Tasmania & The Overland Track
For over two weeks of incommunicado, especially the 5 days on The Overland Track, it’s time for another post from me from Down Under.
So as you read before in the previous post I was enjoying Melbourne and preparing for Tasmania and The Overland Track in particular. Pity Mieke couldn’t come along because of a surprise visit from a certain some one. So it was Alexa and me that would be traveling to Tasmania.
In the days preceding our flight to Tassie, as the locals call it, we got ourselves food consisting of instant noodles, tomato sauce, rice, crackers, tea, coffee, carrots, chocolate spread, cheese, sausage and finally lots AND lots of muesli bars. We bought some special camping gear as well. Mostly for cooking though, like a burner plus aluminum pots and finally two rollup camping mats for inside the tent. Although we had looked for a proper tent in Melbourne and Alexa even got one for free, we decided on renting one in Tasmania. This was decided rather quickly after pitching the free tent and finding some food remains inside that would probably have eaten us had we ever tried to sleep in it. ;)
So most of the shopping done we headed for Tullamarine airport on Saturday the 12th. The flight was quite straight forward to Launceston in Tasmania. It took about an hour to get there. Quite similar to the flight from Schiphol to London. Although at the end when we started our descent we experienced some turbulence and to make it even more fun just before landing, the plane made a nice little turn about 250 meters from the ground. So all in all short flight with an interesting landing.
Launceston itself is a quaint town. It consists mostly of churches, baby stores and bottle shops. The latter being a store where you buy your alcohol. They have them all over and some even with a drive-in. When we got to our hostel Hub Backpackers there was nobody at the reception or anybody that knew about our booking. So eventually we got a good discount and a room to ourselves. This was due to a guy that was a bit drunk. Over the few days that we stayed there we probably saw four other backpackers. It was mostly a ghost hostel. Bit creepy really. But after getting settled in the hostel we contacted Douglas Snare from Backpackers Equipment. Here we rented our tent and 2 pairs of water & wind proof trousers.
On Monday we set off early from Launceston grabbing the Tassielink (bus) to Cradle Mountain visitor center. After little over an hour the bus driver pulled over because the bus alarm was going off. He looked quite worried and tried to fix the problem himself but failed to do so. After talking on the phone for ages with a mechanic we eventually set out again although quite delayed and without air-conditioning. After a few more hours we eventually got to the visitor center and after writing some postcards we took the shuttle bus to Ronny Creek. The classic beginning of The Overland Track.
Day 1 (Monday): Cradle Valley to Waterfall Valley Hut
Distance: 10,4 KM / Time: 6,5 hours
Our first day on the track. As I said starting from Ronny Creek to walk through Cradle Valley to Waterfall Valley Hut. It started off quite well over level terrain for the first kilometer or so but soon we had started to climb towards Crater Lake and afterwords Marions Lookout. A lot of effort went into this, especially with a 20+ KG backpack (most of it being food) which means a lot of sweating going up hill. But more on the backpack later. Eventually we got to Kitchen Hut. Just before the sidetrack to Cradle Mountain the track moves NNE. We didn’t do much of the sidetracks that meant us going up a mountain. This was due to Alexa’s bad knee from an accident a year ago and my slight foot injury. But that didn’t mean we had no fun at all. The scenery was amazing during the change in height. And especially the lakes on our first day were very impressive. Only downside of the track were the March Flies. These are even more irritating than mosquitos and that’s saying a lot. But besides insects you see a lot of animals along the track. Mostly after dusk around the camp/hut sites. Most of which are either Bennett's wallaby's, Tasmania pademelon or black currawong. I did however also see the short-beaked echidna, common ringtail possum, Tasmanian Froglet, Tasmanian tree skink and a pair of Tasmanian Wedge-tailed eagles high in the mountains.
I missed out on the Tasmanian Devil and Platypus which was a shame. But I might still get lucky with the Platypus when I go down from Cairns to Brisbane in a few months time.
Eventually we reach Waterfall Valley Hut and tried to erect the tent we rented and hadn’t previously tried out. It took some time but managed it and this before sunset. Fun thing is that we found the manual in German and extra tent pegs the next day.
After the tent it was time for food and that meant noodles. Which tasted quite good but that might have been because of the walk. Cooking with the camping gear and propane burner went quite well, although Alexa did the cooking. To end the first day on the track we downed a bit of the worst bourbon ever…Jim Beam.
Oh and did I mention we had a few muesli bars along the way? We bought about 48 of them for quick energy along the way.
Day 2 (Tuesday): Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Hut
Distance: 7,0 KM / Time: 3,5 hours
Before I start with our second day on the track, the night was quite rough. Mostly due to the ditch I was sleeping in and how cold it gets in our tent. The next nights we slept in the huts to avoid being cold and sore all over. But it was quite nice to go for a walk around 3 am in the morning. Seeing the stars and the wildlife while using my headlight.
