What better way to start my first blog with a post on a local gem only a cheap flight and bus ride away that my boyfriend Dylan and I did in January 2014! The Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia is listed as one of the top ten treks in the world (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/australia/tasmania/travel-tips-and-articles/76228) and I can now say I have ticked off two from this list (Everest Base Camp, Nepal, being the other – also uh-mahzing!) with the hopes of ticking off the rest over the next ten years. The main part of The Overland Track is about 80km long (including the final 17.5km around Lake St Clair, ‘only lazy people catch the boat’ – more on that later) and we did an additional 16km in side trips. The track starts at Cradle Mountain and concludes at Lake St Clair. Launceston and Devonport are the major cities closest to the start of the track (which only runs in one direction), and Hobart is closest to the finish. It normally takes 5-6 days to complete. We did it over 8 days, seven nights as we had no reason to rush it. We met some great people along the way. People in small groups, people traveling solo, people aged from low 20’s to in their 70’s from all over the world. The level of experience ranged from experienced hikers to complete newbies. One girl had never been hiking before, ate a tin of baked beans three times a day, had no tent or stove, brand new shoes (a big no-no) but a great attitude.
We flew into Launceston and spent a day there exploring Cataract Gorge and the (very cute and small) city. Cataract Gorge is a gorgeous little oasis an easy walk from the city, with a pool, cafe, numerous picnic spots and multiple peacocks roaming the grounds. A definite must see and can be done in two hours if you’re pressed for time or you could easily spend the whole day there.
Day 1 of trek
An early morning bus (Tassielink) picked us up from our hostel (Launceston Backpackers – well priced with nice rooms and kitchen area) and transported us to the start of the Overland Track in the Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park. Who knew exactly what laid ahead of us but we hoisted our heavy backpacks and trundled off down the beautifully made boardwalk which was a nice easy introduction to the walk. TIP: You have to buy water at the Visitor Centre (for extremely marked up prices) because they don’t have drinkable tap water, so either bring your own water or fill up at the creek that you cross about 10 minutes into the walk. We purified most of our water with Aquatabs, but to be honest, once you are out of the busy areas and collect water upstream from huts or camping areas, I think the water would be fine to drink. We did so on several occasions as were too impatient to wait the one hour for the tablets to work. The ‘Steripens’ are also pretty good. I used one in Nepal and it seemed to work fine.
Our first day took us up to Marion’s Loookout (when I thought we were there, we weren’t, and we had much more climbing to do!) with great views over Crater Lake and Dove Lake. I struggled a bit with my 18kg pack at first. I am tall and thin and not very strong so clambering up steep slopes with this monster weight on my back would have been quite amusing to watch. As there are no resources along the way you need to bring everything you need for the trek with you, except water which was fairly easy to find along the way. I will list my packing list below, and to be honest I don’t think there was anything I could have omitted (except maybe the laptop, portable hairdryer and kitchen sink – jks).
Despite not starting out walk until 1pm and with an estimated 4-6hours walk to the first camp, we took on the climb to the summit of Cradle Mountain (When in Rome..). It is described at a scramble towards the top. Quite the understatement if I may say so myself. More of a on-all-fours-boulder-climb to the top. But were the views worth it? Absolutely! 360 degree views with a clear blue sky. Who could have asked for a better lunch spot. The walk to Waterfall Valley seemed simple after this with some undulation over the alpine plains and a gentle decent into camp. We arrived with just enough daylight left to pitch our tent among the helicopter-sized mosquitos.
Fresh as a daisy at the start.
Dove Lake from Marion’s Lookout
Cradle Mountain (left) and Barn Bluff (right)
On the top of Cradle Mountain with Barn Bluff in the background
Kitchen Hut – for emergency shelter
Day 2 of trek
Last into camp, first to leave camp. It was much colder today and overcast with an easy 3 hour walk ahead of us through buttongrass plains, heathlands, alpine lakes and tarns. At the junction with the side tip to Lake Will we bumped into an older man who explained he had just been cross country for a few days. He was wearing shorts and Dunlop volleys, carried a small pack, had scratches all over his legs but a huge smile on his face. My first thought was ‘crazy’. But then I wondered, we do these treks to ‘take the path less traveled’, but are we actually doing so? Is the crazy man going off track without gaiters the one having the only true adventure?
