Craig's Travels

 

 

The Overland Track

Ronit and I just finished a little walk. It is called the Overland Track. And it was hard.
The first thing you need to know about the overland track can be described best by John Chapman, who wrote a book on hiking in that region of Tasmania. The book, borrowed from Ronit's roommate in Sydney, helped us prepare for what we were going to see and do. John writes, "The climate of Western Tasmania can be summed up in one word - wet." Apparently, according to John, strong Westerly winds traveling from South America pick up a large load of water traveling across the Atlantic. When they reach the mountains of Western Tasmania, they can't help but drop their load. Annual Rainfall in the Cradle Mountain region can reach up to 3000 mm a year, with December being a mild month, with an average of about 300 mm.

So it was, we arrived on a rainy Thursday morning, and started our walk from just north of Dove Lake. Part of the track is on raised wooden platforms. At first, we were a little bummed that the entire track was going to be on a raised platform, and sort of felt cheated that our feet wouldn't get to "feel the earth." The feeling quickly dissipated, as we realized there were only a couple of sections of raised wood. Most of the Overland Track is on rugged terrain. There is only a very small percentage of time you are actually walking on just plain dirt. Most of the time you are walking on rocks, tree roots, rotten, uneven wooden planks, or mud, thus a new pair of hiking boots will now need to be purchased. Each step must be calculated with the utmost precision, and thus takes not only time, but also thought to move forward kilometer after kilometer. Thus, we ended up praying for the raised wooden planks, to give our weary feet a rest from the trauma of jagged rocks. Every time we would come to these sections, we would yell out in pleasure, "We have achieved wood!"

Our first day was just as John had described it would be. Fortunately, I had the foresight at the Visitor's Centre to buy a rain jacket/windbreaker. We hiked up, up and up that first morning, the entire mountain covered in thick fog and a steady rain that pelted our hats. At one point, I asked Ronit what planet we were on. The eerie fog and low cut vegetation did not feel remotely close to the warm beaches of Sydney we had been on two days earlier. We skipped summating Cradle Mountain because it was dangerous in the wet and we wouldn't be able to see anything from the top. So we trudged on towards our first night's stay at the Waterfall Valley Hut.

Every now and again on the Overland Track there are huts for the hikers to stay. Some huts hold 8 people, while some can sleep up to 60. Most huts have wooden platforms to pitch tents on and all of them have a self-composting bathroom and water tanks filled by the plentiful rain. We spent each night in or near one of these huts, and they were actually very pleasant. All of the company was delightful and there was more than one game of Hot Dice played. Most of the huts will host a slew of Bennett's Wallabies, cute little animals so trusting that they will walk right up to you and not even flinch.

The second day was certainly our hardest. We had some rain in the morning, and some in the late afternoon, but for the most part, the weather the second day was cloudy and cool. We got an early start and made the first 7.75km portion of day in relative ease and good spirits. We weren't ready to stop yet, and we know the next hut was quite a ways down the path, so we hiked a little longer and made our lunch. After lunch, we hit a dense rainforest, and each step through the muddy track took time to execute. Trying to stay as dry and clean as possible, while carrying a 40-pound pack was not an easy task, and the last few kilometers took us a while. This is also where I picked up a little bite from a leach. It had let go of my ankle and the only evidence was a bloody sock and the wound, which doesn't heal due to an anti-coagulant in the leach's bite. There wasn't too much altitude gained on the day, but the distance was exhausting. All in all from the Waterfall Valley Hut to the New Pelion Hut, it was 24km or about 14 miles.

Tired and weary, we set out the next morning for Mt Ossa, at 1617 meters the tallest peak in Tasmania. At the base of the mountain, you can leave you heavy packs, and head straight up. Without the 40 pound burden, the walking was easy and, despite some tricky bouldering at the snow capped top, our walk up went smoothly. The views from the top were amazing and well worth the 3 hour detour. After heading down, we made it past the normal resting area of Ki Ora Hut and headed to Du Cane Hut to do some camping.

The fourth day the weather was fine, and we took a small detour to see the Fergusson Falls, a heavy flowing waterfall about 15 minutes off the track. Then we jetted down a fairly flat path past Windy Ridge Hut and through an old Eucalypt Forrest. Now, I haven't yet mentioned snakes, but every snake in Tassie is poisonous. Along the path, there were millions of small branches of varying size, all from dead tress. I stepped carefully now that the weather had warmed up a bit, because each of those sticks could actually move and turn out not to be a stick at all. But we came through the forest unscathed, and reached a march with "extended sections of raised wood" according to John. Here, as we sped along the path, was the only time on our hike that we did see a snake. It was just off the side of the path and scurried into the bush as we approached. It was a Copperhead, about a meter long with a thick black body. We didn't see very much of him, and that was about as exciting as the wild life got.

We then crossed a suspension bridge and were one km away from our destination, the Narcissus Hut, where we could catch a Ferry to the Lake St Claire visitors centre. The afternoon Ferry was full, but because there were 6 people that still wanted to make the trip across the lake, the ferry came back to pick us up. Thus, we bypassed the tedious walk around the lake that would have taken us 5 hours. The journey across by boat only took 30 minutes.

At the visitor's center, we were treated with a soft bed a hot shower and a delicious meal that we didn't have to cook or clean up. And of course, a large beer. Thus we finished the Overland Track in 4 days, a hike that most people do in 5. I hope I haven't sounded like I was complaining in the least, because the journey was worth it, 100 times over. The scenery was just gorgeous, the views stellar, and the memories beautiful as the land.

 

 

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