Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Day 2 : Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere

Day 2 : Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere (7km)

Our campsite in the evening
Day two was definitely much easier than day one, in terms of both distance and elevation, basically we ended up walking downhill 100m, though there were definitely undulations. 

Day two was also the wettest day, we woke up to find the little stream outside our tent had grown to a flood and we were lucky to not be sleeping in a much deeper pool.  Luckily when we had packed up the night before we had put everything back inside the pack liners before going to sleep.  I think everything outside the tent was actually much drier than that in the tent. 

Our campsite the following morning
It was here that one item paid the ultimate price, it was the only thing which really got wrecked during the trip, a Dali Lama book.  Water flooded the tent at one point and this book bravely soaked it all up, sparing our sleeping bags.  We repaid it by carting it the remaining 50 kms, occasionally spreading it out at camping sites in a futile attempt to dry it.  It eventually was discarded in the hotel room in Hobart.

I can't say that I was too upset that it was rainy as it meant that Barn Bluff was completely clouded over, meaning the side trip we could have taken to the top wouldn't have really yielded any views.  At this point I was paying for the hard ascent of Cradle Mountain the day before so was thankful for an easier day to try and recover.
Looking up to the cloud covered Barn Bluff

This day was also the muddiest by far.  When coming up on the bus the driver was telling us about a group of guys he had picked up the week before.  This group had started in the middle of the rains which caused the flooding in Tasmania. 

That would have been a bad week to be walking in.  Driving up the route had to be altered as roads had been washed out.  But all these guys could talk about was how bad the mud was, and on this leg you could certainly see that it could be baaaad. I managed to fall in twice at the start.   
Mud after the falls

The hardest part was not knowing how deep the puddles were you were about to step into, most of them wouldn't have come up to the top of your boot, but ever now and then one would be almost up to your knee.  I imagine that a week's worth of rain would have turned this relatively easy leg into a bit of an ordeal.

Some of the muddy sections
I think this leg was also best in terms of the number of wildflowers which were out.  In some sections the place was full of reds, yellows and whites.  I couldn't take enough photos in some parts.  In this leg you could also saw the vegetation change dramatically as the day progressed.  We would go through sections with shrubs and trees, then through wind-swept alpine grass areas and then finish beside Lake Windermere with large gum trees. 

So many wildflowers
Along with the vegetation changing the views are also constantly changing.  Because this area is so open, mainly small shrubs or grasslands, that it was often that looking behind you could see Cradle Mountain (where we had started) and looking ahead you could see Mt Oakleigh (were the next day would finish).  It was really great being able to constantly chart your progress and see that the distances covered were not insignificant.

It was here that you start to notice some groups of people.  The way the Overland track is monitored in Tasmania is that only about 35 people are allowed to start every day.  So at this point there were a few families which had started the same day as us and so we would see them every night at the camp site.  The difference is that because we weren't staying in the huts we probably didn't have as close contact with people as others.

Looking back to Cradle Mountain, peeking over the ridge
The huts along the track are very much a first-come first-serve kind of basis, in that if you turned up early enough in the day to nab yourself a bunk bed then all well and good.  But if you were a slower walker then you might be out of luck.  We didn't really want to sleep in the huts, most don't have separate beds, so you all sleep next to each other on a long wooden platform and you bring your own sleeping mattresses, no thanks.  At least in the tent I'm not next to some stranger and am spared the incessant snoring.
Lake Windermere in the distance

It seemed though that some people were really reliant on the huts, so much so that they would send forward members of their party to ensure that sleeping spots were saved for them.  The groups which this really affected were the families.  There were some quite large groups (~9 people) with quite young children (~12).  So I think they really wanted the security of the hut.  You could imagine that there could be instances of hut rage, not that we saw any of that.
Lake Windermere and Mt Oakleigh on the left

There was one group which we thought may have been a family, but then turned out not too be, and they were always the last group into the campsite.  So every night you would see them arrive and try to find a spot where they could all pitch their tents together, and every time they had to split up and ended up with the worst campsites.  The ones miles from the hut and toilets.

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