10 December 2011

Day 3 - Overland Track, Tasmania

Windermere Hut to New Pelion Hut 
Distance to cover: 17.5km
Forecast: Snow clearing
Dinner to look forward to: Rehydrated Lamb and Pumpkin Tagine with Couscous
Socks and Boots: Frozen and snow covered

This morning we awoke to a magical sight outside... snow! Just a light dusting, like icing sugar, over all of the forest and rocks. It's pretty cold but just spectacular and I would rather walk in gently falling snow than rain!

I wish I hadn't left my boots in the snow!

The track today takes us out of the forest the hut is nestled in, up and over an extensive buttongrass moorland with Mt Ossa, Mt Pelion East and West visible, and columns of Mt Oakleigh in the distance. We wind our way up to a beech forest that is also dusted with snow, including some blooming Tassie Waratahs.


buttongrass flower head

Passing by Mt Pelion West

Tasmanian Waratah

The track goes downhill gradually to the swampy area called Frog Flats, then back up through rainforest to finally pop out at a huge grassy valley. I was expecting to see marauding herds of wombats grazing the grassland but no such luck. We did see some quoll poos near Old Pelion hut (disused) which was pretty exciting.

I am so glad we didn't try to tack today and yesterday together in the rain as it would have been a really long and hard slog. I spoke to some of the guys that did continue on in the rain and they said they didn't see any of the mountains we passed because the rain and mist were too dense! Shame.

Today was the longest distance from hut to hut so we started the day looking at one side of Mt Oakleigh and ended up camped in the valley next to it on the other side. The hut here is stunning, with a massive verandah to sit and take in the view (past all the drying socks hung on the railing)

Panorama of Mt Oakleigh and the button grass valley

Around the hut were some friendly Pademelons and Bennett's (aka red-necked on the mainland) wallabies. One of the female wallabies had a big joey that ventured out for a hop around. He did the usual thing of hopping bravely away from mum and then realising she had wandered away and hurrying back to hide underneath her. At one point a currawong wandered past them and he watched it so intensely, ready to sprint away if it got too close. I guess he hadn't seen one of those things before!

At 5pm, two of the more experienced hikers sent out a search party for the older couple, knowing how slow they were and that they didn't have a tent. They were last seen only a few kms from Windermere hut despite setting off as early as they could. The track was tricky in many places today because of tree roots and mud. When our search party had not returned by 9pm we considered sending out a second search party, but figured that the first group had probably pulled together some kind of camp by now.  Eventually they all turned up, the stronger lads carrying 2 packs each so that the older couple had nothing to carry. She seemed to find the whole situation quite amusing, and what a lovely bunch of people we were to be concerned for them. I don't think she quite grasped the gravity of the situation. They were found 5km from their destination, meaning that they had traveled 10km in 10 hrs and would have had to sleep rough at the swamp that night if nobody had helped them. Considering I was cold sleeping inside the hut I don't know how well they would have done. She talked loudly about her day's experiences until someone told her to shush at 10pm.

Sean and I shared some of the port tonight as a celebration for making it halfway!

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