Sunday, 24 April 2011

Overland Track Transport

Just some notes about the transport to and from the Overland Track.

When I first did this walk (2000), my wife picked me up at Lake St Clair where I'd deposited a car, and we drove around to Cradle Mountain and spent the night there with the kids. The next time (2004), I dropped the car at Lake St Clair and caught the bus round to Cradle via Queenstown, where I managed to start the track by about 3pm on the same day I'd left the car at the other end. (Walked down to Scott-Kilvert that afternoon, and there weren't any track passes required, nor anyone busying themselves too much about your precise walking plans.) I do like to have a car available at the end of the walk, as it saves all that hurrying to make sure you catch boats or buses, and you can leave clean clothes in it. Anyway, it's become more complicated, and you just can't do what I did in 2004 any more.

First I tried to get to Cradle Mountain via Queenstown. Tassielink are the bus company, but you can't do it in a day. Rather you have to stay in Queenstown or Strahan overnight, the former being cheaper, but the latter perhaps being more enjoyable if you get the right accommodation and dining in Strahan. Note that you can't always do it in two days like this either. Some days there's a whole day in between the Hobart to Strahan service and the Strahan to Launceston service. At any time of the year, the Tassielink schedule will need some careful perusal to make sure you understand which bus goes where on which day. This applied to me on my chosen days. I could get from Lake St Clair to Strahan on Thursday, but couldn't get to Cradle until Saturday. Back to the drawing board, I had to get to Launceston instead.

This can be done, but you catch a bus back to Hobart from Lake St Clair, then from Hobart to Launceston, and then after an overnight stay, through to Cradle. All seemed to be going well until the lady realised that on my chosen days Tassielink's "in-season" service would have ceased, and they didn't run a bus from Launceston to Cradle until Saturday either. Gaaaaa! She was helpful though, and put me onto McDermott's coaches, who DO run a Friday service to Cradle.

I rang them immediately, and they duly booked me on their Friday bus. The bus picked me up at the salubrious Batman Fawkner, and tripped around collecting the rest of the load from their hotels too. It arrived earlier at Cradle than the Tassielink buses do, and went direct from Launceston to Cradle without a pickup in Devonport. The bus driver was a really cheerful and helpful bloke named Kerry. The service included waiting while we got our track passes and other purchases from the visitor centre, then Kerry running us all up to Ronny Creek and getting us underway without our having to use the Cradle shuttle bus service and undergo additional inquisitions and lectures from the rangers. I think this service makes it worth trying to use McDermotts if their schedule suits.

The shuttle buses run regularly however, and allow you to travel easily from the visitor centre to Ronny Creek. Kerry warned us that you are best not to try to catch the bus from the ranger station/Lodge as they are generally full up before they get there when it's busy. It certainly looked busy there 10 days ago, the car park was pretty full.

Anyway, it was a somewhat expensive business getting to do the Overland Track, but given the weather I got, it was well worthwhile. Oh, and it didn't cost me anything like as much as all those mainlanders and overseas visitors pay. For interstate and overseas visitors, the transport arrangements are canvassed in more detail in Frank and Sue's Overland Track book. You can also find Tassielink's and McDermott's schedules online. Just be careful that you're looking at the schedule for the right season with Tassielink. Check the fine print to see if the schedule stopped applying some time ago - the one I wanted to use on 15th April ran out on the 10th, two days before I rang them but it was still on their website. This timetable appears to contain the winter Cradle service.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Overland Track - 15th to 21st April

Got back on Thursday evening from the Overland Track. Third time walking it properly from the start, and had the best weather of any of those trips. Lots of photos were taken, and I've put a selection from across the days and places in here. I met Sue and her friends Mark, Deb and Anne from Geelong. Sue runs this website with her husband Frank. I've bought their Food To Go e-book, because these people ate better than everyone else, particularly me. Sue's friend Deb seems to be the chief outdoor gourmet, and has lots of wonderful ideas for cooking nice things far from home. They also put out a guide to doing the Overland Track for people who have to work out the logistics - mainly I think this would be useful for people who are not from Tasmania and are not sure what to expect in getting to Cradle Mountain and walking the Overland Track for the first time. You can buy their two books together at a good discount.

The track has been improved (read: duckboarded) in many places since I last did it (2003 or 2004 I think) but other bits have also deteriorated. Frog Flats to Pelion and then just before Kia-Ora seemed most obvious to me as being worse, and the ranger confirmed that both these parts have suffered over the recent high season when it was both unusually wet for summer and the track had the usual very high summer traffic.

I note that despite the best efforts of everyone, people still manage to start (and generally, safely complete) this walk without fundamental items of equipment and little understanding of what they are going to find along the way.

