The Overland Track - Flip-Flop-Trekking or Wilderness Experience?


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Published: April 21st 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY

Preface

Since 1998 when I first visited Tasmania I have wanted to do the Overland Track, one of the worlds great walks. The weather gods did not send welcoming signals then and I wouldn’t have had the time to do it either. Thus, I had to come back…
After eight years I was to find that - except for the weather - things have changed. The Overland has become so popular that the park management had to limit the number of walkers which is certainly a good idea. Furthermore, they introduced a hefty 100 dollars walking pass (summer only) which in my opinion is a bit expensive since you don’t have to pay anything if you do just parts of the trek. Anyway, of course we paid for our permit and started our great adventure on the 7th of February. Soon we found out where all our money goes. About one third of the 85 kilometre long track are on boardwalks and what’s more they lead you to huts that we hadn’t dared dreaming of. Each one equipped with a gas or coal stove and its own helipad.
We were surprised at first but we readily accepted and adapted to
BoardwalkBoardwalkBoardwalk

Leading towards Barn Bluff.
the provided luxury. Long before we came across this middle aged man in sandals cruising around in the Labyrinth, the idea occurred to me that it would actually be possible to do the whole trek (except side-trips and in summer only) in flip-flops. I am far from saying that this is a good idea but I think you would get through. The weather is still unpredictable though and we have even seen snow! Historically February is supposed to be the driest as well as the warmest month in Tassie. After nine days on the Overland I am not able to confirm this. However, the certainty of a warm bed in the evening and dry socks in the morning make the walk a whole lot easier than it would be without the huts.
The Overland definitely becomes a stroll in the park if you decide to walk “in style” and join one of the commercial groups. In doing so you could even avoid carrying a heavy pack (only bring a new shirt for every three course dinner that will be served). From what we have heard you would enjoy the company of the commercial group if you are American, a dentist
Kitchen HutKitchen HutKitchen Hut

One of the older models. The main huts along the way are a bit more spacious after all.
or a stock broker.
Thus, the conclusion of it all: It has become easier and more comfortable to do the Overland Track. While the provided facilities leave you more time to enjoy the beautiful scenery you can still feel the wildness of this unique wilderness area. Whether you take your flip-flops or your boots, it will certainly be a great experience. I loved it!


Day 1 - No snakes for dinner

We finally finish packing at about 12 o’ clock but still we don’t start. Heavy drops keep falling from the sky and the forecasted clearing just doesn’t want to happen. Because we don’t like to get wet we decide to hang around at the car park for a bit longer even though this means that we have to deal with this rather comical appearance of a park ranger who keeps bothering us with useful tips such as “take a raincoat“ (obviously some people don’t) or “don’t pick up snakes”. After we have bagged an additional package of pasta (because our planned snake-goulash for dinner has obviously just fallen into the water) we move up to the second car park at Rony Creek, the official starting point
Tiger SnakeTiger SnakeTiger Snake

Even if you are tempted to pick this cuddly beastie up and give it a big hug. Don't!
of the Overland Track. The rain is still drumming on the roof of our car so we don’t get out even though it is half past two already. When the rain finally stops at 3.20 pm we sign the log-book (next entry after the Parsons family) and tackle the first climb up to Marions lookout, one of the toughest ascents of the whole track. Up on the plateau we can still see patches of snow - reminders of yesterdays storm. We could not see much else as the surrounding mountains (esp. Cradle Mountain) were wrapped in thick clouds. As we approach Barn Bluff shortly after six o’clock we see something strange that we haven’t seen for a long time: the sun. We now get clear views of Mount Oakleigh and Mount Ossa, the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness that we have just set out to cross in the next couple of days. We are the last to arrive at Waterfall Valley (but probably the only ones who didn’t get wet). About 30 hikers are already there, talking and watching the wombats who are peacefully grazing besides the hut. We spend the night in the old (unheated) hut together with Dan
WombatWombatWombat

They move exactly as their name suggests.
and Michael as the new hut is already crowded. The meanwhile clear sky above us announces a cold night.


