Penguin Cradle Trail Day Two, Five and Six?

Date: Tuesday, January 6th 2015…and the rest. 

Ah, the PCT. I woke to the sound of the creek babbling away and the echidna doing more laps while I ate my porridge. Then I packed up camp and got away reasonably early. It was a hot day, and I was already sweating before I even got the tent packed up, so I knew it was going to be a touch day. Especially since I had a mountain to climb and was not sure water would be flowing so I was carrying a lot of extra water weight. Being from Darwin, mountain takes on a bit of a different meaning. What a Tasmanian thinks of as a vague incline, I think of more like Olympus. This is the only conclusion I can come to having done day two of the PCT.

I had met with a very generous member of the North West Walker’s Club to discuss the walk before leaving, as having read all the notes I was a tad concerned I might die. So I had met and discussed and was reassured. I’d been told the ferns had been cut back six months ago which was music to my ears as most of the reviews I had read talked about the hellish ferns and the impossibility of finding the path. So I set off with the vague notion the path would be easy to follow.

AHAHHAHHAHAHHAHAAAA. These thoughts. So stupid.

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Okay, so maybe I was still a little dubious. I don’t have a lot of photos from here on…mostly because the path was so rough that I was too busy swearing, kicking, hitting and bumbling my way along to even remember I had my phone on me.

The ferns are hellish. There were already shoulder high, completely covering the track. The only way to follow the track was search the trees for orange markers and walk in that direction. There were felled trees every 50 metres or so that were only passable by taking my pack off, shoving it under and crawling out behind it. This endless act of taking pack off, pushing, crawling and hauling it back on wore me out quickly. And all the while the path is going uphill; up a very steep hill! It’s a mountain afterall. I think it’s mount lorymer, if memory serves. I did eventually get to the top, by 8am even, and even had reception (the first time on the track), so I sat and had a snack, rang home to say hi and tried to convince my legs they could still function, knowing I wasn’t even a third of the way done for the day. How people combine day one and two I do not know. Maybe they do a food drop at Wings Wildlife, but with 8 days food in my pack this was hell.

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The view was great. Unfortunately, it’s misleading and it wasn’t the top at all! So I carried on, over little creeks and through sections of vehicle track and forest until finally I found this:

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Which I was led to believe was the halfway point for the day. HALFWAY? KILL ME NOW! Jk. I was feeling pretty good by this point, actually. I had passed Mount Lorymer and oddly thought it could get no worse. AHAHHAHAHAHAHAA. Retrospect is so great. You can laugh at yourself, knowing at the time you were so pleased with yourself. HAHAHAHHAHAAA.

I descended into fern hell. Literally, all I could see was ferns. I had to push them away from my head to try and spot the track markers. It was slow going, and it was here that I first started to worry about snakes.

Now is when I should say there are three types of poisonous snake in Tasmania, and no other kind of snake at all. And the master of these three is the Tiger Snake. I do not like snakes. I definitely do not like tiger snakes. This hike is why.

So anyway, I finally emerged from the fern hell to find a lovely creek to sit at for lunch…

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It really was beautiful, but I was a little stuffed, as you can see here (Drenched in sweat, flushed cheeks, dark circles under the eyes, stupid grin…not so different from normal I know, but still):

10433787_10153597052138289_7237063499028322958_nBut, I knew there wasn’t much further to go. I mean, there couldn’t be, right? Today was only another 10km, right? Honestly, I had no clue, I hadn’t bothered to read the detailed notes for the day and by this point I figured just putting one foot in front of the other was a good idea. There are signs at the top of both ends of the ravine that leads to this lovely creek warning about how steep it is down and up the other side. You know how most signs are written for morons, and over-exaggerate just how bad something is, so that later that one moron who stuffs up can’t sue anyone? Well, Tasmania doesn’t have signs like that. If they say its steep, they’re just telling it how it is. If they say something is going to take 4 hours, it’s probably because it takes four hours. I kind of didn’t want to leave the creek, because I’d just walked down that seriously steep little nightmare, and I just plain didn’t want to walk back up it. Still, I got up, and it didn’t really take that long to get back to the top. But it was steep, and it did hurt, and it did take the time they say on the sign. So there.

