Hiking the Overland Track – Day 5: Kia Ora to Windy Ridge

I was hobbling. Fresh blisters were now forming on the inner sides of both my heels, joining the blisters that had engulfed my big toe and two pinkie toes. My pace had slowed to a crawl, and stopping for breaks meant painful restarts, so I just grimly plowed on.

The tale of the pilgrim who walked the Overland Track was foremost on my mind, as I gingerly placed one foot in front of the other, trying not to steal glances at my watch. The hut wardens at our first campsite, Waterfall Valley Hut, had told us about him, this religious dude in robes, walking the track barefoot, leaving bloody footprints along the way. Did he see God, we wondered. Well, he must have been saying Jesus! with every other step he took, we joked.

Who would willingly seek out such pain? Was the pain worth it for him in the end? And yet, here I was too, grimacing every time I put my foot down on a tree root. Fun was 5km ago, the side trip down to Hartnett Falls where we freshened up in the brisk waters. Now the heat and the mud were wearing me down.

Our fellow hikers chilling out on the viewing platform at Bert Nichols Hut, waiting for the sunset over the Acropolis
Our fellow hikers chilling out on the viewing platform at Bert Nichols Hut, waiting for the sunset over the Acropolis

 

Sun sets over the Acropolis
Sun sets over the Acropolis

Walk notes:

Distance: 9.6km
Time: 3.5-4.5 hours
Terrain: Undulating, with gradual ascent and descent over Du Cane Gap. Mainly rainforest walking.
Track Surface: Almost entirely natural surface (with tree root, gravel, rock or mud base), with some small amounts of cordwood and duckboard.
Warning: If visiting the falls, parts of the track are slippery and pass very close to the cliff edge.

Today is rainforest and waterfall day. Initially the track passes through buttongrass, but soon you’ll be immersed in rainforest as you skirt the lower slopes of Castle Crag. Below you, unseen from the main track, the Mersey River crashes through chasms and plunges over cliffs.

About an hour into the walk, you’ll break out of the forest into a small clearing, where you’ll find Du Cane Hut, built in 1910 by Paddy Hartnett, a snarer, miner and bushman. You’re welcome to take a look inside, but its overnight use is only permitted in emergencies.

A little further on, you’ll come to the track junction marking the first side trip down to see D’Alton and Fergusson Falls – the latter named after Ranger “Fergy” – the first ranger in the south end of the park. Hartnett Falls – the tallest of the three – is a little further on, off another track junction. You can leave your pack at the track junctions to explore the falls. They’re all well worth a visit.

Back on the main track, you’ll swing west and begin a gradual climb to Du Cane Gap – the saddle between the Traveller Range and the Du Cane Range. When you cross over the gap and start a steep descent, you’ll be entering the bowl-like cirque of the Du Cane Range, sculpted by glaciers thousands of years ago.

Once the canopy starts to open out and eucalypts begin to appear, you’re close to camp: Windy Ridge and Bert Nichols Hut – a stunning location almost totally encircled by the spectacular Du Cane Range

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