Day 2 - Cooking exploits and explosions

After a cold night we get ready for stage two: a relatively short walk to Windermere hut with the possible sidetrack to Lake Will. After a swim in Lake Windermere we arrive relatively early at the small but comfortable hut. A few parties have pushed on to the next hut but for those who stay here tonight it is the time to get to know each other a bit better. Although nobody knows it at the time this group will stay together for the next couple of days and as days go by become almost like a small family.
The early arrival of most hikers also allows for some extraordinary cooking experiments. While Tom and Kate produce an impressive curry with several kind of veggies, Ted’s simmered apricots are not quite such a success. (Because if you simmer apricots for to long you will get fried apricots and if you fry them too long you will get black apricots and a hut full of smoke.) In an attempt to make up
Mount OakleighMount OakleighMount Oakleigh

The first view of Mount Oakleigh as we approach from the north.
for the strange smell Ted pours out the first round of his (yet to become) legendary Rum and Bali-water. Tim who arrives too late to know about the apricot-incident might have thought that if there is smoke there has also to be a fire and almost set the hut afire with a dodgy petrol burner. (Or did he just not pump enough?) The Parsons family impress us huties with their will to sleep in the tent even though dark clouds announce a wet night. At least they don’t have to worry about smoke and fires.


Day 3 - Meeting the devil

Today we push on right into the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness and right into the centre of a metrological trough. (They often seem to linger in this area.) As we reach the end of the first of two moor land plains which we have to cross today we literally get rolled over by mist and clouds. We soon give up to get a view (or even a picture) from the lookout and put on our raincoats instead just before the rain sets in. Because of the gusty winds this rain is of the horizontal kind which is not exactly my favourite. We curse the weather gods and march on, heads downwards, towards the next hut which is still about four hours away. It feels like hell but after less than an hour the rain eases and as we walk on through the second plain we get the feeling that we are finally emerging from the tempests of the underworld. That’s when we encounter the devil himself. The devil is a Tasmanian one and it reminds us that we are in the wild rather than in hell and that it is a special honour to be here. Happy about the unexpected encounter we walk on towards Frog Flats where we have lunch as it starts raining again. Today - for the first time - the track leads us through patches of temperate rainforest which is stunningly beautiful. The mossy trunks of the myrtle beech, the lichens dangling from the branches and the occasional creek through it all - a dream in green. Especially on a misty (not to say rainy) day like this if there are no views from the mountains this is my favourite place on the track. When we arrive at New Pelion hut
Dolomite BouldersDolomite BouldersDolomite Boulders

The typical rock formation of the Tasmanian mountains.
we find it very busy but as it is the biggest hut we still manage to find a bed. Thanks to Paul and Yolanda our routine pasta dinner gets supplemented with some lamb curry which they could seize from the commercial group.


Day 4 - Has anyone seen Mount Ossa?

While most of the people are already preparing for the day (Mount Ossa is on the schedule) we sit leisurely at the table and make a pioneering invention. Instead of eating another cold breakfast we are for the first time heating our oats together with milk powder, water, sugar and dried apricots. The result: Our meanwhile famous apricot porridge. It is not only tasty, it also makes you strong as this day would prove. Even though we start quite late we are to be one of the first parties on top of Mount Ossa where we have a tasty picnic in the clouds. Once again there are no views at all but the top with its big dolerite boulders to climb around is quite an attraction in itself. But not only us two are in good shape today. Our Dutch friends Paul and Yolanda who - quite special (or logical?) for Dutchmen - seem to have a strong affection for mountain summits and with them Ted do not only conquer Mount Ossa today but take in the peak of Mount Pelion East as a starter. Kia Ora hut where we spend the 4th night will be remembered as the place where we first saw a tiger snake. We didn’t know then that we would see dozens of them whilst walking in sunnier parts of Tasmania.


