Do you know what? During the first year of this blog, my trip reporting was quite organised with attention to the sequence of walks. Well, that didn’t last long. Lately, I throw all the things I want to write about into the air and randomly pick one out as they land. It can be painful though, as the post ideas are on a laptop. Lucky I found some motorcycle helmets on the beach, as they’re handy for this process.
So in the theme of complete confusion, I’ve decided to drag out my Overland Track hike from 2009. Remember that one? I started to post about it, but somehow forgot to finish it off. It’s not helped that it’s only taken four years for me to forget precisely what happened. I might have to put the disclaimer, ‘based on true events’ at the end of each post.
Anyway, I’ve written about the first day where I barely managed to walk any distance to Kitchen Hut. Then on the second day, I walked slightly less to Waterfall Valley. On the third day I decided things had to change. In order to get to Windermere Hut, I decided to walk less. At the rate I was going it might have taken me a month to finish, so I had to put some miles in somewhere and this particular section was a good place to start.
One last thing before I begin walking. Back in this era I didn’t really bother with the photography. I was carrying my trusty compact Panasonic and not a lot of thought went into the pictures. No viewfinder, JPEG only. What is this? Insanity? At least I had a camera, as I’ve got some trips to the High Country a few years earlier where I didn’t even take a camera. How ridiculous is that?
It’s a shame really, as I have a dead-set horror story of a hike with a posse of psychopaths who couldn’t find an ‘open spur’ below the Crosscut Saw, so a decision was made during fading light and lightning (yes, lightning) to head straight uphill to the top of a ridgeline, which I remember looking up at and noting it seemed to be a zillion kilometres in height, blocked out natural light and was accompanied by a completely random boulder, which bounced down past us.
The vertical climb through fire regrowth caused me to suffer a strange medical condition called ‘random tourettes syndrome’. This began during the climb and seemed to continue for about 24 hours before passing. It’s a great story, but I don’t think I can pull it off without pictures. In fact, no blog post can be done without some visual dessert. As an example, I’ve got ‘Moby Dick’ on my bookshelf and it’s got pictures in it, so if Herman Melville can’t pull it off, how can I?
Finally, on this particular day from Windermere Hut to Pelion Hut (which is the longest leg of the Overland Track) I took a total of 25 photos. On a day walk now, I’d normally take well over a hundred. What can I do with 25? Even worse is six of the 25 are self-portraits and my expression is like I’ve inhaled a kilo of yippy-weed. Quite disturbing. I rarely take photos of myself these days, as I’m quite aware of what I look like.
Now the walking bit. I’d spent the night at Windermere Hut on my own. When I arrived late the previous day in pouring rain, the ‘Man from Boston’ was relaxing by the gas heater, half-naked and enjoying himself. After five minutes of asking questions about his hometown, he suddenly lost the plot, put all his drenched clothes back on and headed out into the teeming apocalypse hoping to make it to Waterfall Valley Hut before dark. There was nothing in the subsequent news, so I assume he’s still alive.
Dawn greeted me with persistent rain and the entire area was cloaked in mist. I decided to head off as soon as it was daylight, but this wasn’t until well after 7 am. The open landscape of Pine Forest Moor had to be crossed, so I rugged up in anticipation.
Due to the lack of pictures and a flaky memory, I’m not completely sure what happened at times during this day, but I can confirm one thing though. I was in Tasmania. That’s about it. Some parts I do remember clearly though, starting with Pine Forest Moor. Was it the icy wind whipping rain across my face, leaving it feeling as if my skin was being shredded? No, my nemesis was not quite so dramatic. It was actually the wet, wooden boardwalk of the Moor, which announced the beginning of, ‘DAY SPENT ON MY ARSE’.
This section announced itself clearly…
…but not so clear was the view.
Anyway, there I was happily strolling along the mist shrouded landscape, when I took my first tumble. Just to make it worse it was like being in a cartoon. The wet boardwalk was slippery and one foot broke traction at the heel. This leg then rose up until it was almost horizontal from my chest and I was suspended for a second in mid-air before gravity took hold and I landed fair and square on my gluteus maximus.
This is where a full-to-the-brim 90 litre backpack, which I was lugging came back to haunt me. Lying on my back with a small car attached meant it took a while to stand up. In the end I managed to pathetically roll onto my stomach before pushing up with one leg at a time. Mm… That was fun.
I may not have had the expansive views, but I did have old, wooden track markers to admire. I think these are being replaced with metal stakes, so I’ll miss these moss covered, weathered timbers.
As the next photo shows, I was getting buffeted around by the wind. I intended the horizon to be level, but it didn’t really work out the way I wanted. Actually, I’m glad it isn’t, as I like it the way it is…
Perversely I enjoyed this open landscape during the inclement weather, but it had to end, as the track ventured into a forest. I seem to remember large boulders, trees and a steep descent. Remember, I could be wrong though.
