The Overland Track

Hmmmm. This one was difficult to start. Not the track but the blog. I’m only two weeks post Overland and I’m still not sure how I feel. Indifferent? Confused? Disconnected? They were my feelings in the initial days after. Which is the complete opposite of what I anticipated from this 6 day 5 night multi day hike in the Tasmanian wilderness.

To be honest I’m still trying to reconcile how I feel. Based on the Overland handbook I was expecting to have had a life changing experience. But I didn’t. With the extensive lead up, anticipation, training and research into hiking and this track (see About Me section), I thought I’d come out a different person. I thought I’d have experienced some kind of existential moment or an epiphany. Maybe some type of cathartic breakdown (like Reese Witherspoon in Wild) that would explain my life and set me free. But it didn’t. I thought I’d be proud of myself. 76.5kms we walked (my husband Kane and I) through many different types of terrain. But nup. It’s almost like I’m trying to block it out. Like I won’t let my mind remember. As if some kind of bad thing happened? But it didn’t. Maybe I just need more time to process it all.  (Edit: After some time I came to realise what wonderful experience it was. I did just need time to process it.)

I think a large contributing factor to how I’m feeling was other people on track. My efforts paled in comparison to “E” and “K”, 10yo and 7yo girls on the track with their parents. Geez, if kids could do it, I was nothing but a lackey. And “J” and “A” both in their mid to late 70s (although it turns out they were well out of there depth). I found this really took the shine off my feelings of accomplishment. Stupid I know. But that’s how I feel.

What I did find is that I am mentally and physically stronger than I knew. I’m not fast but I am consistent and persistent. I’m not agile but I’m purposeful and steady. I love ascending. I hate descending. I whinge a lot initially but then stuck it up eventually. It’s OK to know your limitations.

16.5-17kgs. Got lighter as I ate the food.

DAY 1 – 12.7km mountainous terrain

I relied heavily on the Overland Track Handbook we received when we purchased our tickets. I read it before we left home and every evening after each day on the track I would analyse it and the topographic map. But it was a book of lies. It purported that after reaching the top of Marion’s lookout on day one, an almost vertical cliff climb with my 17kg pack, that we’d enjoy the rest of the walk to the camp site. Holy sh!tballs! It was the worst subsequent 4 hours of my friggin’ life!

Me thinking I could conquer Cradle Mountain Summit.

Firstly, I was lulled into a false sense of comfort thinking the rest of the walk would be a breeze so we decided to try and climb Cradle Mountain summit. There is a saying that mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.  Ahhh.  Yep.  We got 3/4 of the way up and my little analytical brain realised the only people coming down were fit and young. I kept asking them how it was and they all said it got steeper and more complicated. These were all day trippers. Not Overlanders who still had a ways to go. But I didn’t want to cave in. I’m not a giver upperer. But Kane was worried I’d bitten off more than I could chew as the boulder scrambling became more complex. Me? I just got scared. So I pulled the pin. It’s a bloody good thing we did because back on the track it just got harder.

The look of defeat only getting 3/4’s up Cradle Mountain.

We’d both taken 3L of water as we knew access to stream water was limited on day 1 but nup, not enough and 3/4’s of the way to camp I was out of the liquid gold and I was dehydrated. It was hot. Like Satan meets the Eye of Sordor hot and the trail was completely exposed. Kane, ever the gentleman, let me guzzle the last of his water. There is a saying along the lines of you never think about the worth of water until there is none. Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Walking boards a welcome relief from gravel and rocks.

Day 1 was the hardest day no doubt and we were very happy to arrive at camp. This was where the social aspect came into play. There was a total fireban for the week. Essentially Tasmania was on fire with most of the state up in flames. So everyone had to cook in the huts. With no wifi or reception all we had was each other.

Waterfall Vally Hut. Home for the first night.

I forgot how wonderful it was to learn about other people. Despite planning on camping, we actually didn’t put the tent up once. There was a hut warden on the first night who said the flies were terrible at the campsite. They accompanied us along the track and we were jack of them. So we stayed in the huts that night and so it turns out every night, which had its benefits and challenges. Let’s just say everyone has different sleep routines and ear plugs are an absolute must whether in a tent or a hut, but especially a hut!

Romantic dehydrated dinner for two?

DAY 2 – 11.7km high alpine undulating terrain

We set off the next morning with Barn Bluff following us all day like the moon on a car ride home at night. Our old mates the March flies decided we were great company and decided to join us again too. I even started naming them. “Hey Bob, that’s a pretty flower isn’t it?” “Yo Mike, look at that weird rock.” They were big and loud but not sticky – they rarely landed for which we were actually pretty grateful.

Coffee with Barn Bluff as the view.

It was a much easier day with gorgeous scenery and flora along the track except for the blisters for Kane and my niggling right little toe flaring up. We both struggled the entire hike with these. Luckily we took a sidetrip to Lake Will, took our shoes off and soaked them in the cold alpine lake. That took the sting out of our feet for a hour or so. We were at high altitude all day and it was quite disconcerting noticing the bushfires surrounding us.

