The first day involves the most elevation gained on the whole Overland Track, and it is considered to be its most difficult section. Starting with a walk across button grass plains, the trail turns into a steady ascent before becoming a steep climb to Marions Lookout for panoramic views. From there, the trail is descending into Waterfall Valley and its hut.
The night was rather short and agitated in anticipation of the Overland Track and the Tasmanian wilderness. Early morning, the chartered Tasmania Wilderness minibus dropped us off at the Cradle Mountain visitor centre. After registering and obtaining our Overland Track Permits, we quickly made the last-minute gear check when Errol found out that he has forgot his polar fleece jacket in the minibus… Luckily, the souvenir shop sells some hiking gear.
With his newly acquired jacket in hand with “Cradle Mountain” proudly on display, we jumped on the shuttle to Ronny Creek, where the Overland Track officially starts from. Having already done the Overland Track twice, this time our friends decided to join us by the end of the Overland Track by hiking from the Walls of Jerusalem via the Never Never.
With the logbook signed at Ronny Creek, we set off towards the unknown. We passed Crater Falls and glacially-carved Crater Lake before beginning the steep chain-assisted climb on the rocky path to Marions Lookout (1’250m). The very steep climb looked more like an Everest ascent with our backpacks, which were the heaviest to carry for the entire track. But we were soon rewarded with panoramic views of Cradle Mountain’s craggy peaks and Dove Lake.
It was midday, and the light was too harsh for taking photos. Exhausted, I was even secretly glad that there wasn’t much temptation to run around looking for different angles for photos. It would have been much different if we had low moving clouds giving the landscape mysterious moods…
But there was no sign of our hut. We kept walking. Still no hut. All of a sudden, a short-beaked echidna
We continued walking around the base of Cradle Mountain, through Kitchen Hut and the rocky ground shaped by glaciation, known as the Cradle Cirque, before descending into Waterfall Valley and its hut. From here, Barn Bluff on the horizon started to dominate the views. The walk across button grass moorlands and alpine meadows was mainly on wooden boards erected to protect the nature and making hiking easier, especially under the rain.
But there was no sign of our hut. We kept walking. Still no hut. All of a sudden, a short-beaked echidna decided to cross the track barely a meter from us. Our first real echidna! Errol tried to give him a cuddle but apparently, the perspective to being touched by a stranger didn’t appear too appealing to this spiky animal.
We started our descent to Waterfall Valley Hut on the steps, which have deteriorated into something barely resembling the man-made path. With slippery wet rocks, we concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and our descent was extremely slow. Our backpacks felt like it’s full of bricks. By the time we dropped them in the hut, with our legs wobbly jelly, we were about to collapse. We were exhausted and ravenous. “Why we are spending our holidays doing this?” the only question was popping in our head.
The first day of walking from Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut was the hardest, mentally and physically. There is no camping allowed before you reach the hut, so you must keep going. We planned to pitch our tent but we had absolutely no energy. After having enjoyed the novelty of dehydrated food, which wore off rather quickly, we drifted into sleep to snoring sounds by a few bushwalkers.
It turned out it was the first and the last time we slept in a hut. We developed a liking sleeping in our small tent compared to spending a night in the huts’ dormitories festooned with smelly, wet socks of twenty + loudly snoring fellow bushwalkers.
Overland Track: Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Day 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut
Day 2: Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Hut
Day 3: Windermere Hut to Frog Flats
Day 4: Frog Flats to Kia Ora Hut through New Pelion Hut
Day 5: Kia Ora Hut to Bert Nichols Hut at Windy Ridge
Day 6: Bert Nichols Hut to Pine Valley Hut
Day 7: Pine Valley Hut to Narcissus Hut
Day 8: Narcissus Hut to Lake St Clair visitor centre
Distance: 10.7 km, walking time: 4-6 hrs
Side trips from Waterfall Valley Hut:
• Barn Bluff (1’559m), Tasmania’s 4th highest mountain. Return trip from the junction: 7 km, 3-4 hrs. Challenging climb with very steep and exposed sections, for very experienced walkers.
• Cradle Mountain (1’545m). Return trip from the junction: 2 km, 2-3 hrs. Rather difficult climb with very steep sections, some requiring the help of hands.
For more information, please refer to Overland Track Practical Information.