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Monday, May 17, 2004
Overland Track - Day 6 - Windamere Hut to Cradle Mountain Village
The answer was, the weather was better, but only just. The rain had stopped, but we were in the cloud, which limited visibility severely.
The track started by going past lake Windamere, which looked as though it woud be good for swimming in summer, but was eerie dissappearing into the cloud. A short way after the lake, I met Annerieke and Jeroen, looking at a small tarn. When I got there, they said they were watching a platypus, and sure enough, as I watched too, the platypus surfaced.
The pond was amazingly small, just about 4 metres in diameter. I stayed, and took several photos of the platypus, then continued on, up a small hill.
At the top of the hill, there were views of several lakes on the plateau below, but the cloud obscured the surrounding mountains. The track was now on a very large buttongrass plain, and as I walked, the cloud was burning off, and I could see more and more of the surrounding area. Lake Holmes was quite pretty, and soon after, the track went briefly into small Snow Gums. Walking through a small plain, the cloud parted in front of me, and suddenly Barn Bluff was there right above the track – Awesome.
A short while later, I came to the Waterfall Valley Hut, and had lunch on the helipad with Annerieke and Jeroen, and watched as cloud once again enveloped Barn Bluff. As I arrived at Waterfall Valley Hut, I saw a very cheeky Black Currawong going through Annerieke's pack while she was in the loo. The bird had unzipped the top of her pack and pulled out all the contents of the compartment (fortunately no food), and flew off when I arrived – amazing!
I decided to go on to the end of the track rather than stay, as at least it wasn't raining, and there were some limitied views – It proved to be a very good choice. The track climbed steeply from Waterfall Valley, and soon I was walking along the Cradle Cirque. It was about the only really obvious glacial feature I've seen in Tasmania, as there was a massive semicircular gouge forming the head of a valley. Whisps of cloud were enveloping then revealing the Cirque, Cradle Mountain, and the valleys to the west.
I had been feeling a little queasy all morning, but now I found I started burping and breaking wind a fair bit – Bummer I thought, I might have gotten a bug from bad water.
The cloud whisps were clearing as I walked beside Cradle Mountain, giving great views of the mountain, Barn Bluff, and the valley to the west of Cradle Mountain.
I reached the turnoff to the summit of Cradle Mountain at about 1:45pm, and the sign said 2.5 hours return. I figured it must be wrong, since it was only 2km, and figured I could afford about 1.5 hours. Leaving my pack, I started climbing, making very rapid progress for about 10 minutes, but then the good track disappeared, and became a route marked by poles, going over, and around billions of big Dolorite boulders. I was using my hands as much as my feet.
After about half an hour, I got to a ridge which looked to be the summit, but as I topped it, I found the track continued down a small gully and back up to the next ridge. The gully had a good coating of snow, making safe footholds hard to find. I started thinking I should have brought the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), as it was pretty dangerous in places.
Finally after about 50 minutes, I reached the summit where there is a trig point, and a cairn with distance information. The views were quite good, although overcast. I could easily see Barn Bluff. After a brief stay at the top, I started the descent which turned out to be much easier than I though it might have been, involving much use of the backside. I got back to my pack again at about 3:15, and got underway again, passing Kitchen Hut, and continuing on toward Marions Lookout. The sign said 2 hours, so I wanted to hurry, otherwise it would be dark when I got to the carpark.
It was very bleak and cold across the alpine plateau, going to Marions lookout, with only very low vegetation. After what seemed like ages, but was only about 40 minutes, I reached Marions Lookout, which gave a great view of Cradle Mountain, Dove Lake, and Crater Lake. Unfortunately, the overcast sky had descended and covered the top of Cradle Mountain. By this stage, I was very cold, so put on some more clothing layers. Descending from the lookout proved to be very steep, but gave great views of Crater Lake, with much Deciduous Beech surrounding it.
By the time I reached and passed the level of Crater Lake, my knees were getting a bit sore, but I continued at a fast pace, as, if the shuttle bust was running, I wanted to get there before the last bus, or otherwise, I wanted to have some light to try to hitch in. The very last part of the track crossed a grassy valley mostly on duckboard, and ended at the Ronny Creek carpark. In this last section, I saw two wombats munching grass. There were a lot less facilities than I'd expected – pretty much only the carpark. Fortunately I was able to thumb a lift to the hostel (8km down the road) within just a couple of minutes.
Walking to the dorm rooms from the reception, I was feeling pretty worn out (its about a 5 miniute walk).
I unpacked my gear, and went to see if I could find Annerieke and Jeroen. I soon found them in the camping area's cooking shelter – an enormous room with a wood fire, tables, seats and a kitchen. We sat in front of the fire and talked for a while, then went to the store/reception for some dinner extras. My legs felt very achy. Back in front of the fire, we cooked dinner and talked, but as I was eating, I started feeling quite funny, and soon I realised it was because I had a fever, which explained all the other symptoms. Feeling pretty bad, I said goodnight, and went off to bed, only stopping to take some codeine / paracetamol.
The night was a struggle between feeling freezing cold, which I knew was good for my fever, and wanting to be warmer. Surprisingly though I did get plenty of sleep.