I hadn't seen the Bert Nicholls Hut at Windy Ridge before. This has received mixed reviews. It's large and of a somewhat more complex design than other huts. They say it's a great summer hut, but too cold and impersonal in winter. I understand original complaints about the hut involved the inability of the old Windy Ridge coal stove to heat the cavernous kitchen/dining room area. This has been replaced by a wood heater, which didn't do a bad job, on an admittedly cool but non-freezing evening. Anyway, you'd have to see it for yourself - it's quite grandiose, and the other evening did a fine job of accommodating about 25 people for dinner. I didn't try out the bedrooms as I much prefer tenting for actual sleeping.

All in all, a great walk still, and the scenery and ambience remain wonderful. I managed to climb both Cradle Mountain and Mount Ossa, but was thwarted by mist and drizzle in my desire to climb Walled Mountain in the Labyrinth - another day for that one. I came out a day early rather than sit and watch the drizzle from the Pine Valley hut, eating the remains of my non-gourmet bushwalking diet.

Setting sun on Cradle Mountain from the Little Plateau - 15th April 2011

Sunset on Cradle Mountain from the Little Plateau - 15th April 2011

Barn Bluff from Lake Windermere at sunset - 16th April 2011

Mount Oakleigh from Pelion Hut at sunset - 17th April 2011

Mount Hyperion from the slopes of Mount Ossa - 18th April 2011

Hartnett Falls - 19th April 2011

Cephissus Falls, Pine Valley - 20th April 2011

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Cape Pillar - 7th-9th April 2011

Tasman Island and The Blade, Cape Pillar, at sunset - 7th April 2011

Had beautiful weather for a three-day trip to Cape Pillar. This made for a much more leisurely and enjoyable trip than the two days I did last time. On my way out a young lady passed me with a day pack, and asked me if I thought she would get good views. Hope she enjoyed her brief stay somewhere near the end of the cape.

Day One - Walked in, with an early start. Weather quite cool, and arrived at lunch time at Perdition Ponds. Water as bad as last time, maybe a little worse, but vaguely drinkable. It could do with some salty energy drink mixed into it to make it better. Lunchtime Creek further back on the track had been flowing energetically, and if there wasn't a big hill after it I'd probably carry a few litres of that water in just for drinking. Camping at Perdition allows you to find spectacular views of Tasman Island and The Blade with only a few minutes walk, so is preferable to camping further back along the track. Apparently there are campsites at The Oasis, about another 25 minutes along the cape, but they are becoming overgrown. After a very pleasant nap, I was joined by a couple from Hobart. This being Tasmania, I had previously worked with the lady, and we had mutual acquaintances. With time to spare, I walked a fair way towards the Blade, but turned back and took photos of the cape in the sunset from one of the superb clifftop viewpoints.

Tasman Island from The Blade, Cape Pillar - 8th April 2011

Day Two - Got up early and took sunrise photos, thus fully justifying my decision to stay at Perdition rather than Lunchtime Creek... Anyway, later, after breakfast, I headed out to the end of the cape. Views from The Blade are superb, although the airy end point may not be for everyone. The big boulder on the end must fall off one day. Last trip, I ran out of time and obvious track, and never got to the lookout where Cathedral Rock is visible. This time, I headed past where the track seemed to finish, and the track became obvious again after about 10 metres. Good views were had of both Cathedral Rock and Rob Pennicott's tour boat in The Chasm below. The position above The Chasm from this final lookout is very impressively vertical. I understand you can clamber down to Cathedral Rock from near there. If you view it on Google Maps/Earth there seems to be a clear way down through the cliffs. However, I estimate the average slope is about 45 degrees, so it would be an unpleasant scrub-clamber. Day two ended with increasing smoke, thanks Forestry.

Forestry burnoff smoke fills Storm Bay - 8th April 2011

Day Three - Weather change coming, but only evident in a slightly stronger breeze and the actual presence of a few skimpy clouds. Walked out after packing up in a leisurely way. The track is in general quite enjoyable. The forested parts and the open plains are great. Hurricane Heath continues to deteriorate and presents the only (short) bog of the trip. If they manage to build the Three-Capes Walk, I expect they'll fix this, as otherwise it will become a big wide mud-wallow as hundreds of international tourists avoid the muddy water. The forest on the final descent to Fortescue Bay is very pretty, much better than the forest along the old superseded track.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Hartz Peak - 5th April 2011

Cool walk to Hartz Peak today, although when the sun was out it had a good deal of warmth in it. Relaxing walk with only a few others about.

Wellington Range from Hartz Plateau - 5th April 2011

Hartz peak from ladies Tarn - 5th April 2011

Monday, 4 April 2011

Mount Wellington - 4th April 2011

Summit bushwalkers shelter, Mount Wellington - 4th April 2011

Summit bushwalkers shelter - Mount Wellington.

Note: Blog not very up to date. I will start posting from today, as well as catch up some old ones that I haven't done. Nice walk today, if occasionally drizzly, on Mount Wellington. Up the Pinnacle and Zig Zag Tracks to the summit, then returning to The Springs via the Panorama and Organ Pipes Tracks. I have eight weeks of walking coming up! There were a few fungi about here and there too.

Fungi, Mount Wellington - 4th April 2011
Fungi, Mount Wellington - 4th April 2011