think we had 34 in total tonight. It was nice to get to know a few people as we will be seeing them each evening for the next few days! We got in just as the weather came in and a fine mist of rain settled on the valley for the night.
Old Waterfall Valley hut (sleeps 8), with Mt Emmett in the background.

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