We woke up to bodies everywhere, the morning was sleeting rain, very cold with a small but biting wind. There were people everywhere doing things, eating, cleaning teeth, drying clothes, getting prepped for walking, bandaging up injuries, the list goes on and on. I was cold and raring to go this morning but Simon and Sam were dawdling a bit so I made a head start on them and took a leisurely approach letting them catch up half an hour or so later.
Today’s walk would take us from ‘Kia Ora Hut’ rising up and out of one valley at ‘Du Cane Gap’ (1070m) and back down through the final valley we would be traveling to Narcissus Hut which is on the very northern tip of ‘Lake St Clair’. Once at ‘Du Cane Gap’ there would be no more ascents for the rest of the trip.
The walk up to the gap was an interesting one with some links to the ancient past and the not so ancient. The rainforests of this area have two species of pine. The ‘Celery Top Pine’ (Phyllocladus aspenifolius) and ‘King Billy Pine’ (Athrotaxis selaginoides). Both these trees have their links back to ‘Pangaea’ (Greek for ‘all lands’) that separated into ‘Laurasia’ that moved north and ‘Gondwana’ that moved south around 300 million years ago. Unfortunately for these species they evolved in a landscape where fire was much less common than today, therefore have an inability to cope with fire. Increased wildfires, drier warmer climates and European settlement have taken a heavy toll on these species but they still survive on this wonderful piece of track. The other interesting thing is the ‘Du Cane Hut’, built in 1910 by Paddy Harnett, a snarer, miner and bushman. This hut was supported with the help of some cables but was still a little cock-eyed when you were inside. Was still very interesting when comparing to today’s modern huts. It did have a big open fire place which would be very welcoming on a cold night (which I believe there is nothing but here).
We traveled on past Fergy’s Memorial marker. Albert Dundas Fergusson (known as Fergy), was a ranger, ferry boat captain and tourist camp operator at Lake St Clair during the 1930s (Interestingly he couldn’t swim). Then up and over ‘Du Cane Gap’ towards ‘Windy Ridge’ to the Bert Nichols Hut where we planned to stop for lunch.
The ‘Burt Nichols Hut’ gave us no warning, it was just there. It was absolutely massive, obviously renovated from the 24 person cabin we had read about in our walking notes. It had numerous rooms and a huge dinning area that even sported some metel-work art on the ceiling. This was the hut that Simon had wanted to go to yesterday but we had told him it would be no different to ‘Kia Ora Hut’. He had his moment of glory at being right, we had our lunch, gazed at the incredible view of the ‘Acropolis’ (which you can see in the background above) and started to make our way down towards the final part of today’s journey. The day completely turned from this point on with the sun coming out, it was actually difficult to believe how cold it was in the morning (a bit like Day 2). We were all in pretty good spirits, we had achieved 80% of our goals, it was warm, it was down hill, we were feeling strong and a shower, warm bed, proper food and a beer or two were only a day away.
The track followed the Narcissus River and the closer we got to ‘Lake St Clair’ the bigger the river got. This area was once logged and if you look hard you can still see the ghosts of the past but most of the area has completely returned to bushland. It was actually rather disappointing as we closed in on the Narcissus Hut that suddenly Sam and Simon’s phone started beeping with messages (I didn’t take mine), it was something we had all completely forgotten about for awhile and seemed out of place. The river gradually widened as we walked and we crossed a rather impressive suspension bridge (well it looked impressive but only had a, piss-weak, 1 person limit).
We arrived at our destination mid afternoon and had the place completely to ourselves, for a while anyway . There is a CB radio at this hut to contact the ferry which goes back to the Visitors Centre. We planned to walk the final distance along the lake the next day. Only one other group stayed with us this evening and they were the same group who we initially set out with. It was a fun evening, we had room to spread out and we all shared what food we had left as we wouldn’t be needing it by tomorrow night. I must say that I was dreaming of all the awesome food I was going to consume the following evening. Please join me for our final days adventure next time.