It’s 5 pm on a Tuesday afternoon and I am getting picked up at 5.30. Rewind weeks earlier. In my mind, I have everything laid out on the couch, in order of size, frequency of use, ease of access and then packed neatly into water-proof bags. I have all the food and snacks I need to keep me happy and sustained with energy, and I have researched and reduced my luggage list down to a neatly packed backpack filled with all the items of clothing I could possibly need to keep me warm and dry. I have been training for weeks at the gym, my fitness is amazing.
Fast forward to now, I’m still frantically typing work emails before I head off to Tasmania, and my entire packing list I made up in my head is still strewn across the entire lounge room. Incomplete. Camping vomit. I went to the gym twice.
Fast-forward 20 minutes, I’m racing down the stairs shoving all I can into my backpack before my friend rocks up. 5.30 pm. I’m still running up and down the stairs, shoving random items in multiple bags now.
“Screw it, I’ll pack when I get to yours.”
Fast forward an hour we are eating take-away Thai food and watching a movie. Fast forward another hour, we are both frantically shoving everything into our backpacks, mildly panicked by the fact that nothing actually fits. I get inside my pack at one point out of curiosity, and we go to bed late.
THE OVERLAND TRACK
Despite my reputation for loving nature, hiking and dreamy adventures through the wilderness, the truth is I’ve only ever done a handful of overnight hikes *cough, two* and this was to be my first “real” multi-night hiking adventure. Along with another two total amateurs, and some not so amateurs, but not so experts either.
Flying into Launceston we scraped up the last of our needs such as gas – essential for the cooking bits, how much should we buy?
“I don’t know, don’t you know?”
Google and some strange looks from the guy at the camping store rushed us to settle that decision.
Get out, just buy them, he’ll figure out we’re amateurs. He seems really cool. Or cranky. I can’t tell.
We set out on our transfer to Cradle Mountain, a party of five.
Day one was a stunning day, clear skies, I lost my new drink bottle at the bus stop, and sat on the bus worrying about it the whole drive in. Non-attachment. Forget it. It only cost $25. We signed the log book and off we went.
A dreamy 10.7 km through glacial landscapes, mountains, and buttongrass moorlands, the journey to our first campsite at Waterfall Valley was pretty spectacular. We didn’t have time to climb Cradle Mountain, but just walking past was pretty enough. The trek reminded me of the road to the Emerald City, not that I’ve been, but you get the picture, the whole yellow brick road and stuff.
Waterfall Valley was something else, like out of an oil painting. The golden afternoon sunlight was spilling through the mountains into the valley as we descended. We set up our tents for the night and hooked into some delicious freeze dried packet dinners, huddled around our Jet Boils and head lamps. Romantic. Pasta Vegetariano. Vegetariano disgustingo. I hope the rest aren’t like that. Ugh. Glad I brought these protein bars.
That night we camped under the Milky Way, I’ve never seen stars that bright before! It was so still and serene I unzipped my tent and just laid there listening to the little creek which meandered through the campsite, looking at the sky and pondering the universe until my eyes couldn’t stay open anymore. A pretty magical start.
Now, dinner-side conversations had revealed that no-one had really planned out the timing for the track length on our last day. A neat little 17 km along the lake since we had decided to tight-arse it and not book ourselves on a ferry (an option you have towards the end of the track).
This then presented a dilemma that in order to make the pick up on the last day we were going to have to double up on the hike somewhere along the way to make up time. Ok done. Day two it was.
Approved by the enthusiastic bearded ranger at Waterfall Valley Hut, who assured us we were making a good decision to make up time on the first leg, we set out on our 24 km hike headed for Pelion Hut.
Again, we had clear skies and stunning scenery, lunch at Lake Windermere was a perfect stopping point and we had the place to ourselves. Passing distant mountains, meandering through short bursts of forest, and then out into the heathland, the track was diverse and hauntingly beautiful. In fact, it felt very haunting. We didn’t come across much wildlife along the way bar a few wombats and distant birds, it was dead quiet. Something about this track.
The last few kilometres of our double-up were hard. Our feet were tired, we were tired, and that gentle incline on the last few kilometres felt like a 20 km hike up a mountain. But almost crawling into Pelion on sunset, we were greeted with gorgeous golden scenery, and the cabin and campsite was alive and buzzing with other campers. And leeches. And us laughing. And some South American guys laughing.
