The lights snap on forty five minutes prior to our arrival and the tannoy announces we will disembark by 0630. Now, what deck was I parked on again? I head downstairs to the car deck just in case I need to be there – better early than late I figure. And just as well, as I am barely in the car and I am asked to start up and exit the deck. Would have been a tad embarrassing to hold everyone up. I swing past the passenger terminal and collect Jim and Kim and their gear, then sit in the carpark as we wait for Chris to exit the boat. We had been ‘sold’ a cooked breakfast by a woman standing at the exit handing out fliers for her little café up the road. In the cold dark of the early morning it seemed like a tough way to market the business but by the time we team up with Chris and drive past her café it has a long queue at the counter. Her marketing seems to have paid off.
We hit the road straight away, aiming for Launceston and arrive there an hour later. On the way in I received a message that there has been a snafu with McGee’s connecting flight and instead of arriving at 0920 he will be landing at 1300. I worry about what impact that will have on our logistics support. Paul has said he would prefer not to be driving at night to and/or from Lake St Clair. Will a 1400 departure from his place jeopardise my planning and push us a day out? I have already lost a day by agreeing to walk from south to north rather than north to south. The argument behind this suggestion is that the road from the south is not always clear in winter, but the road into Cradle Mountain is snow ploughed almost daily. If we walk from north to south we stand a risk of being stranded at Lake St Clair with no way to get back to the ferry connection and home. I call Paul and am delighted to hear he is very relaxed about the amended start time. He was more concerned about my plans but I assured him we were staying in a back packers that evening and starting our walk the next day. So we are both relaxed about the late start. But we agree to get up to his place and we will pick up McGee on our way through to Lake St Clair.
In the meantime we stop in a chilly Launceston as the shops are starting to open. Jim picks up some fresh food from Coles and the rest of us have something hot to drink at a bakery. For reasons unknown to me a migraine has snuck up on me during the trip down from Devonport so I am pleased when a pharmacy finally opens and I can get my hands on some drugs. I should have packed some. There you go.
Paul lives fifteen kilometres out of Launceston and we take a picturesque drive out to his place where we leave our vehicles, drop packs into his trailer and are then taken to the airport. McGee is waiting for us so the team is complete. I get to him first and assure him that he should not take any ribbing to heart – I am genuinely pleased to see him and am not concerned about the delay he has caused us. Then the rest of the crew piled in on him and, to the consternation of some of the arriving airline passengers, proceeded to rumble him. It’s all in good humour and no one seems rattled by the amended plans. Paul is certainly relaxed.
Paul gets cracking and we drive to Lake St Clair and arrive just on dark – even though it’s actually just gone 1630. Paul is pleased there is no ice on the road but wants to get going before the evening cools further and potentially makes the road hazardous. Our hosts are an Asian couple and have stayed open to cook us dinner if we wish. We wish. So we check into the backpackers and head down to the lodge for dinner.
We celebrated Dylan’s birthday this evening. Even though his brother had purchased a cake in Launceston it was left in the car at Paul’s place so our host kindly placed a candle in Dylan’s dessert and we sang happy birthday. It’s hard to believe that we are twelve months down since we celebrated his previous birthday in Nepal, with a chocolate soup of some sort. The Nepalese cook finally confessed he had no idea what we meant by ‘cake’. But these hosts were happy to help and seemed to enjoy our festive moment as much as we. One of them is from Sarawak and the other from Sumatra. They have been here a little less than six months and confess to being very cold. I am hardly surprised.
We wander back to the cabin in the dark and through a light mist of rain that will no doubt be a hint of things to come. The place is silent save for the crunch of our feet in the gravel. Tall eucalypts loom over us and enclose us all about in a somber curtain of wood and leaves as we wander back to our rooms in the cold, misty air. We are greeted by some very cheeky and very fat possums that are not at all perturbed by our presence and patrol the veranda in case there are any tidbits on offer. We keep our discipline and refrain from feeding them. Our community kitchen is home to a walker who has just completed the track by himself. He seems pretty content to park here in the warmth, read and get stuck into a bottle of red wine. Two Asian girls cook up noodles for dinner and seem to prefer to keep to themselves. That’s okay, we are all ready for bed and want to head off to our rooms anyway.
There is a slight readjustment of packs and equipment before we settle down for the night. I discover I have brought along the wrong pack cover. I jury rig a compromise and hope this is the only equipment failure or shortcoming. Quite apart from a very frustrating shut down of the camera which refuses to work. No library of pictures from me this time around.
I am not yet on the track even though so far the plan has clicked into place nicely. Only once I am walking will I feel like we have this thing under way. But I am now turning my mind to each of the trekkers. Will they be physically up to the challenge? I think they all will be. I watched the new trekkers on the check walk a couple of weeks ago and all seemed fine. Will they handle the mental challenge? That is harder to measure and only time on the track will tell. I hope I don’t find myself having to push anyone to finish the walk. That can take the shine off an expedition. I drop off to sleep wondering these things and looking forward to the morning.
Day 3 Click Here
Day 1 Click Here