Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Overland Track (TAS) - Echo Point to Cynthia Bay


The final day of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, the last 10 kilometres of the track departs Echo Point to skirt the edge of Lake St Clair as it heads towards Cynthia Bay. Passing through impressive rainforest before transitioning to Eucalypt woodlands, the track ends at the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre and the Overland Track's southern trailhead. The nearby Pumphouse Point offers a luxurious end to a great hike.

Distance: 10.1 km
Gradient: Very gentle over the entire day due to very little change in elevation.
Quality of Path: Mostly Clear and largely well maintained, but muddy and tangled in roots. Some slightly overgrown sections.
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with red painted markers to guide the way through the rainforest along Lake St Clair. 
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 3 Hours
Steps: Few steps, though the ground for much of the walk is very uneven.
Best Time to Visit: Spring-Autumn
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply and an Overland Pass is required to walk the entire track during the hiking season
Getting There: Echo Point can be accessed from Lake St Clair by either taking the ferry or following the Overland Track from the Cynthia Bay trailhead. Lake St Clair is at the end of Lake St Clair Rd, off Lyell Hwy.



With so many hot days during the middle of our Overland Track hike (especially on Mt Ossa day), Alissa and I had been longing for the rainy weather that Tasmania is famous for. Waking up in Echo Point hut, Alissa and I could hear a gentle drizzle outside, and a quick excursion out onto the jetty revealed a cloudy and moody scene on Lake St Clair. Doing our best not to make too much noise, Alissa and I ate breakfast and packed our bags for the last time - in just over 10 kilometres, our Overland Track adventure would be coming to its end. We said our goodbyes to Mary, and headed out for the rainiest walking of our entire trip.



Since it was slightly warm Alissa and I resisted putting on our raincoats as we would just get hot and sweaty underneath. To begin with, it was little more than a light drizzle anyway, and it allowed the beautiful rainforest to really live up to its name.



Although we had seen some ferns heading towards New Pelion from Frog Flats, ferns had been conspicuously scarce on the Overland Track. We were thus very impressed to see giant Mother Shieldferns along this section of track. There were some seriously negative consequences to these ferns however, as brushing past them got us drenched. Worse still, the rain had brought out the leeches, and although I miraculously escaped getting bitten by the bloodsuckers, Alissa had at least three fall on her from the ferns and overhanging branches.



At one point, a fallen tree proved to be a significant obstacle in the middle of the path, with the rain making it very slippery to climb over. In a bit of a flashback to our Bibbulmun Track journey from Boarding House to Beavis (albeit on a much smaller scale), we climbed around to the top of the tree and walked around the obstacle. Seconds after this photo was taken, Alissa slipped on the muddy soil and snapped her trekking pole. Being her second snapped pole in the year, we've agreed that cheap sticks are definitely the way to go for her!



The track crosses several pretty streams, with many featuring well constructed boardwalks over them, and we soon lost count of how many we crossed.



Rarer were clear vantage points from which to view Lake St Clair itself, however the grey clouds and fog meant the visibility was very poor anyway. The rain had gotten heavier around this point, and the humidity caused my camera to repeatedly fog up. Although I had a clean cloth to wipe the lens, this was increasingly frustrating and resulted in a considerable drop in image quality later along the walk.



Nearer to Echo Point, the forest is mostly Myrtle Beech, however Sassafras and pines became more prevalent as we continued along.



Just over two hours in, a dip in the track signalled a major transition point -  just after the dip Alissa and I emerged out of the dense rainforest into Eucalypt woodlands.



At this point the camera fogged terribly, and I did the best I could to wipe the lens clean. In the end, I was left with a light smudge in the bottom right of the lens that I couldn't get rid off and would remain in place until we got to the end of the track.





Having seen only rustic wooden signs for most of the walk, the appearance of blue painted signage pointing towards the visitor centre got us pretty excited - the end was not far now!



