As grey afternoon graded into grey evening, we sat around the Silver Lake campsite comparing notes on our post-lunch walks. Libby hadn’t found the reputed Shangri-la campsite near Lake Ah Chees. But she, Tim D and Merran had nonetheless enjoyed their peregrinations. Afterwards they too had gone on to Lakes Sonja and Solveig, but had crossed the Pine River well before we had. This alone, we retirees argued, explained why they’d almost caught us by the end of the day.
One thing we did agree on was how grateful we were that the forecast rain dump had held off for our first two days. The more usual Roaring Forties winds had been supplanted by a deep low pressure system east of Bass Strait. That had been flooding southern Victoria, and threatened to do the same to northern Tasmania. Looking in that direction now we could see dark clouds lowering over the peaks of the Walls.
[Threatening clouds above the campsite]
Above us large cumulus clouds began piling up. Would tonight bring the end of our weather luck? It might, but dinner and a round of Yaniv (cards) were more of a certainty. So we relaxed and enjoyed this special time in a special place. And in the end, for all that the clouds blustered and shook their fists at us, they delivered nothing overnight.
[Tim D (centre) explains Yaniv to Libby and TimO]
After another peaceful sleep, we were up early. Our plans for the day were vague, but we wanted to walk back uphill before the day grew too warm. I wasn’t at all keen to face the scrubby ascent from Lake Antimony. It had felt hard enough descending through it on the first day. But as sometimes happens, the difficulties were as much imagined as real. With fresh legs and a lighter pack, we were soon through the worst of the scrub.
Partway up the hill we took a good break at Theresa Lagoon, and TimO and I wandered around the shore for a while. Pencil Pines were part of the lure. I always enjoy their company, but we also wanted to see whether this large lake might be a future camping destination. After we’d sussed out a couple of good looking sites, we rejoined the group and quickly fuelled up on nuts and water.
[TimO checks out Theresa Lagoon]
Once we were back at the more defined Lake Fanny Track, we had decisions to make. The wind had freshened from the north, and was now quite cool. Some of us had grand plans of more lake discovery in the afternoon. But the first order of business was to find a campsite sheltered from this wind. After that we’d set up tents and have lunch. Then we could better consider the afternoon’s options.
From the track junction we looked out to a chain of lakes only a kilometre or so to our north-west. The three Talleh Lagoons run almost north-south, and looked as though they’d have some sheltered sites. We pushed downhill, through bush that thickened as we neared the lakes. We looked first at the middle lagoon, but the only flattish bit of shoreline was wide open to the wind. So we moved on to the southern-most lagoon, where we found a shelf some distance above the lake that looked quite sheltered. Some looked happy to stop there, but I was in fussy mode. Why camp quite near a lake when you can camp right on the lake shore?
That, of course, required there to be such a site, and that it be sheltered. So a few of us dumped packs and walked along the western shore of the lake in search of this “Goldilocks” site. We poked around for 15 minutes or so, and were about to give up when I suggested we look just a little further, the other side of some big boulders. Perhaps they were the Three Bears, because just beyond them was a campsite which Goldilocks would surely have appreciated: sheltered, absolute waterfront, great views, plenty of room for our tents. We only had to mention to Merran that it was also great for swimming, and she was on board.
[Waterfront camping at Talleh Lagoon]
Then, as we set up, something strange came over the group. All talk of going off in search of more lakes in the afternoon dissolved. Suddenly the prospect of having a lazy afternoon at the Goldilocks site had universal appeal. This was music to Jim’s ears. He had already planned just this, and was both surprised and delighted not to be the only one.
[TimO swims at Talleh Lagoon]
After lunch three of us had a swim in the lake: or in my case a quick and very refreshing dip. And then the rain came, sending some to their tents, and others to the excellent shelter of Tim D’s excellent tarp. It rained, solidly at times, for about an hour, but then cleared to a pleasant if coolish afternoon.
[The great tarp setup at Talleh Lagoon]
Over dinner there was a spillover of gratitude for three good days of wandering among fine lakes with fine people, and in (mostly) fine weather. While some might say this was aided by a final splash of wine and liqueur, supplemented with chocolate, we had genuinely enjoyed what had been a soul filling walk. Then, as we chatted about the shape of our final day, Jim’s sparked up. We’d get going early, he insisted, estimating it would be 3½ to 4 four hours back to the cars. We had to make sure we were out in time to get to our lunch booking at the Great Lake Hotel. It seemed his beer goggles were firmly in place.
[Water lilies in a Central Plateau pond]
And so, after a Goldilock’s-appropriate breakfast of porridge, we packed up for the final time and left our lovely campsite. It’s fair to say Jim hadn’t always been the fastest walker on this trip. But now he took off like a young colt sniffing green grass. For the last few years Jim had been talking down the scope of his future bushwalking. We’d heard often of his preference for comfy huts and short days. And more than once, as he slumped down after a hard bit of walking, we’d heard him mutter things like “this is my last bl**dy walk”.
[A watery sun on our final day]
I’ve never been fully convinced, since I kept seeing contradictory signs. Our “hut man”, for instance, had just invested in a new tent. Plus on every walk he’d maintained his gear freak status via a “reveal” of some new purchase or other. And now here he was streaking ahead of us on our final day’s walk.
[The last we see of Jim until the end of the walk]
We never actually got close to catching Jim, who walked out in a mere 2½ hours. He argued that it was too cold to stop, with a biting wind whipping up water from the lakes as we passed by. The rest of us still needed to stop for water and some food. So, was Jim’s speedy walk out simply that of a “horse headed for home”? I’m not so sure. I think it may also be that there’s life in the old dog yet!