Travel, walking, sadness all take their toll, and none of us is ashamed to be heading to our tents by 8pm. Currawongs call reveille, but otherwise our camp beneath the pines is quiet. A deep stillness settles on the nearby lakes, which mirror twin hills. The peace of being here bears me swiftly towards sleep.
[Twilight beneath the pencil pines]
The zip of a tent wakes me. I fumble with my torch, learn it’s 4am. That’s 8 hours of sleep, my fuzzy mind calculates. A good night’s rest, it continues. When it starts to add that perhaps we should all be up and about, I quickly hose down the idea. Instead I get out to relieve myself, and find Jim doing the same.
It’s cooler now, though not cold. The sky is filled with stars, but they’re oddly muted, untwinkling, as though seen through gauze. It must be mist or high cloud.
Our friend Tim D will be joining us later this morning. He’s estimated he’ll arrive by 10am. But as he’s never been to this place, I wonder if it could be closer to 11. So it’s back to the tents for a lie-in.
I lie a lot, doze a little, until voices start exchanging greetings and weather reports. I have a low-level glimpse of the lake out the end of my tent, and see what’s either low cloud or fog. Eventually I unzip the tent and emerge to find a breaking fog, and a couple of boiling billies.
We’re slow over breakfast, knowing we’ll be waiting for Tim D before we go anywhere. Tim O enthralls us with his adventures in breakfast cuisine. This time it’s bhuja and scroggin-infused muesli topped with liquorice, chocolate and milky tea. The less adventurous brew straight tea and follow it with some coffee, which in turn requires “second breakfast”.
[Happy campers on a slow morning]
Eventually Jim gets restless and decides he’ll go out to check on Tim D. It’s just as well. He finds Tim a few hundred metres east of our site, in the act of walking on towards the next lake. It seems a photo I sent him, which was meant to indicate the rough vicinity of our camp, was of somewhere else entirely. Ooops – mea culpa!
I brew a compensatory coffee, and help Tim find a good spot for his tarp/tent set-up. By the time he’s had a rest and got himself set up, the sun is out and it’s almost lunch time. We consider eating that first, but shame ourselves into at least starting our walk. Putting lunch into our day packs, we set off for an afternoon stroll to Little Throne.
For a change we wander west around our lake, and Middle Lake, towards Little Throne Lake. Before we get to that last lake, we need to do some running repairs on Mick’s right foot. Despite trusty old boots and not much walking, he’s developed a nasty heal blister. He’s fussed over for quite a while, and comes out of it with an improvised bandage. This lasts all of twenty minutes, by which time he suggests he’ll go back to the tent and rest his foot.
[Over-servicing? Mick gets blister treatment.]
The rest of us make for Little Throne, which again proves surprisingly far away and slow to reach. But it also rewards us. From the top we gaze out on thousands of lakes, the in-filled hollows resulting from the vast ice sheet that once covered the area. It’s the kind of perch from which anything seems possible. A map is one thing; this bird’s eye view is something altogether more tantalising. Tim D and I figure out some reachable mountains, and hatch a quick plan for tomorrow’s walk. Jim looks down at a nearby watery short-cut across Little Throne Lake, and announces a plan of his own.
The shallow crossing proves a little more involved than it appeared. Tim D offers to try it out, slips off his boots, socks and trousers, and eventually gets across the water.
[Tim D. pioneers the lake crossing]
We’re shamed into following. It’s not especially cold, but the bottom is alternately mud and sharp rocks, and our barefoot progress is slow and cautious. Libby gets across with minimal drama, then remarks on the unmanly squeals coming from some of us, most particularly the plan’s originator. We point out that a long-legged woman has certain advantages over shorter-legged men, one being her height and the other being … how shall we put this … an “anatomical absence”, perhaps?
After a deal of laughing, videoing and whinging (from some), we’re all safely over. Once there and dried off, everything is fine again. Despite his earlier whinging, and the fact that our short-cut has saved us all of two minutes, Jim declares “his idea” a winner. We hear about its marvels much of the way back to camp. And lucky Mick hears a much-expanded version when we’re re-united, even though certain video evidence takes the edge off Jim’s alleged heroism.
[Mick captures the triumphant return]