“Tali Karng is a hidden jewel nestled deep in the mountains of Gippsland, fed by snowmelt waters of the Wellington Plains. The lake is believed to have been formed about 1500 years ago when a massive rock slide collapsed into the valley damming the waters of Nigothoruk Creek above Wellington River. The water runs underground from the lake to emerge as the infant Wellington River 150m below in the Valley of Destruction.” Parks Victoria
One of my favourite hikes in Australia is to Lake Tali Karng in Victoria’s Alpine National Park. I was lucky enough to do this hike with two good friends on an Australia Day long weekend, several years ago. Bruno, who is from Switzerland and has a wicked sense of humour, spent a lot of the time reminding me that Australia doesn’t have mountains, only ant-hills (particularly as I struggled up a couple of steep trails). Mary, who has since become my regular hiking buddy, had been travelling overseas for about four years, so this was something of a reunion. It was also the first time we’d all gone hiking together since we met in Alaska on a Green Tortoise Trip (see my blog: Arrive inspired, not dog-tired).
There are several routes into Lake Tali Karng and we chose the easiest one across McFarlanes Saddle, setting out from the car park on Moroka Road. At first we walked amongst some amazing snow gums, before emerging to the open spaces of Wellington Plains with its beautiful alpine grasses. The weather was perfect with cloud cover and cool temperatures and we made great time, arriving at the turnoff to Millers Hut (8.5 km) after only two and a half hours.
We decided to camp in the vicinity of Millers Hut for two nights and do a day trip to the lake on our middle day, rather than lug our hefty packs down (and back up) an extremely steep trail to the lake. It was a decision we didn’t regret, as just after pitching our tents we were inundated with torrential rain. It was a full-on thunderstorm!
Luckily, we remained dry and were (seemingly) safe in the tent. It’s amazing how much a thin piece of canvas makes you feel so secure, even though it’s no safer than being outside. On the one occasion that I did emerge from the tent during the storm, I had the life scared out of me by a loud clap of thunder and almost simultaneous lightning. The storm was frighteningly close!
We had a couple of hours in the tent playing cards before the storm passed and we could safely emerge. It was dusk, the clouds had cleared and the sky was resplendent in shades of orange and pinks. We also had the perfect camp-site in a clearing just above Nigothoruk Creek.
The following day we hiked to the lake via Gillio Track (4.5 km). It was a stunning day with clear blue skies, lots of birdsong from the treetops, and butterflies everywhere. Again we walked through a section of snow gums and then, as the trail became steeper, through fine alpine ash stands. It was disconcerting to see a few exhausted hikers coming up the trail; but reinforced our decision to camp on higher ground.
Gillio Track zig-zags a dozen times over the final descent to the lake shore and, after the rain, it was also very slippery. But eventually we emerged to the beautiful sight of Lake Tali Karng. We saw that we were not the only ones caught in the storm the night before as there was a colourful array of clothing spread out on the rocks, drying in the sun. Most of the campers by the lake had still been hiking when the storm hit.
We made our way around the lake to find a more secluded spot. Here we lazed on the rocks, reading and sketching, enjoying the sun and each other’s company. Later we took a dip in the deliciously cool waters before summoning the energy to walk back to our camp-site.
Our return trip via Echo Point and the Riggalls Spur Track was a slightly longer route, but supposedly not as steep. However, I must admit, I struggled! And, while I was puffing my way up the ‘ant-hill’, my Swiss friend had barely raised a sweat. The consolation was another beautiful walk – gorgeous wildflowers in stark contrast to the blackened trees of a recent bushfire.
On our final day we had a leisurely morning at the camp-site. I actually tried to cook pancakes, which seemed like a good idea when we purchased our supplies a few days earlier. But we forgot about butter and, after some comical bush-kitchen madness, the pancakes ended up looking a bit worse for wear. But it didn’t matter. They actually tasted okay, as does most food cooked while camping.
We re-traced our first day’s route across Wellington Plains and got back to our car by early afternoon. This was a wonderful weekend, an awesome hike, and most importantly, it was shared with good friends… so I’ll always treasure it.
Do you have a favourite hike? Or a memorable weekend with good friends? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.