Day 5 - One fall too many

Our next stage from Kia Ora to Windy Ridge is dominated by forests and waterfalls and it turns out to be a long one as there are quite a few side trips and countless picture opportunities. Although most people are most impressed by the Fergusson Falls I personally like the view down on D’Alton Falls best. However, the narrow gorge just below Fergusson Falls is also quite interesting and provides a nice setting for our lunch break. Last but not least we visit Hartnett Falls where we enjoy/survive a short dip into the water at a lovely pool just above the falls. Standing in the drizzle (which has just started again) feels
Air RescueAir RescueAir Rescue

Unfortunately the views on this unhoped-for flight were again crappy due to adverse weather conditions...
like a warm shower after twenty seconds in the water of Hartnett Falls.
When we arrive at Windy Ridge hut after a leisurely walk we are to find Marge in agony. A treacherous root (of which there were quite a few today) has caused her to fall and left her with a broken fibula and a lot of pain. Luckily there are a couple of doctors in our group and the ranger manages to organize a helicopter rescue the same evening. The gathering crowd and the many paparazzi indicate that we are losing a much liked person on the track. (The rescue even gets published in Hobart’s’ newspaper the next day bringing Marge unexpected publicity.)
Just after the helicopter has taken off, Ted, our secret agent, comes back from his mission in the commercial hut and entertains the crowd as he is recalling the events of the three course dinner with the other group. With the excitement subsiding the quiet of the night soon wraps around the hut and puts its inhabitants in a deep sleep. Not even the notorious possum gang of Windy Ridge manages to disturb us ever more.


Day 6 - The parting of the
The LabyrinthThe LabyrinthThe Labyrinth

People really do get lost here!
ways

Day number six sees the break up of our trekking family. While most parties head to Narcissus Bay to catch the ferry or walk out the next day we decide to do the side trip up to Pine Valley. After a lot of good-byes we still manage to get on the track reasonably early. Because the weather forecast is not too bad we walk at a swift pace and reach Pine Valley at around noon. After a quick lunch we tackle the steep climb up to the Labyrinth. Godfather Zeus doesn’t seem to be much impressed by our efforts and soon after we pass the Minotaur at the entrance of the high plain the clouds roll in once again and it starts raining. At least we are just in time to catch last glimpses of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Completely wet we decide to turn around.
Unfortunately, we don’t manage to start the coal fire in the evening to warm up and dry our clothes but at least we learned enough to get a perfect fire going the next day (i.e. collect wood asap and put it inside and clean out the stove before starting anew). We
QuollQuollQuoll

The next best thing to a Tasmanian Devil.
still manage to keep our good mood and forget about the cold while playing cards with Ann, Miriam, Beth and Emma.


Day 7 - Quolls and mice

After a brief visit to the nearby Cephissus waterfall we decide to leave Pine Valley and reluctantly give up our plans to climb the Acropolis as the views wouldn’t be different from those on Mount Ossa three days ago. Thus, stage number seven is a only a short walk down to Narcissus hut where we find a lovely quoll running around the hut, light a beautiful fire to finally dry our clothes and meet Andrew with whom we talk about soccer (a rare topic with Australians) while the obligatory daily shower is drumming on the roof. At night we get waken up by mice scurrying around. But apart from the rubbish bag they don’t carry off much.


Day 8 - Walking out

Day number eight - the last one on the official Overland Track - is the first one with fine weather throughout. But of course there is not a single mountain - not even a hill - on today’s route which we could climb for some
Mount Olympus and Lake St. ClaireMount Olympus and Lake St. ClaireMount Olympus and Lake St. Claire

On day number eight we finally got some decent weather.
good views. Nevertheless, we enjoy the pleasant walk mainly through mixed forest along Lake St. Clair towards the endpoint of the Overland Track. Highlights of the day are lunch (in the sun) at Echo Point, swimming at Platypus Bay and a sunset-cappuccino at the visitor centre. Because we can’t get a lift back to Cradle Mountain today and the forecast predicts more fine weather we decide to extend our endeavour and climb nearby Mount Rufus tomorrow.


