Hiking the Overland Track – Day 2: Waterfall Valley to Lake Windemere

The winds and rain assailed us for most of the night, dying down only at daybreak. When I no longer heard the rustling of the winds and only the call of birds, I poked my head out of my tent, to stare right into the face of a calmly grazing pademelon. It paid me little heed, turning its behind at me when I ventured out.

It was still somewhat drizzly, so we took our time getting ready, making coffee and muesli in the hut. After all, it was a short hike that day; no sense in rushing out in the damp weather.

At 1030am, we finally pushed off from camp. It had stopped raining, but a thick fog obscured the top of Barn Bluff; no point attempting to summit. We passed the short optional side trip to Lake Will, but still the fog refused to lift, so we continued on. Ah well. There is a certain beauty at least in walking in the thick mist.


Happily, so happily, the clouds began to break just as we approached Lake Windemere. Against all hope, we watched the mist lift off, and the boys took the opportunity to take a brisk dip in the waters.

We were all of an accord: the Lake Windemere campsite is simply the most picturesque of all campgrounds we’ve been to. I mean, look at that view of Barn Bluff. We were quite content to set up camp on one of the many wooden platforms, and lie back to soak in the sun, warm up over a cup of hot tea, and enjoy the view.

Overland Track - Lake Windemere Campsite (photo by Jingyi Tan)
Overland Track – Lake Windemere Campsite (photo by Jingyi Tan)

 

Hello the last day of 2016. If not for the bottle of Silver Patrón John had lovingly lugged along on the trail, and which we were eagerly looking forward to tasting, I think honestly that 2016 might just have slipped us by. Already, we were having trouble remembering what day of the week it was. That felt pretty liberating actually. We were cut off from the rest of the world, and our concerns were restricted to just the immediate: filling our tummies with hot food, battling away the mosquitoes and sandflies, keeping warm and dry.

In any case, our tent neighbors were prepared. A group of eight friends from Sydney, they soon drew us in for games of cards, and then as the sun dipped below the horizon, some sparklers fun. Happy new year; it was at least new years already in Fiji anyway.

Happy new year from the Overland Track
Happy new year from the Overland Track

Walk notes:

– Distance: 7.8km
– Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
– Terrain: Undulating over the buttongrass plains, heathlands, alpine lakes and tarns.
– Track Surface: Natural surface (rock, gravel), planking, duckboard and cordwood.
– Warning: A short section of the walk, between Lake Will and Lake Windermere,
is very exposed. In wet, windy or snowy weather, wear wind and waterproof clothing.
Eat and drink regularly to maintain salt and sugar levels.

Compared with the previous day’s big climb up to Marions Lookout and across the highest part of the Overland Track, the walk to Lake Windermere is relatively flat and leisurely – but still above 1000 metres in elevation.

In the first half hour you’ll walk through heathland and alpine gums as you skirt the rim of the spectacular Waterfall Valley cirque. After rain, you can hear several waterfalls far below. About an hour down the track you’ll reach the junction to Lake Will. This is a popular side trip, where many people choose to lunch on the lake’s shore, beneath the backdrop of Barn Bluff.

From Lake Will to Lake Windermere you’ll feel on top of the world as you travel high across the plateau. In clear weather there are expansive views to the east and west of the tarn-studded alpine moors. As you approach Lake Windermere, climb the small knoll for views down to the lake.

Windermere Hut is just beyond the lake, at the edge of a myrtle forest. Tent platforms are located either side of the hut, amongst gnarly snow peppermints and graceful pandanis, with Lake Windermere visible in the distance. Enjoy a refreshing mountain lake swim on arrival. No camping at the lake please.

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