6 days. 5 nights. 80 kilometres. The Overland track in numbers. Getting away from civilisation and walking the old trails of trappers and early settlers in a beautiful and dramatic setting is though what it is to experience.
We set off on the north to south route, beginning at Ronny Creek. This is the only option during the busier warmer months. Cradle Mountain the drawcard at the start of the trek and a popular day trip for those not wanting to go fully overland. Don’t get me wrong the whole scenery was spectacular, but to say Cradle mountain was the jewel in the crown was a bit of an overstatement. Nevertheless there was plenty of mountains to attract the eye.
Four hours first day and 20+kg on the back. We soon began to rethink the extras we may have done without! Yet we were pretty spartan. Essentials for 5 days though start to add up. A tent being a necessity. For safety reasons in order to bunk down should a big storm blow through. It can snow at any time of year. You may say one luxury was the camping hammocks.
First night was at Waterfall Valley camping on soft mossy grass overlooking a grassy plain next to an old shack. It was very pleasant and peacefully quiet. A few wallabies loping around minding their own business. The towering Barn Bluff an imposing peak soaring into the darkening sky before all that was visible was a billion twinkling stars.
The second day kept winding through the valley. Crossing duckboard sections where it got super muddy and some gnarly root sections which kept us focused on each and every footfall. We took a detour to Lake Will, the remnants of a long since deceased glacier.
Arriving at camp at Lake Windermere we opted this time for the wooden platforms to set up camp on. Seemingly the only real option. Designed to prevent ongoing damage to the sensitive environment. Amongst towering forest gums we also managed to tie up a hammock and rest the weary legs for a while and take the weight off the shoulders.
The Windermere Hut providing a location to store bags but it was much more pleasant camping outdoors than staying in the confines of the hut.
Day 3 was the longest of the trip with 17 kilometres covered. Choosing the hut for accommodation this night purely due to the earlier start in the morning. This was needed for an attempt to scale Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa. Pelion Hut was quite a decent hut and also busy. Especially come meal time. We actually really enjoyed our freeze dried meals for their simplicity, weight and indeed flavour. We however looked on quite enviously at the culinary skills of some of our fellow trekkers busting out three course meals in pots and pans while we watched our meal sit for the requisite 10 minutes in hot water before eating.
The facilities at camp were quite sufficient. Both water access and bathrooms. We were trialling the use of a SteriPen to sterilise water. The UV light passes through the water for about 90 seconds and it’s done! So simple, it’s hard to know if it’s doing anything at all. Still we did not get sick the entire trip. The only issue found with the SteriPen was it seemed to not to like super cold water. Which made sterilizing the 2 degree water first thing in the morning a bit of a challenge!
Mount Ossa & Kia Ora
An early start into an immediately steep climb to an exposed pass. Turning right off the main trail it was then a gradual ascent to the base of Mt Ossa. Then it got serious. A scramble up and over a boulder field for a good hour before reaching the most technical aspect of the climb. The few directional arrows we’d followed to this point seemed pointed up a chasm in the rock. This got quite precarious towards the end. Finally there was a need to hoist oneself over an exposed lip what we named ‘dead mans hang’. It was a good 20-30 metres down to the boulders if one slipped.
A fellow hiker who had joined us to this point decided this was enough and returned downwards. Over the lip however it was quite a simple stroll to the summit. Sweeping clouds obscuring a clear view from the top but the views en route up were perfect enough.
On the descent we noticed a less gnarly route down so we avoided Dead Man’s Hang and contnued down the boulder field needing to carefully watch our step on the loose parts of the trail.
Downwards to the track junction to pick up our main back packs and onwards to Kia Ora camp. A sleepy tiger snake was awaiting our arrival on a rock outside the hut. We set up camp and relaxed in the hammock overlooking the valley and the mountain backdrop.
Day 5 had us stocktaking on food to ensure we didn’t over indulge and run short. Our penultimate day’s hike was serene. Walking though some mossy forests and taking a short side trip to Fergusson Falls. This fell into a small canyon which we descended and the canyon floor was lined with the most brilliant mushrooms you’d imagine. It was like they came from the set of Alice in Wonderland.
The afternoon was spent at Windy Ridge camp which did not live up to it’s name. It was a very still, warm and sunny afternoon spent on a deck with fellow hikers. Each recalling the trek plus infamous leech stories!
Possums visited the tent most nights but we were careful to leave food in the huts so they rarely stayed long. They did spend some time chatting outside our tent to decide if we harboured food or not. This night they left us a present of a few droppings at our doorstep to discover in the morning.
Narcissus & Cynthia Bay ferry
Final day. A short descent of 7 km (3 hours) to Lake St Clair and a short wait at the hut while some of the only rain on our entire trek fell. We used up the last of the food supplies, a tea bag. We had rationed well. Some package trip hikers devouring pizza slices and tubs of cookies which had our mouths watering though.
We opted for the ferry exit. There is another full days hike to walk (17km) to Cynthia Bay along the shore of Lake St Clair. We didn’t have an option as we’d no food to continue! The ferry was quaint and uneventful. Dropping us at Lake St Clair for a mouth watering burger & Coke! We rendezvoused with our pick up driver who took us the 2.5 hours drive back to Launceston.
Whilst this is really a succinct summary. Each days walking was a very pleasant meander through a range of spectacular environments. True ‘wild’ wilderness and no phone service was a good thing. Our packs getting marginally lighter as the trek wore on but we were, hopefully, getting marginally fitter at the same time. The Overland Track, like Tasmania, has big dramatic skies and wilderness in bucketloads. We were privileged to have 6 days of it, mostly to ourselves, to explore.