We took the short side trip to Lake Will. The freezing wind had picked up and the rain hung in the air. Despite this we huddled behind a bush acting as a great wind break at the edge of the lake, ate our lunch and with chattering teeth said ‘its sooo brrrruthiful’.
We then faced the worst weather on our trip. A WHOLE HOUR of rain and sleet before arriving at Windermere Hut. But seriously, we were ridiculously lucky with the weather on the trek. In each hut there is a journal where people can write about their experiences, and by the sounds of it, around Christmas time there was snow and rain for 4 days straight, everything was covered in mud and nothing was dry. So I thank you, Mother Nature, for putting on such a great display for us. We passed Lake Windermere which apparantly has an island that you MUST swim out to. But there was no way I was swimming in that freezing cold water. I am a huge wuss when it comes to plummeting into icy lakes, unless there is a hot shower or toasty sunshine afterwards. High maintenance much?
Windermere Hut was our first hut experience, as we did not think that my ancient tent from the 60’s that flapped in the wind all night on the previous night would cope with a night of rain. Each hut on the trek can hold a different number of people and has a first come first served policy. They are adorned with wooden beds and tables and a gas heater that can be used in the cold. If you read up on the very expensive ‘glamping’ Overland packages available this would comparably be caveman style, but I thought they were amazing! Rainwater tanks outside, separate composting drop toilets and a great place to bond with fellow trekkers. However, this hut was also home to the famed ‘Joseph’. The possum that snuck into the hut during the night and tried to raid people’s food. He got away with a small amount of muesli someone had left out.
Packing up at Waterfall Valley
Day 3 of trek
The frosty tracks in the morning explained why I was so cold during the night. I do wonder if my -5 degree sleeping bag that I bought in Nepal for $20 may not actually be that good. Funny that. The walk took us across the buttongrass plains with some forested sections. We crossed the Forth River which is the lowest section of the Overland Track (730m above sea level), and escaped the blood-sucking leeches that were waving their greedy little arms at us through Frog Flats. 17km and 5 1/2 hours later we arrived at Pelion Hut. A really great roomy hut that reminded me of school camp, with gorgeous views over Mt Oakley. We backtracked to check out Old Pelion Hut which is the oldest hut that is still standing in this national park.
Old Pelion Hut
Sunrise over Mt Oakley
Day 4 of trek
We set off early with the ambition to climb both Mt Ossa and Mt Pelion East. We were greeted with a splendid clear day and after struggling up the ascent to Pelion Gap, I was glad to set my big pack down and only grab snacks and water for the climb of the two mountains. We started with Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak (1617m above sea level) which we reached after another ‘scramble’ to the summit. It was amazing to see Cradle Mountain in the distance and how far we had come. We saw a Tasmanian Pademelon (wallaby) that after staring at us for a minute, surprised that we had interrupted its morning stroll, hopped away as fast as its little legs could. We also saw a baby Tiger Snake. It was only about 50cm long but still frightened the living daylights out of me. It took us about 3 hours return to Mt Ossa (including a backtrack to get my gaiters that I had ditched in a bush on the way up because it was so hot, and forgot to gab them on the way back down) and we were told Mt Pelion East would take us less than 2 hours to conquer. Well, that did not seem to be the case for us as the path seemed to disappear and we wandered into uncharted territories and climbed to the top via what was probably the most dangerous route possible. A fall would most likely have resulted in immediate death, hence why I am not above confessing that I was mildly terrified. But the view was great! So despite the heart-thumping clamber to the top it was worth it. Once at the top the safe track to the summit was quite obvious, and I thank my lucky stars that it was an easier decent because there was no way in hell I was going down the way we came up!
The following hour walk to Kia Ora Hut felt like it would never end. Despite bringing as much water with us as possible, we ran out of water on Mt Pelion East and in the hot sun this was not ideal. About 45 minutes after returning to the main track we came across a delicious cold stream of water and we lapped it up like puppies. Water had never tasted so good. Even better was the swim in the freezing cold river when we finally arrived at the hut (and drying off in the warm sun)!