Beautiful wildflowers along the track.
Soaking our sore feet in Lake Will.

The terrain was mostly granite and gravel, and as the walk went on, I felt every stone under foot. Each day on the track we found the second half of the walks just got more arduous. Fatigue kicked in and I start tripping or stumbling. Aches and pains amplified.

Rough underfoot.

So it was a wonderful relief to get to our next camp, Windemere, which had a lake. Most everyone was drawn to the water after another long walk in sun all day. Now I’m not really one for water.  My family will attest to that. And cold water? Forget it. But I couldn’t get into that tannin lake quick enough. I didn’t give a sh!t what anyone thought about my body (and I usually do). I didn’t take swimmers. Too heavy when every gram counts. I strategically planned black underwear that “doubled” as cozzies. That lake was so lovely and refreshing. I rinsed the sweat out of my hair and all the stickiness from my body. It was invigorating.

A long swim in Lake Windemere.

A cute little wallaby made a lovely companion at the water tank as we all cleaned our dinner bowls after tea and I slept like a rock thanks to a sleeping pill knowing that tomorrow would be our biggest day.

The honeymoon suite at Windemere Hut.
Windermere Hut

DAY 3 – 16.8kms steady undulating terrain

We woke at 5.15 like many others knowing that today was big. We’d need an early start. It was cool as we set off but warmed up pretty quickly as the trail turned from boardwalk into gravel and quartzite rocks (the oldest rock in Tasmania). As we hit the button grass plains we were surrounded by the majestic dolerite mountains. A snake crossed the track early on but moved into a bush more scared of us no doubt.

An early start.

We soon came to a section of walk that was different to anything we had seen. It was like an abandoned eerie empty forest with a very defined entry where the air was still and nothing made a sound. It was grey and bleak and dark. It was all up hill through there until we peaked the ascent. Then the environment was immediately lush and almost tropical. We descended for some time into a lovely cool creek where we had a snack and enjoyed the sound of the trickling water.

The eerie forest.
One of the many markers on the track.

From here it got even better. That creek was like the anti-room to an enchanted forest filled with a kaleidoscope of greens. Every hollow looked like it housed some form of creature, real or mythical. The track turned into a labyrinth of tree roots, where each step had to be carefully planned. I was mesmerised. Kane lost me here. I kept stopping because with each few steps I’d spot another incredible sight. I’m not a believer but I’m pretty sure fairies live there. I took lots photos of possible fairy houses to show the two little girls back at camp. They agreed emphatically that they were indeed the dwellings of magical miniature creatures.

With the love heart shaped entry, I like to think this where fairies spend their honeymoons.
Track becoming a labyrinth of tree roots.
The wonderful enchanted forest.

And as if that wasnt enough, then I noticed the track had changed. It now became a mix of what I can only describe as conglomerate sandstone peppered with veins of gravel and pebbles, signs of an even more ancient river bed baked inside this sandstone. And to top it all off I found all sorts of rock and crystals embedded in there too, some of which looked so out of place having almost no earthly business being there. I could have spent hours here but Kane wanted to keep going. I’m still cranky with him about that!

Ancient riverbed under Triassic sandstone.

The descent out of there near killed me. My feet and knees were on fire. Each step was like razor blades. And it took forever. When we reached the lowest point, Froggy Flats, I was grateful for the break.

Froggy Flats. A welcome spot for lunch.
A rocky ascent toward Pelion.
Pelion flat.

With another steady ascent up rock and gravel we reached the Pelion plain where the hut awaited us. This was a large hut with a beautiful outlook. Word came through that the older couple were struggling and one was injured again so Kane and another couple went back to help them. It was about another 8kms for Kane that day doing that. Meanwhile I chatted and rugged up as it got really cold at Pelion.

Pelion hut verandah overlooking Mt Oakleigh.
Video blogging from the helipad.

DAY 4 – 6.8km mountainous ascent and descent

I woke up really tired and fatigued from the arduous nature of yesterday’s hike. And today was “mountain day”! WTF? But Day 4 thankfully was a much easier day. We started off with another hiker Deb, whose daughter Sophie left early to summit Mt Ossa. We climbed steadily for a couple of hours which I found really satisfying.

A rocky climb.
Mt Ossa shrouded in clouds.

We then reached the saddle where the trail allowed for the side trip to Mount Ossa. It was freezing up there and we all rugged up. But that was really unnecessary as the sun came out as we headed back down and just like that it was hot hot hot again. So hot that a white tip snake was basking on the trail until it saw me. Apparently I’m scary and it slithered off into a bush. But that wasn’t our only brush with the fauna. Shortly after a very cute echinda was also bumbling along the track but made for the bushes after seeing me! They are such cute critters.

An echidna on the track.

We arrived at the hut at Kia Ora early and we all had the best afternoon chatting with each other and comparing hiking gear.

Pretty good view from the campsite.

