09 December 2011

Day 2 - Overland Track, Tasmania

Waterfall Valley to Windermere Hut
Distance to cover: 7km
Forecast: Rain, snow
Dinner to look forward to: Tofu Panaeng curry with rehydrated vegetables
Socks and Boots: Damp

mmm... orange

A short day today, only 7km. The next stretch of track is 17.5km and many of the "group" from the first hut intend to double-hut and head on to the next one. We considered it, but knowing how slow we were yesterday (taking photos of everything that moved, and also things that didn't) I don't think 23km in one day would be a very good idea. This decision was reinforced as soon as we stepped out the door in the morning... the weather has properly set in!

Mt Emmett is not even visible this morning!

Off we trudged into the misty rain. Sean has very beautiful high vis orange waterproof pants so he was not easy to lose. There was quite a lot of luxurious boardwalk over marshland, but we did spend quite a few kms sloshing through some pretty awesome mud. Sometimes there were old planks submerged in the mud to get a foothold on, sometimes not. The rain was blowing in an unpleasant sideways kind of way, the kind that finds itself getting inside raincoat sleeves and dripping down necks. My boots, although comfortable, are not at all waterproof. I knew this before we started and just accepted that I would have wet feet on some days. I didn't really expect the kind of mudholes we saw so in hindsight would recommend people take waterproof boots.

Inpenetrable... not

We even skipped the side trip to Lake Will  that would have been across flat, open moors. The guidebook says "A recommended sidetrip in fine weather". Sean cracked it when he made a wrong step and was almost knee deep in runny black mud. Twice. At this point (after laughing only a little bit) I thought it best for all concerned that we put our heads down and get moving. We made it to Windermere hut by lunchtime and were glad to shed our sodden gear and have a hot cuppa. I read my book for most of the afternoon in a nice warm beanie and watched the clouds and rain continue to roll through.

An older couple who had been at the previous hut pulled in after lunch. Everybody was surprised that they had continued as we had overheard the ranger last night telling them that he thought they should turn back. As the trip went on, we learned more and more details of their situation; both over 60, the husband, Graham, seemed slightly senile or had perhaps suffered a stroke at some time. He had had a hip replacement in the past and wasn't coping at all with the mud. The wife, Marion, was strong despite her small stature but was not enjoying a heavy pack and had abandoned their tent back at Kitchen Hut. (Tents are an essential for this walk - every group is required to carry one as a safety precaution for unpredictable weather conditions.) We learned later that they didn't make the first hut in one day - they spent the night before we got on the track sleeping rough in the frost. Today they moved at about 500m/hour because Graham kept getting stuck in the mud and being blown over by the wind. They seem determined to press on tomorrow for the 17.5km distance.

Late in the evening (sunset is at 9.30pm) we see the rain turn to sleet, then hail, then back to rain. There is a female Pademelon sitting out in it with her ears back, gathering snow on her fur. After a while there is a rummage in her pouch and a small head pops out for a look around!

Nobody is game to camp tonight so those who are staying at Windermere all squash into the hut and it is soon warm(ish) with cooking stoves and body heat!

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