Eyeing off Mt Pelion East from the summit of Mt Ossa
Terrified on the summit of Mt Pelion East
Day 5 of trek
Waterfall day! A lazy start led to a leisurely day of relatively easy walking through beautiful rainforest. The diversity in the scenery from dry alpine plains to damp rainforests along this walk was amazing. Every day seemed to deliver something different and unique to satisfy all. We took side trips to three waterfalls which suited the beautiful warm sunny day perfectly. D’Alton falls was an enormous cascading waterfall that roared down the rockface. Fergusson falls was slightly upstream and had a big swimming hole at the bottom of the falls. The water was numbingly cold so my swim turned into a very quick dip, but it was very refreshing! A little further along the track we took the side trip to Hartnett falls where we had another (very brief) swim this time at the top of the falls and laid in the sun on the large flat rocks. I didn’t think I would be swimming and sun tanning in Tasmania! We were then confronted with our final big climb to Du Cane Gap with an easy decent into Windy Ridge and Bert Nicholls Hut. Another great big hut encircled by the Du Cane Range.
Day 6 of trek
We woke up to a magnificent sunrise over the Du Cane Range. Then an easy 3hr walk took us through eucalypt forest and buttongrass plains, over the suspension bridge over Narcissus River (I had a Nepali flashback and it felt strange not sharing the bridge with yaks and mules) to Narcissus Hut. After a swim in the Narcissus River (which was much warmer than the water at the waterfalls – well, still cold but not limb-numbing) we pitched the tent next to the river and followed the track down to Lake St Clair. This is where the jetty is located which picks people up for the 20minute ferry ride to Cynthia Bay. This is where the debate on ‘where the official end of Overland Track is’ starts. If you don’t walk around the lake to the finish, have you actually done the whole track? Fair enough if you have spent the last few days covered in snow and mud, but c’mon, with this beautiful weather it would be a waste to not walk to the finish. Anyhow, we had a relaxing day by the river, reading and finding several echidnas! One walked onto the track not the slightest bit bothered by our presence and continued its hunt for ants. Super cute! The obese possum on the other hand that lived under the water tank scared Dylan half to death when he went to clean our dishes (I cooked, he cleaned. A good trade I believe).
Day 7 of trek
We decided to divide the lake walk over two days simply because we had heard that staying a night at Echo Point was a must do. And they were right. The walk along the lake was beautiful. Definitely one of my favourite parts of the trek. You would catch glimpses of the lake along the side of the track and every so often you could pop through the trees onto the edge of the lake and lap up some sun on the beach. I almost had a heart attack when I was close to stepping on a tiger snake! This one was huge, nothing like the baby ones we’d seen earlier! It slithered down the track and just laid there on the track looking pissed off. Then the elderly German couple that were walking a few minutes behind us caught up and ‘Ohhhhh!’ the lady cried, whipped out her camera and pushed past us to take a photo. Nuts, she had no fear! We then had to do a wide detour through the also potentially snake-ridden bush as it would not move off the track no matter how much of parseltongue I tried.
Echo Point had a tiny little old hut at the top of the jetty. We pitched the tent on the sand only a few meters from the edge of the lake and then spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun (resulting in sunburn, what the what?!) and eating the rest of our food, only leaving enough for breakfast in the morning. Oh boy how I was longing forward to some non-dehydrated food!
Tiger snake. Almost stepped on this bad boy!
Mt Ida and Lake St Clair
Day 8 of trek
I woke up early, zipped open the tent and laid there, snug in my sleeping bag and watched the sun rise over the lake. It was so peaceful and beautiful so wiggling out of my sleeping bag for an early morning swim was rather difficult, but I had to make sure I swam in Lake St Clair! We quickly scoffed some breakfast, packed up the tent sand and all and set off on our last section of the track! We powered along the track, got to the end in record time and then had to do a very painful detour to the Cynthia Bay Visitor Centre via the ‘Culture Walk’ because a giant tree had fallen down overnight on the main track. Once at the Visitor Centre we said hello to some of our hiking comrades that had arrived the night before and demolished some ridiculously overpriced sandwiches and mars bars. I think I would have paid a million dollars for non-dehydrated food at that stage.
