Everyone is up and ready to go and we are under way, crunching into the bush by 0740 . We were aiming to be gone by 0700 but it takes a while to shake down routines and I am relaxed about the timetable. After all, as I remind the group, we are not on a military selection course or boot camp. Despite that, I also remind them we need to get away reasonably early so we are not caught at the end of the day walking in the dark. The forest is misty and the light curtain of cloud hangs out of the tall eucalyptus and wraps around the tops of the hills. The lake is murmured by a light breeze that makes the start invigorating but makes it hard to turn the engine over. The only cure for that is to get cracking. We walk into a dark forest and I am relieved that we are under way at last. We have been on the road, and hanging out on a ferry, then driving across Tasmania but not until now is there a sense that the trek is actually happening.
I am pleased Jim has agreed to ‘go point’. In effect he will be our trek master. As the trek leader I will bring up the rear so I know where everyone is and can assist with any one struggling (no one struggled). I appreciate knowing that the person up front is going to manage the pace well and make sensible decisions about the state of the track or about any other challenges that might face us.
I learn that only one in four trekkers complete the whole walk – the majority opt for the ferry to take them the length of Lake St Clair. That was never an option for us and we all were keen to walk the walk. All of it. So today we plug along the side of the lake for seventeen kilometers aiming for Narcissus Hut. We pass through our first beech trees (known as Fagus), the first and most obvious clue being the remarkable little leaves that litter the ground in dense soggy clumps, looking like so very many red sea shells. They are a cushion under our feet but they can be dangerous if they conceal a slippery root or rock. The lake is always on our right shoulder and every now and then we catch glimpses of small beaches framed about by old tree skeletons and ancient rocks. By now the breeze is up. The trees mainly shelter us from it but the water slaps away through the trees and shrubs below us, reminding us the deepest freshwater lake in Australia is keeping us company.
Within the first half hour we have had some spectacular falls but no injuries thankfully. Our new walkers are finding (and losing) their feet, and learning the hard way that surfaces are deceptive. Those trees roots are slippery slick and the boardwalks have fencing netting tacked to them for a reason – those planks are slimy smooth and as adhesive as ice. Stick to the wire netting or run the risk of finding yourself on your back.
I am silenced by the forest. It is magnificent and awful at the same time. My thoughts are taken back to the early histories of this place with convicts unable to find anything to eat in these places if they escaped their prisons. Nothing that is, except each other. The Fagus dominate, their mossy trunks stepping away into the gloom in ranks of centennial veterans watching us closely least we misbehave. I feel they are watching me with dark intent and I find myself looking over my shoulder. Not spooked. Just wary. But it’s not just beech. King Billy pine stops us in our tracks in admiration and the tremendous stringy bark giants wow us with their sturdiness and clean lines and towering crowns. I wonder what it is that attracts the moss to some and not to others. We slosh through fern covered sections of the track, all lined about with moss and decorated by extravagantly coloured fungi that defy description. Every now and then I step onto a beach to admire the lake. The breeze is ice box cold.
We make Echo Point Hut, a small affair that is full of charm and character but which deters many by being full of black rats as well. Still, that did not seem to deter the two lads we met there. They were preparing to depart and their stove was still warm, something we welcomed. They said they had been there for two days, enjoying a bogan break. From Hobart, they had come up to the hut for the weekend. I was not game enough to enquire after what exactly a bogan weekend constituted and waved them goodbye as they scampered off down the track the way we had just come. Another couple who had been resting there for a while pushed on just after we arrived as well. We had lunch and pressed on as well. We had been making good time – arrived at 1115. We checked out just before midday.
We quickly fell back into the line we had formed on the way out of Lake St Clair Lodge and we are soon back to walking our own walk. Our packs are the heaviest they will be for the week and everyone is shaking down into their rhythm. As we squelch along and the rain starts to settle in on us I find myself in a reflective mood. I love the group I am walking with but I think about others who would love this experience and regret that more could not walk with us this time. And of course all of life’s other sagas tend to pile into the quiet, drip, drop, patter of a silent walk up a rain forest track. I console myself in the dark places that I at least do not have to watch out for any Nazgul or hear their voices of death. But the thought prompts some creative ideas – I write and storyboard as I walk along.
As the rain starts a more steady plopping commitment we step out onto open button grass plains and wend the last kilometer through soggy ground to Narcissus Hut, a cosy little place on the banks of the Narcissus Creek. We were the first there and got a fire going in the stove, then loaded the coal briquettes on. It took a while for the flue to draw so the hut was full of smoke in no time flat. A couple then arrived from the north and we made room for them. Another couple arrived as it was heading to dark. A parks guide and a trekker. The latter, a girl, told us this was her first attempt at bush walking. The warmth and cosiness of the hut was clearly attractive to her but the guide was insistent – one we go to the next hut, a two hour trek still. She was less than impressed.
I lay down for a nap (that migraine still lingers) and woke at 1915 to discover all my team in bed and our two recent arrivals at the fire. I chatted with them for a while then they went to bed as well. I check over the notes and maps for tomorrow and review as much of that leg as I can. Jim gets up and we chat for a while but then we are both in our sleeping bags by 2200. I listen to the rising wind and the now steady rain on the roof. Each time I wake during the night the drumbeat of the rain lets up not a single drop. I drift off each time wondering what the track will look like the next day. Should be interesting.
Day 2 Click Here
Day 4 Click Here
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