We stretched, set up camp and set in cooking amongst the stars, leeches and spiders. Mmmm’mmm freeze dried Vegetarian Stir-fry. Mmmm’mmmmmmmmuuuuuggghh ugh! Who designed these? They should be called “Packet of disappointment with a side of saw dust”. It was at this point I started to envy the chocolate bars and cheap Cup-a-Soups others had so intelligently packed.
Overnight the fog descended and we woke up to the South Americans laughing, which set us off laughing, and it began to drizzle as we departed the campsite.
Despite the previous day’s lengthiness, I wasn’t really that sore, and despite the rain, I was pretty comfortable. A warm vest, my Akubra, some gaiters and leather boots. All of me was dry and remained dry the whole trek. Hot tip: invest in good gear. Or borrow it.
Here we encountered some of that mud other writers had shared about on the blogs I read in my attempt to prepare for the hike the night before we left. And at one point it was discretely pointed out I’d spent most of the day hiking with my gaiters on backwards. My friend slipped and snapped his hiking stick, and we discovered just how heavy our other friend’s backpack was, which she had now decided to separate and strap half of to the front of her.
“What is even in this!?”
“So you’ve taken to eating bricks?”
A shorter stint that day (8.6 km), a few of us decided to do the side trek up Mt Ossa. While it’s steep, the track is beautifully maintained and we made it almost to the summit before deciding to call it quits as the fog stubbornly lingered. It felt like climbing Mount Doom at that point, so we headed back down.
Kia Ora Hut was warm and dry, a few of us decided to ditch the tent set up and snuggle on the bottom bunk of the wooden beds provided. It was cosy and we had a great time chatting about life and lazing about listening to the rain on the hut roof and laughing into the night. 7 pm. Bed time. That became a thing.
More rain for our next 9.6 km hike to Windy Ridge. Again I was super dry, had my gaiters on the right way and off we went into the drizzle. I’ve never been bothered by hiking in the rain, and with no wind it was quite pleasant. This leg of the walk we hit some gorgeous dense, mossy forests, which were quite dramatic with the fog. We chased waterfalls on a few side trips, and walked amongst fog-tipped mountains, again, it was very pretty. Still. Eerie.
Windy Ridge, a massive hut, we arrived quite early. Again, keen to snag a bunk in the hut, a few of us ditched the tents again and jagged our own room. Snuggled on the top bunk in our sleeping bags laughing and chatting for hours. Despite the hut being full that night, we never welcomed other hikers to our room. I think we were so loud others thought the room was already full. People slept in the corridor.
The rain had well and truly set in, and our 9 km hike to Narcissus was a wet one. Plenty of mud and fog, but loads of cool pristine creeks, moss and fungi!
By the time we got to Narcissus, some of the party saw the temptation to catch the ferry back a day early. I wasn’t so convinced.
“Well I’d really like to see the scenery around the lake”
“We are tired. The lake is right there.”
“But there’s other lake scenery…”
My trusty long-term childhood friend and most recent fellow hiking lover would have my back…
“I see an out… and I want to take it”
I had my heart set on a little hut called Echo Point.
We kept on. Just another muddy 5 km.
Turns out everyone was drenched, had wet feet, wet socks and loads of blisters. I was the only one who was warm, dry and blister free… The scenery was amazing!
Glassy water, foggy mountains, and we had the whole spider-filled hut to ourselves.
A secluded family dinner on our own private lake-side beach with my favourite packet of disappointment, I started to do deals.
“I’ll pay for our accommodation in Launceston if you give me your chocolate, some coffee, Cup-a-Soups and noodles”
The whole scene looked like something out of Friday the 13th and we bunkered down in the little cosy Echo Point Hut complete with fire, and joked about being murdered by Jason until 7pm. Bed time.
The last 12 km of the trip was a stunning, slippery, muddy adventure along the lake’s edge. I don’t think we’ve ever been so happy to sit in a fancy bar and eat hot chips. We did it. The Overland Track. Tick.
The walk is stunning. There is plenty of water at the huts and along the way. The track is very well maintained by Parks Tasmania. You can get away with a reasonable level of fitness, I only felt exhausted the day we doubled up. But if you are unfit, spare your fellow travellers. They don’t want to listen to you whinging or have to stop the hike.
Invest in good gear, and pack for all seasons. Don’t pack the equivalent of dog food like I did. Tasty non-cardboard snacks are a must. And tea. BRING TEA. It warms your soul.
If you’re new to multi-day hiking, this track is a great place to start. I must say I am totally addicted, and throwing on my pack for kilometres and kilometres now feels like home.
But be sure to take a group of people who make you laugh. Always.