The bus soon came for the journey to Hobart, and we arrived in Hobart in the afternoon and checked into our amazing apartment right in the CBD! That’s right, a whole APARTMENT complete with powder room and laundry! And the couches were so soft, and the bed was so soft. I was as giddy as a child in a candy store. No more bruised hips from sleeping on a centimetre thick roll mat! Thank you online mystery deals for this great deal at The Old Woolstore!
But first things first. Clean clothes and food. We chucked what we could into the washing machine and then wandered into the shopping district with cartoon-like stink lines squiggling from our bodies, bought some cheap new clean and stocked up on some delicious goodies at the supermarket. A hot shower later we were sitting in the park gorging on our feast. At this point I think we were defining gluttony. This was concluded with a dessert on the Hobart waterfront whilst watching one of the big cruise liners depart the harbour. Hobart is even considered one of the international ports for boats to Antarctica. Very interesting. Must look into this.
A movie and an amazing nights sleep later we were refreshed and ready to face the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping, hiking and roughing it, but a comfortable nights sleep is definitely not overrated! After the buffet breakfast (more gluttony) we caught the super awesome camouflaged ferry with sheep seats (yes that’s right, sheep) to MONA. The Museum of Old and New Art is definitely a must see. The strangest and most interesting museum I have ever been to, and trust me, during my time in Europe I saw many a museums. Everything from Egyptian sarcophagi to machines that replicate the human intestinal system and actually eat and poop. After a couple of hours, this place became a little overwhelming and we had to step outside. Luckily the actual grounds themselves are really nice and also worth a browse. The $10 wine and beer tasting at ‘The Cellar Door’ is a definite must do. And they take the $10 off the price if you buy a bottle of wine. Got sucked into that one.
Back in Hobart town (which is so small and cute with lots of heritage buildings around) we caught up with my friend Lou who had just moved there and she showed us the most amazing little bakery called Daci Daci. I died a little on the inside when I walked into this place! Everything looked so amazing and deciding what to have was a huge internal debate, but in the end I settled for the lemon tart. Delicious!
Our Tasmanian adventure was quickly coming to and end and all of a sudden we were checking our now much lighter packs into the airport. The Overland Track was an amazing experience that will be cemented in my mind for a very long time. Our time definitely felt like much more than 10 days and I look forward to coming back.
70L hiking pack
Tent and extra rope
Jetboil – boiled 500ml of water in about a minute. Very light, compact and easy to use
Aluminium bowls, cups and cutlery
Gas fuel canisters – we used one 230g gas canister that ran out when cooking breakfast on the last day (we had one spare that we never used). We were boiling water at least 2-3 times per day so it lasted well.
Sleeping bag, roll mat, sleeping bag liner, inflatable pillow (such a good investment and didn’t take up much space).
Hiking pants, skins, shorts, two shirts, softshell, puffy vest, puffy jacket, rain jacket, rain pants, thermals for sleeping, 4 pairs of socks.
Hiking boots – make sure these are worn in and comfortable.
Gaiters – not essential but I liked them, kept my legs dry and clean and would be really good if the track was very muddy to stop mud from going into your shoes!
Water bladder and water bottle
First aid kit
Camera, cards, dice, journal
Hiking poles – but I never used them
Everything was packed in waterproof bags
Breakfast – porridge and muesli in individual bags. Add milk powder to the bag then all you need to do is add water.
Lunch – tuna, crackers, snacks eg trail mix, muesli bars, dried fruit, soups
Dinner – curry, laksa, spagbol, cous cous and veggies (all hand made dehydrated food in my new fan dangle food dehydrator – contact me for recipes)
What I wish we had brought – sandwiches for the first couple of days. Choritzo and vaccum packed smoked salmon apparantly lasts 2-3 days. Desserts (eg chocolate mousse and custard). Much more chocolate!
Ps. I didn’t think my first post was thins long, so if you read the whole thing, congratulations and I apologise for it taking you a small lifetime to do so!