It’s a pity I don’t have more pictures, but I crossed Pelion Creek and ventured into forest. I certainly remember the next bit though, as it’s been burnt into my memory. Strolling along a slippery downhill section, I was happily proclaiming to myself,
“Wow… Look at me…. He-man hiker… getting the job done like a boss on a crappy day…. where’s a mirror? You’re looking good… that’s it… pull those shoulders back… puff the chest out… suck the guts in a bit more… you’re like a primeval ooze of manliness… OH MY GOD, MY ANKLE!!!”
The feel good moment vanished, as my ankle bent over sideways until I’m sure I walked a step or two on the actual ankle itself, before my brain realised this was not ideal and proceeded to shut down my body. As my brain disengaged it decided the only way to recover from this position was to throw itself on the ground. Which it did. Lying in water and mud, I felt my ankle tell me, “Hey muscles. Don’t move for a while, as I think I need to take a break and recover somehow.”
I lay on the ground for a minute and felt waves of pain wash over me until it subsided to a more comfortable throb. Gingerly standing up, I was a little concerned for a moment that some real damage had been done. In the end, I decided it was a bad sprain, which unfortunately seems to be a slow healer, as it still plays up now. Anyway, I hobbled on with less mojo than before. I don’t think my shoulders were pulled back for the rest of the day and I no longer wanted a mirror.
Continuing on I reached Frog Flats. This is a spot used for camping now and again, but on this day it look hideous. With mud and water everywhere I reckon you’d probably drown if you’d set your tent up. Oh yeah, by the way, before this spot, I fell over again. That was three so far for the day.
Rain was still around, but the clouds were beginning to break up allowing some much needed sun to shine. This didn’t apply to Mount Pelion West (I think that’s what it is?) though, which remained covered in mist.
Powering on with a wonky hobble I was rapidly finishing the day when I came across the turn-off to Old Pelion Hut. This hut is rarely used now, as a massive new building where I was intending to stay has been built further along the track. The old one sounded interesting though, so I took a detour onto a muddy side-trip. Have you heard those Tasmanian stories where there’s mud, which can be up to the hip? Huh? Are they for real? Is it possible? I was a little suspicious.
Anyway, a few broken pieces of board-walk remained, but mainly it was just a muddy track. Between two pieces of timber, in an area no more than two feet wide sat a puddle. It looked like any other puddle sitting above the surface, so I stomped on it. You know those stories about the mud to the hip in Tasmania?
I can confirm they’re correct. I’ve no idea what happened, but my leg plummeted with absolutely no resistance until my lunchbox touched down on the ground. The limb had vanished into the earth to the hip, which besides slightly freaking me out, had me wondering. How deep is it? Lucky my package acted as an anchor and kept me from disappearing. I pulled it out (my leg silly) and stared at the innocent small puddle, whilst noting its location for the return trip. Talk about camouflage.
I continued on, but was more attentive to strange looking mud patches, by testing them with my trekking poles. I think I developed an irrational ‘surface anxiety’ and was so concerned about what I was standing on, only one thing could happen. I fell over. Mind you, this was a beauty, as somehow I stumble forwards and after a few haphazard steps trying to recover whilst waving my arms in circles, I face-planted.
It was no drama landing this way though, as all it threatened were my major organs when I speared into rocks. At least it was easier standing up when lying face-down. What’s that? Four falls so far? At least the hut was in sight…
At last I made it in one piece. It’s not a bad looking hut. I suppose…?
A closer inspection revealed some older graffiti.
There was also a walker’s logbook in there and I’ve no idea why I didn’t take a photo of one particular page. Some bloke left an essay describing how he was staying at the new Pelion Hut, but ended up in an argument with someone about food, wanted to punch his face in, but thought this wasn’t desirable, so he packed up and came to the old hut to spend some time on his own. It was entertaining reading and gave me a much needed chuckle to take my mind off bruised and aching joints.
After giving the hut a thorough inspection I headed back along the muddy track, keeping a close eye on the ground I was stepping on. Guess what happened on the way back? Yes, I fell over. At least this time I landed on my back onto some comfortable grass. This was the fifth fall for the day and I decided to stay seated for a while and relax. I even took a picture, which began a tradition. If I fall, I always take a photo of the position I end up in. It’s for my own perverse pleasure I guess.
The good times have to end somewhere though, as this was my last fall for the day. For the last time I hauled myself off the mud and and hobbled back to the main track. Strolling on I was soon at the huge Pelion Hut. This thing can sleep over fifty people and comes complete with a verandah. Nice. It was also inhabited and who should be there? Yes, ‘Army Pants Man’ (APM).