DAY 5 – 11.1kms undulating rainforest

Today was “waterfall day” and that’s exactly what we got! Along the way we stumbled across an old hut which was an unexpectedly beautiful spot and not long after ran into Deb and Sophie who had found an extraordinary red fungi in a tree base.

Red fungi.
Ducane Hut. A surprise oasis.

Half way along the track was the side trip to Harnett Falls. We meandered down to the base where the riverbed was and although we couldn’t see it, as we got closer to the waterfall we could hear it. Kane and I were alone and it was like we were the first ever people to discover the falls (despite the fact we were following a track likely created by the Tasmanian Aboriginal people who had lived in this area for more than 40,000 years).

Harnett Falls
A stone pile at the falls.

No need to say it was beautiful and the pool below it was begging to be swum in. Kane went first. Personally his reaction to the water made me think he was being a baby. He carefully navigated the slippery mossy stones until he was up to his waist, dunked his head, and was out of there! I stripped down and got in to my knees. It was bloody cold but after tormenting my poor husband I had to appear nonchalant. I counted to three and dove in. Never have I ever experienced such bone chilling cold! I’ve stood out in -20 degree celcius in NZ but this? This was colder. A primal scream/howl escaped my lungs over which I had no control. Then it was like all energy must now but used to escape this pool. But once out of the water I felt revived and refreshed and spent a few moments really taking in this ancient waterfall.

Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Freezing.

Not long after we arrived at the hut, news came in that another hiker had fractured her hand. Kane, once again, went back to help them out. Again, I spent the afternoon chatting. This was the only day it rained, and it was a short heavy shower. Bert Nicols hut was our favorite as it was big with a large social/cooking area.

Another amazing fungi.

The smoke from the bushfires really started to thicken that afternoon. The ranger said they’d evacuated some people just on the other side of the range we were facing. The fire was approx 10kms over the ridge but at no time did we feel worried. There were helipads at most camps and there were extra rangers on. We’d have been choppered out in a jiffy.

This was our last night on the track. It had come up way to fast despite the physical challenges. Mother nature gifted us with a beautiful farewell sunset.

Sunset from Windy Ridge.

DAY 6 – 9km gradual descent

We went to bed the night before with our hiking clothes on and breakfast in our pockets so we could get off early to make the 9.45am ferry from Narcissus, the only available ferry time left. At 5.15 Kanes alarm went off and by the time we had packed up (in the dark trying not to wake anyone) we started out at 5.55am with head lamps on, clearing the spiderwebs with our faces to try and fit a 3-4hr walk into 2.5-3hrs. This was an easier walk and we did make good time no doubt spurred on by the need to make the ferry.

One of the many creek crossings on Day 6.

For the first time, we could hear the birds out. One of the things we really noticed was the lack of the promised abundance of wildlife. I guess it was too hot for them. But this morning it was like the birds knew we were leaving.

We crossed the suspension bridge which is renown for being the symbol for the end of the track. It was surprisingly bouncy! But it was still a good 1-2km to Narcissus hut from there where we radioed in the ferry to let them know we were there.

It was such a rush to get there that I felt a bit ripped off. I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone and I didn’t find closure with the track. I was a bit cranky and let down.

Narscissus hut calling the ferry on the radio.

As we waited for the ferry, we tried reception on our phones and for the first time in 6 days, we were back on the grid. I called my sister first as previously arranged. She was our emergency person. If we hadn’t called she’d put out the call to the police with our trip intentions. Then we rang the kids. But the reception was terrible so we engaged in a series of texts with them.

Then we received a message from our friends concerned that the roads were closed due to fires into Lake St Clair, the place we were being picked up. We messaged the person collecting us but couldn’t get through. Surprisingly neither of us were too bothered. There wasn’t anything we could do. We’d just sort it out at the meeting point.

The ferry arriving.

The ferry ride was nice. It was a small vessel with a handsome captain with an Irish accent who advised the only road into the area reopened that morning. As we were transported from north to south over Australia’s deepest lake on that sunny clear morning, we admired the Acropolis mountain range and the shores along which we could have added an extra night and 17kms to.

When asked just after the end of the track if I’d do it again, I was non committal. However, I feel I still have unfinished business with the Overland. In fact, I’m fairly sure I will go back and do it with our friends Brad and Claudy, whose idea it all was anyway, in November this year……maybe. (Edit October 2019 has been booked!!!!)

A massive thanks go out to our boots!
Ferry ride to St Clair.
The end of the track.

Youtube link for 13 minute video https://youtu.be/CtXXDlepFSo

YouTube link to extended video diary https://youtu.be/xuIGpVQD3oE

4 thoughts on “The Overland Track

  1. Thanks for the great yarn and photos, I enjoyed reading about your walk. I live in Tassie and I’ve never done the Overland … yet 🙂 I have rafted the Franklin River twice though. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I wouldn’t live anywhere else! It’s actually even better at the moment without the tourists 😉 There’s a page on my blog about my last trip down the Franklin with 80 photos and links to around 90 mins of video on youtube if you’re interested

        Liked by 1 person

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