I was so tired that I made the ultimate mistake. Another felled tree frustrated me so much at the crest of the next hill that I decided to go over it instead of under. So over I went. That part of my decision was actually for the best. Really. It was the not looking at where I was going that was stupid. And my boot landed on a tiger snake. I mean ON the damn snake, trapping it under my foot while I was stuck straddling the tree. This of course meant that snakey had no option but to strike at my boot. Which he did with gusto. He did it so well his tooth got stuck in the toe, which was a little fortuitous as it gave me time to get over the damn tree and then freeze, freaking out over what to do with a tiger snake stuck on my damn shoe.

Let me tell you, I am yet to find one book on hiking that tells you what to do when you have a poisonous snake fixed to your clothing. Not one. Find me one, seriously. I want to read it!

Eventually, it freed itself, took another go at my gaiter, and then slunk off into the bushes. I sat on the tree and cried with relief, checking my gaiters and shoes for holes but it hadn’t gotten through. While doing this I had my first real epiphany.

NEVER HIKE WITHOUT A PLB. There I was, two days from the nearest town, with no mobile reception, no PLB and I hadn’t seen a single person since I left Penguin. Had the snake bitten me I would have been a very stinky corpse before anyone ever knew what became of me. So there you have it, take a PLB. The other lesson learned?

WEAR GAITERS! OMG I LOVE MY GAITERS. Seriously, I take them everywhere now. I’m scarred for life. My gaiters are my best friend. If I have to choose between taking my boyfriend (who lets face it can carry most of the gear so I dont have to) or my gaiters, I’m taking the gaiters. Hell, if my gaiters aren’t going, I’m not going. So there.

Eventually I picked myself up and staggered past the pine plantation and down to the road. I damn near jumped the stile in my glee to be free from snakeland. I ran all the way down the road to Wings Wildlife Park where I had booked a room for the night.

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Wings is lovely, but the people are a little slow to offer any kind of assistance. This is actually pretty common in Tasmania. I think its manners; if you don’t ask, they won’t offer. But if you ask, they’ll do whatever they can. So suck up some courage and ask when you need it.  You also won’t get mobile reception there 🙁

Unfortunately, the next day it poured rain, and I was worried about the next section of track through the Leven River. I knew parts of the track were degraded, the rope was out of commission, and I was concerned about rising water etc etc…I was also petrified of tiger snakes.

Also, my kindle had died. Seriously, dead. So I called my new friend from the Walkers Club and begged a ride out. He dropped me off in Ulverstone, and the next day I caught a bus to Devonport. Devonport is so pretty, looks something like this:

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Seriously, I could easily have spent longer here. I even got to see the Spirit of Tasmania leave:

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But by this point I was eager to get back to walking, and I was disappointed I had missed so much of the PCT. So I got a bus to Cradle Mountain, and dumped most of my stuff at Discovery Holiday Park before heading off again, on the PCT, from the opposite end. I don’t know what I expected to find.

The track looks like much of the Cradle Mountain area, and I was in good spirits again. I had a new kindle, after all!

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Sadly, Fourways is poorly named. It’s nickname is MUCH more appropriate; Leech Valley. The area was quite wet when I got there, and covered in leeches. You could see them crawling around all over the place. I was tempted to continue on past Fourways, as I really, really wanted to stay at Paddy’s Lake, but I was unsure of what the weather would do tomorrow, and again everyone says Mount Beecroft is not somewhere you want to be when the weather turns, so I headed back a ways from Fourways to camp and headed back to Cradle Mountain the following day.

All up I only spent 4 days on the PCT. It’s enough to know I need to go back and fill in the bit I didn’t see. It’s a great track; a nice challenge in parts, and others that are just a gorgeous walk. Really, really great!!!

I also can’t speak highly enough of Greg from the North West Walkers Club. Way to help a lonely girl out; you are my new hero!