I’d last seen him at Waterfall Valley Hut with his sidekick who was unmistakable, as he used a flimsy garbage bag as a pack cover and it flapped crazily in the breeze, barely hanging on. Anyway, they had left Waterfall Valley, skipped Windermere Hut and continued to Pelion Hut in a day, then found themselves so wrecked they decided to have a day off. Oh yeah, those woollen pants were a problem as APM proclaimed. “Once they’re wet. They won’t dry!”
Another group was also there, but they were slightly, how do you say…? Tool-like? Yes, that’s the phrase I was after. They kept banging on about how many bad-arse hikes they were going to do and how hard and fast they’d do them. It was all a bit too much, so I hung out with ‘Army Pants Man’ who was carrying a secret sauce. A Coke bottle, which just happened to be filled with port. I don’t think booze tasted so good and he was generous with it. In fact, if there was a lull in conversation he’d say, “Want another one?” So, I’m done.
Quite the eventful day, wasn’t it? Five falls of such quality, each subsequent one was slightly more painful than the previous. I can’t remember much more of the evening, but I must have sat out on the verandah at some point to take photos of Mount Oakleigh which looms nearby…
In the video it looks like the sleet is bouncing off the ground. Is that just an optical illusion?
Ken, yes I think you're onto something there. There was definitely snow mixed in with the rain and across that open area with the wind howling, it was quite a bombardment! I actually loved the open areas of the Overland Track, as it seemed a lot of the time I was in forest. Definitely a great place to be though when it's off-season. Variable weather and barely any walkers is a good outcome 🙂
Well, Greg, lucky you: this was my first read after a lengthy hiatus from blog-reading. Yeah, I have plenty of walks from my early days that I didn't document well with a camera. In some ways I miss those days – much less stopping and starting and dragging out the bloody camera…
Anyway, good on you for endeavoring to complete the saga. As you know, large gaps exist in my own Tasmanian tale in the South-West. One day (my paper journal is in Australia)… I can vouch for that Tassie mud however. The South-West Track was a mud-bath and I wonder if it's now got some duckboards as well. Hope so. I was also looking at your pictures and thinking, "Not exactly tarping weather."
Goat, I reckon you're right. I've never been the speediest walker, but I certainly moved quicker when I didn't really bother with photos. At times I don't see a lot to photograph, but I think to myself, "Better get a couple of pics, in case I need them for the blog". What? It's crazy, but it's like I'm a slave to the blog now!
Also, I have a million spare camera batteries these days. I remember for the Overland Track, the spare Panasonic batteries were $110 each. Quite insane now, when I think about it. So, I only had the two batteries for the week of walking and rationed them! It's only four years ago, but times have really changed since! It got me wondering about the next post in this walk, as I think there's only 15 pictures for the day. It's going to be a struggle to pull the next post off!
Yes, as someone who's eyed off the South Coast Track for a few years, I've been waiting for your updates! Time goes by and the material piles up, so I can understand it's hard to go back to older stuff. Especially when you get back to the States. I can imagine you'll never be short of a post over there!
Mm… You'd have to be fairly macho to tarp it in Tasmania during early September! Then again, I saw you in a tarp under snow in Korea in a post, so I guess it can be done. Not ideal, but possible!
Duckboards, you love them and you hate them. The Overland Trail is just a distant memory for me and I recall meeting those duckboard (boardwalk) makers. I was grateful at that time, but have come to realise that boardwalks can be slippery, icy and down right dangerous. In fact I have had more falls on boardwalks than I have had from anything else including skiing out of control down an icy slope. To be honest though I would love to do this trip again, Tassie has some excellent walking country.
Yes, if they don't have a mesh they're scary in the wet! I can only imagine at the amount of hikers who've hit the deck over the years. You're right as well regarding the ice. In the mornings I was doubly careful as they were treacherous when ice covered. In order to protect the fragile ground and prevent mud bogs, I guess they're there to stay?
The Overland is becoming a distant memory for me as well! I've done it twice in either direction and parts I liked the most were the open areas out of forest, but there's not much of that from my recollection? Could be wrong though. Oh yeah, Tasmania is full of great hikes. If I can get my leave organised at the right time I'd love to get back down there.
Oh yes, I found my own hip-deep puddle – fortunately more water than mud – crossing a flat to Mt Oakleigh.
Great post Greg! : )
Yes, I've heard the stroll over to Mt Oakleigh is a bit like that. When I was there I remember wishing I had more time. I'd like to have had an extra day at Pelion Hut and spend some time heading up to Mt Oakleigh. Actually, the whole walk had moments like that! Barn Bluff, Ossa were places I'd planned before the walk, but with the snow around, not to be! Maybe one day I can get back and try those places.