 The track crosses a bridge at a place called Watersmeet, a point where the Hugel and Cuvier Rivers join together before feeding into Lake St Clair.



The river view from the bridge was impressive, and would be a major feature of this section of the track for day hikers.



From Watersmeet, the track becomes compacted and sealed - the kind of 'luxury' hard surface we'd not seen for over a week! Leading off from the track was a spur to Fergy's Paddock, a camping site available for Overland Track hikers. Alissa and I had toyed with the idea of powering through from Pine Valley all the way to Cynthia Bay and would have had to stay at this campsite had we done so. Hearing from other hikers that Fergy's Paddock was a hellishly muddy puddle made us glad that we had stayed at Echo Point instead!



Passing by a series of brown ranger's huts and service buildings, the track was now only a few metres away from the visitor centre.



At last, after three hours of walking that day and 7 nights out in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Alissa and I made it to the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre, thus successfully completing the Overland Track!



With the rain falling and everyone else sensibly inside, Alissa and I couldn't get a photo together at the southern trailhead, so we had to make do taking turns.





After getting out of our wet clothes and having a delicious brunch of real food, Alissa and I checked out the informative display at the Visitor Centre that focused heavily on the history of the area and the Overland Track. We also got some cloth Overland Track badges that I look forward to getting sewn onto my pack.



With the rain subsiding, Alissa and I popped down the Cynthia Bay Jetty. This is the point where hikers catching the ferry from Narcissus hut disembark.



*****


Post-Script



With our Overland Track adventure over, Alissa and I were picked up by the good people at the nearby Pumphouse Point - a boutique wilderness retreat that has been built within the old Art Deco pumping station and shorehouse located further east of the visitor centre on Lake St Clair.



Greeted with a complementary glass of sparkling wine upon arrival, we were taken for a tour of the Pumphouse itself, located out on the waters of Lake St Clair. Its lounge overlooks the lake, and the views were pretty spectacular.



Being an old pumping station, a glass window in the lounge provides a glimpse at one of the four pumps that would have been used to pump water to the nearby Tarraleah Power Station. The station was however never used for its intended purpose, and was only switched on twice! Although most of the pumps are not active, one pump is used by the retreat to supply water to the hotel.



Being such a unique and spectacular structure, the rooms at the Pumphouse are pretty expensive, and Alissa and I had elected instead to book a room at the Shorehouse. The Shorehouse is where the hotel serves its casual but delicious shared meals, and it is an experience that Alissa and I would highly recommend. Later that night, Alissa and I would catch up with the couple we met at Echo Point the previous day, and along with another couple, we ended up chatting until quite late at night.



But before dinner, Alissa and I had long, hot showers and enjoyed a late lunch in our room. Each room in Pumphouse Point features a larder of local produce that can be purchased to enjoy with the complementary sourdough bread that the hotel bakes to order. Along with a lovely bottle of local Gewurztraminer, Alissa and I celebrated the end of what had been best and most scenic hiking experience we've undertaken to date.

Although wet and with the occasional leech, the walk from Echo Point to Cynthia Bay was nevertheless an enjoyable end to our Overland Track adventure. The decision to skip Narcissus to Echo Point hut the previous day was a wise one, as 5.5 hours of walking in a wet rainforest would have probably been a bit trying, and the short three hour walk gave us plenty of time to make the most of the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre and our accommodation at Pumphouse Point. Although of course not a part of the Overland, we would definitely recommend treating yourself to the luxury of Pumphouse Point - there's no better way to truly appreciate the comfort of modern conveniences than staying at somewhere like that after a long hike!

2 comments:

  1. Congratulations on completing what is a great walk.

    The Pump House looks really nice, there is nothing like a bit of luxury after roughing it for awhile, I think you appreciate the finer things even more than normal after being out in the bush.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kevin!

      Totally agree regarding luxury after roughing it. Sometimes I feel sad when we leave a multiday hike, but having the luxury of Pumphouse Point made for a very nice transition back out of the wilderness.

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