Hiking the Overland Track – Day 6: Windy Ridge to Narcissus

Last day of the walk. I approached it with nothing but dread and grim determination. Which felt wrong. The climbs were over. This was supposed to be the easy bit – 9km of “gradual easy descent to Narcissus hut through eucalypt forest and across buttongrass plains”. But even jamming my feet into my still damp boots hurt. Nonetheless, I had set off early, before the others, to give myself additional time to gimp to the finish line to catch our ferry back to the visitors centre.

Then the painkillers that John shoved into my hand back at the hut kicked in. And magically, the throbbing pain ebbed. I felt like I was flying across the mud and tree roots now. Thoughts of the pilgrim faded, and I started to pay attention to the sounds of the forest again. The crunch of the odd pademelon grazing its way in the underbrush. The cries of the wattlebird and screeches of the currawong. The rustle of leaves in the wind, and the gurgling creek along the trail. I caught up with two different pairs of hikers, our trail companions from the first day, chatted with them for a bit, then left them behind in my bid to keep up my pace before the magic died. It was glorious. The dolerite columns of the Acropolis, the star peak of the Du Cane Range, loomed to my right the whole time, half shrouded in clouds.

That last kilometer felt bittersweet. The painkillers were starting to wear off by then, but I felt with more pills, I could easily go on for another day. That said, the promise of a cold, sweaty beer and hot showers was enticing. Very enticing.

day-6-overland-track1
Where the trail ends – Overland Track

 

 

The ferry - a sight for sore eyes
The ferry – a sight for sore eyes

Now that the pain of the blisters have faded and I hold the antidote to my knee troubles, the entire trail seemed a blast. Our hiking companions – my brother, sister-in-law, and John – were the best anyone could have: fantastic company, so helpful and supportive throughout.

I can’t believe we didn’t attempt a self-sufficient multi-day hike sooner. Our appetite has been whet: new trekking bucket list. But first up, Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest point, at the end of the month!

Walk Notes:

Distance: 9km
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Gradual, easy decent to Narcissus through eucalypt forest and across buttongrass plains.
Track Surface: Almost entirely natural surface through the forest (gravel/tree root base), with duckboard over the buttongrass plains.
Warning: If you are catching the ferry back to Cynthia Bay, re-confirm your booking using the ferry radio in Narcissus Hut.

Whether you’re finishing your walk at Narcissus, or continuing on foot to Cynthia Bay, either way, there’s no more uphill! It’s a gentle walk down the glacier’s path to Narcissus Hut beside Lake St Clair. Relax and enjoy your final hours of walking.

Aside from pockets of wet forest beside creeks, you’ll be walking in an environment most Australians are more familiar with – amongst tall eucalypts and fragrant heath shrubs, surrounded by birdsong and scurrying skinks, and perhaps even an occasional snake on warmer days.

About halfway to Narcissus, is the track junction to Pine Valley Hut. The hut is a popular spot for Tasmanian bushwalkers who journey up from Lake St Clair and use it as a base to explore the Du Cane Range.

As you near Narcissus River, the dolerite columns of Mount Olympus form a dramatic backdrop to the golden glow of buttongrass moorland. The comfortable duckboard track, which protects the boggy peat soils, is a welcome change, allowing you to stroll along, savouring the view, instead of constantly watching your feet. Crossing the Narcissus River is exciting – it’s the only suspension bridge on the Overland Track.

A little further on, you’ll find the small and rustic Narcissus Hut on the banks of the Narcissus River. If you intend to catch the ferry down Lake St Clair, confirm your ferry booking using the hut radio. And a little further on again, is the jetty where the ferry will collect you – and where you can FINALLY take off your pack and your boots and celebrate your remarkable achievement!

On arrival at Cynthia Bay, remember to sign out/de-register your walk and write some reflections in the walkers’ journal of your extraordinary journey on one of the world’s most famous long-distance walks in the heart of Tasmania’s magnificent world heritage area.

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