Finally, a day to sleep in! We rose at a leisurely pace at about nine, went for breakfast and then came back to the cabin for a bit of a lie-in. Luxury. Dianne, the proprietor of the lodge, suggested that if we were to hit Cradle Mountain in the early afternoon we’d stand a good chance of the mist having cleared. This fit in perfectly with our plans, which involved a lot of sleeping.
Cradle Mountain is in a world famous national park and it seems that its reputation is quite well deserved. Fortunately, its popularity makes it more accessible. Arriving at the park entrance, we discussed potential walking routes with well-informed and helpful staff who also showed us one of the newer innovations – the shuttle bus service. Paying park entry fee entitles one to use the bus as much as is necessary. It stops at Snake Hill, Ronny Creek and Dove Lake, so for those with mobility or laziness issues, the beauty of this mountain is no longer out of reach. We didn’t have any such problems, though, and chose to hop off at Ronny Creek. From there, a well-maintained boardwalk trail took us up into the hills and to the Crater Falls – a narrow channel where the water from Crater Lake tumbles down to the valley below. Being as we were following it to its source, the going was quite steep! I was a little disheartened being passed in the other direction by a ten year old boy who looked superbly bored with the whole business and not at all out of breath.
It took us an hour to reach Crater Lake – a broad, dark stretch of water with glooming cliffs on the sides. It is a magically dramatic landscape and all the more enjoyable for actually having walked there. There’s a real sense of having earned the beautiful view. A lengthy discussion with my pet geologist ensued about whether it was in fact an actual crater or if it had just been named as such. He thinks it was probably glacial rather than volcanic, but still very picturesque. This first section of the walk was along the Overland Track, a multiple-days long walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, where we’d been the previous day. We had thus walked both ends of the Overland Track! Just skipping the middle hundred-odd kilometres...
The track was no longer the well-managed boardwalk we’d started on, and as we climbed still further toward the narrow ridge that turns into the path up to Marion’s Lookout, the going was distinctly hard. Up and up, the mountain seemed to go for ever. Then suddenly, we were out in the open with the cold alpine wind gushing down over us. We’d reached the summit of our journey. From the top the view was magical – the mountains rearing up in sweeping spires, dwarfing us with their sheer mass. And then down the valley, to where Dove Lake lies between two gigantic hills that move gracefully up to form the famous cradle. Magical scenery. A pair of climbers that had passed us (most people did) told us of the path leading up to Marion’s Lookout and how the descent after seeing the view was almost vertical. So we wisely decided to do a loop between Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla down to where the boardwalk once again picked up and would take us around to the Dove Lake carpark and the return shuttle bus.
This was a lot easier said than done, though, because the path once again became rocky and steep and very poorly formed. I was thankful again for my new hiking boots. Not far from the edge of Lake Lilla we passed a group who had sat down for a breather and I had another close encounter of the wildlife kind – a small khaki-brown snake lay in our path. I stopped to allow it time to move off. I don’t have a particular problem with snakes but I imagine that if I had trodden either on it or too close to it, then it may have not enjoyed that very much. And chances are it was a brown snake; shy and retiring but deadly if they bite you.
Our new friend didn’t seem too inclined toward the dramatic or violent and slithered off into the undergrowth, much to the disappointment of one of the group we’d passed, who wanted to have a look. The path once again wound up and over and across. Many of the most beautiful parts of this country are very steep, which seems to me to be rather bad management. After what seemed like two thousand stairs, mostly worn out and badly weathered, we finally reached the end of our journey. We had walked about four or five kilometres but had gone up and down over two hundred metres vertically, so I for one was completely exhausted.
The shuttle bus returned us to the car and we drove back to Lemonthyme, back up the eight kilometre bumpy gravel road and to our little oasis of beauty and calm. A hot spa bath made the sweat and struggle of the day seem like a dream, and another delicious dinner capped off the day perfectly. Now it was just a matter of falling into bed and dreaming of the beauty we had seen.
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