Yesterday was Australia day. Obviously we did our bit as temporary residents of the red island continent and had a few drinks in one of Strahan’s pubs and so next morning I woke up crumpled up under a duvet in the driver’s seat of the car with David beside me. We weren’t feeling too bad, Strahan wasn’t exactly an exciting night out and the burgers we’d cooked at the beach before the pub had been a master-stroke of planning and damage-avoidance. Still, I was a bit confused, seeing as it had been Kevin who’d been in the front of the car with me when I’d fallen into a slightly drunken sleep. Wiping the dripping wet windows cleared that one up though: he’d had the raw deal last night with David sleeping in the back seat behind him and had bailed out half-way through the night to sleep on a bench overlooking the beach. Even with the view of the calm waters of Macquarie Harbour to wake up to, I still can’t say I was envious of that move.. To the humble, grubby backpacker, Strahan is a jewel though, as it’s the only place we found on the island that had free, hot showers so we basked in the glorious steamy goodness one more time before heading north towards Zeehan.
On the road up the coast we hit a viewpoint overlooking the expanse of Henty Dunes, but they were quite far away so it wasn’t all that interesting, letting us crack on to the free bbqs in Zeehan and where we tried to boil pasta for lunch. Overall it was a bit of a failure with at least one of the pans looking more like a pot of starch than spaghetti, oh well. Zeehan felt, like most of the towns in the west, very sleepy with nothing catching our attention and in little time we’d got through it, Rosebery and Tulla, leaving not much between us and Cradle Mountain.
This was more like it, heading back into the highlands of the island, with the promise of seeing some of the most stunning scenery it had to offer. Tomorrow David planned to do the Overland Track – a 6-day, 80km walking trail from Cradle Valley to Lake St Clair – and that was why we were giving him and his bike a lift to the starting point. The information centre was still open when we got to Cradle Valley so David got his bike locked up (he’d have to find a way back up here by road after doing the track). While we had some light I really wanted to get a first glimpse of Dove Lake and The Mountain and, as far as first glimpses go, rolling up to the lake side, catching the last of the low sun breaking through the dramatic and now colourful clouds was just what I needed to get me raring to climb the ominous collection of rocks that loomed in the distance.
Scoping out the place for possible camping spots for the night we realised the place was far too popular and completely devoid of secluded spots suitable for a bit of rock-bottom-budget sleeping, forcing us to drive back out of the park boundary, heading north along the main road in search of side tracks and the likes. Seemingly land-owners were on to our kind long before we arrived, as every possible track off the road had a little ‘private – no entry’ sign nailed to a tree, so we ended up finding a patch of relatively soft ground at the side of the road and made it our home for the night.