Mac and Cheese and Monotremes

Picture of hut.

The Du Cane Hut.

Missed the earlier sections? Here they are:
[Planning] [Day 1] [Days 2 - 4]

January 18, 2015
Day 185
Overland Track Day 5

This was to be my longest day on the Overland Track. My original plan after reaching the end of the trail was to hitch a ride to Devonport, but after learning that a serial killer named Ivan Milat had single-handedly ruined hitchhiking throughout Australia, I figured a bus would be a safer bet. The next bus to Devonport was due to leave tomorrow afternoon; the next one after that wasn't for several more days. If I wanted to catch tomorrow's bus, I would have to hike two sections today.

Even though I was in a hurry, I didn't leave the hut until 8:00. It was still pouring rain, and I just couldn't motivate myself to get an early start. Luckily, the rain slowed to a drizzle shortly after I started walking. Despite the continued precipitation, I was drier than I had been in five days on the trail.

Before long I reached the Du Cane Hut, built by a bushman named Paddy Hartnett in 1910. It was smaller than the modern huts, but otherwise quite similar. The biggest differences were the wood-burning fireplace (superior to the broken gas heater at the Kia Ora Hut) and the beds that were tilted slightly upward to prevent their occupants from falling out. (Nowadays, hut-builders seemed to prefer flat beds and guardrails.) The rain stopped during my short break. The clouds even began to disperse. I hoped this fortunate weather would last.

Continuing on the trail, I reached the turnoff for two short side trips to waterfalls. I picked Fergusson Falls first, and because of the excessive rain, it was really cranking. The path near the waterfall was getting a slippery shower, so I almost wasn't even able to follow it. D'Alton was completely inaccessible. The small stream that normally crossed the path had turned into a debris-laden river. It would be far too easy to get trapped in the current if I attempted to ford it, so I headed back to the main trail.

A while later, I took another side trail, this time to Hartnett Falls. The top of the waterfall was huge, overflowing into the forest and crashing at some unseen spot below. Bob, Simon and Craig caught up with me and together, we searched for a route to the bottom. Eventually we made it to the river, and we could see where the path normally would lead up to the falls, but today it was totally submerged. We settled for a few pictures from afar and headed back to the main trail.

Picture of Mushrooms.

'Shrooms next to the trail.

The path at this point was still full of mud and puddles, with scant duckwood to make it easier for hikers. When the path got too muddy, people trampled the vegetation around the edges, which soon became muddy as well. At times the trail was a six-foot-wide muddy hole. Given the frigid weather I had experienced during summer, it might sound crazy to attempt this trek in winter, but at least the mud would be frozen.

I made it to the Bert Nichols Hut at 1:00 PM. It was modern and huge, easily big enough to accommodate the wave of thirty hikers that would soon start flowing into it. I had to continue to the next hut, which would likely also have thirty occupants. But that hut's capacity was only twenty. Still, as long as rain didn't return, I wouldn't mind sleeping in my tent. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and an energy bar for lunch, and headed out.

The next section of trail was mostly flat, but the muddy ground still made it difficult. Eventually, I gave up: instead of searching for routes around the giant puddles, I simply walked through them. I was resigned to the fact that my feet wouldn't get dry until I was back in Devonport.

I arrived at the Narcissus Hut late in the afternoon. Only eleven others were staying there, a pleasant surprise. All of them were Australian, including a group of eight that had converged from all over the country for the trek, and three locals. Apparently, the reason this hut wasn't crowded was because most people skipped the final section, and opted instead to take a ferry across Lake Saint Clair.

At dusk a bunch of us walked to a river that fed into the lake to look for platypuses. The monotremes are are quite shy, making them difficult to sight. Lucky for me, a couple of people in the group had binoculars, and keen eyesight. They pointed at a distant, solitary platypus as it came up for air. It sank back into the water a few seconds later, and it didn't show itself to us again. Still, I'll count it.

The Narcissus Hut had a coal heater, so it was toasty warm. Tonight would be my first realistic chance to get my clothes dried. I ate a box of macaroni and cheese for dinner; the only other food I had left was oatmeal, energy bars and several packages of ramen noodles. My backpack had been getting lighter as I ate my food, but heavier as more of my gear got wet. Still, with a set of (hopefully) dry clothing, and an apparent end to the rain, I was in good spirits heading into my final day on the trail.

Continue to Day 6

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