Written by The Walking Traveller
LET'S TAKE A WALK IN THE WILD
The weather was not being very kind. Wind whipped around the hikers ears, making them shrink down further into the collar of their colourful gortex waterproof jackets. The mixture of hail and snow pounded into their faces, their hands clasping the iron chain as they pulled themselves up the steep rocks to Marions Lookout. They are carrying heavy backpacks filled with all their food, clothing, tent and other daily needs for 7 days on this 79.7 km trail. This trail starting at Ronney Creek and finishing at Cynthia Bay at Lake St Clair Visitors Centre, is called The Overland Track. Thousands of hikers pay A$200 each to enjoy the challenge of walking in this World Heritage Wilderness area each year, in Tasmania.
THE START OF THE JOURNEY
One of the more experienced hikers could be heard repeating softly her mantra for the day as she clasped the chain in front of her, “ I am confident in who I am and my abilities.” This trail is not a walk in the park. Just because the trail is not very long in distance, don’t underestimate the level of fitness you will need to traverse over the mountains, rock steps, the ups and downs, the slippery rocks and tree roots. Oh and let’s not forget the occasional mud up to the shins. The weather will also dictate to you, how it wants you to see the trail.
Before embarking on the trail at the Parks Visitors centre, your gear is checked against the must have gear list on booking the trip by the Rangers. As well as watching a film of the dangers and survival techniques you hopefully won’t need out on the trail. Rangers are present if you have any last minute concerns.
After reaching Marions Lookout with heads down against the elements the hikers head along the trail and not before too long, Kitchen Hut comes into view in the mist. It is a welcome shelter to wait out the storm, a chance also to re fuel for lunch. The trail has Wilderness Huts at the end of each days section. Although tent platforms are provided and recommended, the Huts are available mainly only to use in very poor weather conditions.
They are a great source of shelter to eat, dry out and meet fellow hikers. Peeking out the old timber door of Kitchen Hut the hikers could see the clouds had lifted and views of the spectacular Cradle Mountain appeared, it was time for them to head to their first nights destination at Waterfall Valley Hut.
WHERE TO SLEEP
The Huts along the trail are well fitted out with wooden bunk beds, at least one table and platform seats, the larger newer huts would have more tables as well as drying areas. Some of the huts even have the luxury of a heater. There is a great camaraderie amongst the hikers as they cook up their meals on their portable stoves and converse with other hikers from around the world, all of different ages and demographics. The wilderness huts have been giving shelter to hikers since as early as 1917.
Waterfall Valley Hut
The wooden tent platforms are set up to keep the hikers off the delicate flora beneath. Some of these platforms are in the best position to see the surrounding mountains, amazing sunrises, and not to mention the wide open blackness of a starry, starry night.
Meals on the trail will most likely be dehydrated food, because of the lightness to carry. Either made by hikers themselves or there are many companies found in hiking stores and online supplying dehydrated food. An example of a daily menu might be porridge and coffee/tea for breakfast, tuna and biscuits for lunch and dinner of a dehydrated meal. Snacks can consist of muesli bars, nuts, chocolate or beef jerky. About 800 grams a day of well selected food should suffice for the trip. Each of the Hikers would be pack carrying anywhere from 9 kilos with Ultralight gear to the more common weight of up to 16 kilos.
The trail itself is mainly made up of wooden Duck Board, this keeps the wilderness areas from being damaged. There are side trips that you may choose to take each day while on the trail. Either to Mt Ossa, the highest mountain in Tasmania, climb Mt Oakleigh, visit the Waterfalls, go for a swim in Lake Will or visit the oldest Hut in the National Park, Old Pelion Hut. No Duck Board when you are climbing these though.
Most side trips will be governed by the weather conditions.
Whether you hike a side trip or not, you will be in awe of the magnificent scenery. The diversity of the terrain from rocky outcrops in the Alpine area of Snow Peppermint Eucalyptus, Alpine Yellow Gum and Stringy Barks. Along the plateau you will spot the signature species of the Overland Track, the Button Grass with its tiny white button like flowers. Arriving down closer to lake St Clair the ferns and moss covered trees give you an eerie sense of place as you step over the damp slippery ancient tree roots. Along the shores of Lake St Clair a perfume fills the air of the Leatherwood Trees, its fallen petals forming a soft pink carpet to walk over. The smell is reminiscent of having a hot crunchy piece of toast in the morning with honey oozing through your fingers. The Bees must love them.
Let’s not forget the fauna of The Overland. The cheeky possums who will help themselves to your food if you’re not careful or bump your tent as they walk past in the middle of the night, the wishful sighting of a Tasmanian Devil, one of the variety of snakes that is curled up on the duck board in the sunshine warming its skin. Or the wonderful variety of native birds and a joy to the eye of a Wombat in the wild walking through the bush, paying no heed to the overly excited hikers watching him.
As the hikers make their way along the shores of Lake St Clair to Narcissus Hut and walk to the jetty where the Ferry can take you to the end of your journey, if you wish. All the while marvelling at the sunny day and the beautiful reflections of the sky and the mountains on the water. The group comment to each other how different their last day is to their first. Standing on the wooden jetty next to the stillness of the lake, they have plenty of time to savour the moments and memories they have made while hiking this magnificent wilderness trail. The hikers stand and watch the ferry leaving ripples on the still water as it disappears around the bend carrying fellow hikers to the end of their journey.
But our hikers journey doesn’t end here, they sling they packs back on their shoulders, return to the trail and single file continue past the beach campsite of Echo Point and onto the end of the trail at the Visitors Centre at Cynthia Bay.
THE VISITORS CENTER
An exciting buzz captures the Centre, backpacks of all colours and sizes line up along the entrance. Familiar faces of hikers greet the new comers just finishing with a wave or comment of well done. The obligatory photo taken at the statue to mark the end of ones trail, and now it is time for some, to have a celebratory drink at the Bar or delight in the famous Overland hamburger at the Restaurant, a real treat after all that dehydrated food.
Parks Tasmania Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre
For those who would like a momentum of their journey, a colourful certificate is available at the Visitor Centre.
While waiting for their pre booked return shuttle back to Launceston, our Hikers reminisce together of their favourite stories from the trail. Their memories will stay vivid for quite some time, of when they spent 7 days Hiking, Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Trail, The Overland Track.
According to a recent Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service survey, 55 % of hikers rated the Overland Track as
“One of the best things they have ever done in their life”. And this hiker would have to agree.
OVERNIGHT HUTS ON THE OVERLAND TRACK AND THE DISTANCE BETWEEN
Waterfall Gully - 11 k’s
Windermere Hut - 7.7 k’s
New Pelion Hut - 15.3 k’s
Kia ora Hut - 8.6 k’s
Bert Nichols - 9.8 k’s
Narcissus Hut - 10.1 k’s
Cynthia Bay - 17.2 k’s
MUST TAKE ITEMS
First aid kit, including 2 snake bandages, emergency blanket. Emergency Beacon
Every piece of equipment that is listed from Parks Tasmania when receiving the Parks Pass. And a sense of Adventure of course.
Parks Tasmania Overland Track Gear List HERE
GETTING TO THE TRAIL
Domestic fights from mainland Australia to Launceston .
Pre booked shuttle bus to the trail head. Several companies travel to and from to the Visitors Centre at Cradle Mountain and Launceston.