Day 9 - A shower at last

After camping at Watersmeert camping area - the first night in the tent - we set off to finally get some views. The weather is better still than yesterday and temperatures rise into the higher 20ies. At Shadow Lake we come across four tiger snakes within 30 minutes. The reptiles seem to be equally delighted by the sunny day as we are. Mount Rufus is not really a spectacular mountain to look at - more like a big hill - but it is certainly a good place to look down from and the 360 degrees views from the top are justifying its climb. We look back towards the north where we have come from, over Mount Olympus to the Acropolis and as far as Mount Ossa, before we enjoy an extended lunch break and feast on our remaining food supply.
After this hot day we feel that one dollar could be spend worse than for a shower at the nearby campground and decide unanimously to invest that money for the first shower after nine days on the track. We have dinner with Markus and Tanja who will be so kind to give us a lift back to Cradle Mountain tomorrow.


Day 11 - Bonus Day

After another beautiful day the weather still holds in the morning of day 11 so we have an early rise (5 am) and are rewarded with a nice sunrise at Lake Dove. We decide to make up for what we missed on the first day and climb Cradle Mountain. We literally run up to the top and for once we beat the clouds and the rain. It is a great peak with great views and as we are finally standing up there we feel great relief. The circle is closed. The Overland experience feels finally complete.




Annex - Our Overland Diet

It is
WallabyWallabyWallaby

Watching and being watched.
always a big question at the beginning of a multi-day walk what food to take along. As we were highly satisfied with our choice I decided to add our shopping list to this page. It might suit you as well if you like to have a lightweight backpack and a heavyweight wallet at the same time.
We tried to put together a simple but variable diet which was not too heavy to carry and wouldn’t melt or rot in our packs. Instead of wasting money on high tech meals which you get in outdoor shops we bought everything in a normal supermarket. For the amount of food it is really worth to plan ahead as you don’t want to carry too much stuff during the whole trek just to take it back home in the end. This is what we took along for two persons:

* 250g oats per day
* Sugar
* 500g milk powder
* 500g dried apricots
* 4 slices of toast bread per day
* 1 pack of vacuum sealed burritos
* 24 cheese slices
* 400g salami
* 6 hard boiled eggs
* Mustard
* 3 different packets of biscuits
* 1 apple per
Lake DoveLake DoveLake Dove

Tasmanias most photographed lake.
day
* 200g peanut butter
* 400g dark chocolate
* 2 muesli bars per day
* 250g fresh olives
* Sachet of salted peanuts
* 1 tin of sardines
* Stock cubes
* 3 oriental noodle soups
* 4 packets of instant soup
* 2 packets of flavoured pasta (70g-110g each) per day
* 3 litres of water (enough if watertanks at the huts are reliable)

Don’t forget the gas for your stove and matches or a lighter. One small gas bottle lasted us for the whole trek. But its probably wise to take one spare.



Find more stories and pictures on our Lovelyplanet-Homepage.








Planet Portrait

* Top 3:

Temperate Rainforest

Rugged Mountaintops

Meeting fellow hikers

* Our route: Cradle Mountain - Waterfall Valley - Windermere - New Pelion - Kia Ora - Windy Ridge - Pine Valley - Narcissus - Watersmeet - Cradle Mountain

* Dissapointment: Too many wet clouds

* Walking Fees: Since 2005 the number of walkers is restricted. You are supposed to book ahead walk north to south only and pay a fee of 100 dollars (summer only) if you want to walk the Oveland Track. You can
Creek below Fergusson FallsCreek below Fergusson FallsCreek below Fergusson Falls

Only the brave go swimming in these waters.
book here

* Money Saver Tip: Do it in wintertime when it is still free or do only part of the track. There is a track joining the Overland at New Pelion from the east. Alternatively walk up to Pine Vally from Lake St. Clair and out again.

* Wildlife we have seen: Tasmanian Tiger, Wombat, Pademelon, Tiger Snake, Currawong, Quoll, Possum




Planet Pictures





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CurrawongCurrawong
Currawong

If you believe the rumors they open the zippers of your bag as soon as you turn your back on them.
EucalyptsEucalypts
Eucalypts

Also nice but nowhere as special as the myrtle beeches.


4th January 2007

Thanks for the tips on what food to take. A great help!
30th December 2007

Overland Track
They are some great photo's lovelyplanet- well done. Just an update- Track fee $150 from nov 07

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