We had some breakfast before we set out and I talked to one of the rangers at Waterfall Valley hut about my backpack. Like I mentioned it was quite heavy with supplies but it didn’t feel right on my back and hips. So with some help from the ranger (Thanks Ian) we adjusted the backpack and it felt so much better carrying it around while most of the weight was on my hips, instead of my shoulders.
On the way to Windermere Hut we made a sidetrack to Lake Will (Distance: 4,8 KM / Time: 2 hours return). A nice lake with a view towards Barn Bluff. It also had a two nice beaches, the second one being the nicest (just 10 minute walk further). We stayed there for a bit and even put our feet into the lake which was very very cold but nice (March Flies notwithstanding). The track this day was quite nice as it didn’t involve much climbing. This was very nice for me as I seem to sweat very easily and thus need to drink more water than Alexa on tough terrain. A lot of other people on the track wear an underskin kind of silk softshell to keep warm and stay dry which prevents the sweat from getting into your normal clothes. That might be something I should buy next time I do a track like this.
After arriving at Windermere Hut we made dinner with the last bit of pepperoni sausage, tomato sauce and rice. This helped a lot with our fatigue and thus we walked back to Lake Windermere where I had a swim.
Day 3 (Wednesday): Windermere Hut to Pelion Hut
Distance: 14,2 KM / Time: 6 hours
Another long day that took us 6 hours to do with a short sidetrip to River Forth Lookout (Distance: 100 M / Time: 5 minutes return) which gave us a great view over a deep forested valley below. This day marks the first with mist and a bit of rain every now and again. The previous two being very sunny which in part slowed us down a lot. Most of the track was through forested areas and that meant a lot of roots and mud that we needed to walk over.
Pelion Hut is quite a good walk away but after pushing on at a steady pace we reach it at last. The Hut is one of the biggest on the track and although the rollup mats we bought back in Melbourne are the worst thing ever it’s good to be able to sit down and talk to fellow travellers that are doing the track. Most of which are from Australia, with here and there an exception, like a woman on her own from South-America.
I even got to talk to Geoff Mallinson from a town North of Sydney that is doing the track on minimalistic shoes. Weighing 190 gram with a sole of 3 millimeter in the front and 6 millimeter in the back. And as minimalistic footwear has gotten very interesting to me (ever since I made the switch) he pointed me towards a site he runs with Damien Tougas called toesalad.com about minimalistic footwear.
Day 4 (Thursday): Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut
Distance: 8,2 KM / Time: 3 hours
We did two days of the track (day 4/5) which meant a total distance of 16.8 KM. It started with rain when we set out on the track towards are half way marker Kia Ora Hut. A real rainy day! No sidetrack today or at least no big ones anyways as we had a lot of distance to cover. After about an hour we took out our raingear which meant my poncho for Alexa. It looked cute although it was more like a tent than a poncho for her.
Although the rain was disappointing, it did mean that we got lots of cool pictures, with the misty rain in the morning. But it also brought with it leeches in the forest that seemed to like my calves and so they ended up a bit bloodied…the calves not the leeches ;)
A good thing we reached Kia Ora Hut when we did because around this time the heavens seemed to open up just when we sat down for some more noodles.
Day 4 (Thursday - continued): Kia Ora Hut to Windy Ridge Hut
Distance: 8,6 KM / Time: 3,5 hours
Some muesli bars later, we walked through part of the forest before Windy Ridge Hut where I took a slight detour alone to Sidetrip: D'Alton Falls (Distance: 80 M / Decent: 1,0 KM / Time: 1 hour return). After getting back to the main track I set out for Windy Ridge again which took me quite some time along more tree roots and mud.
After getting to Windy Ridge we met a couple from Brisbane and talked about everything that has happened to Queensland in the last months. Although I have forgotten their names they were very friendly and even asked me for my e-mail address because they might have some IT work for me.
Day 5 (Friday): Windy Ridge Hut to Narcissus Hut
Distance: 9,5 KM / Time: 2,5 hours
We set out very early today to reach the ferry in time which is the classic way of ending the track and work through our last batch of muesli-bars which I swear I’ll never eat again and so Alexa ate the last ones. We cover the last part of The Overland Track fairly quickly and reach Narcissus Hut. Here we radio the ferry which has 2 spots open on the 11.15 ride across St. Claire Lake to the visitor center on the other end of the lake.
But before the ferry comes I jump into the lake which seems to be a bit of a tradition as a lot of guys do this. But then again it might be due to the lack of showering for 5 days.
Narcissus Hut to Cynthia Bay via Lake St. Clair
Distance: 400 M / Time: 5 minute walk, 30 minute ferry ride
The ferry ride is a beautiful way to end The Overland Track. And at the end we only need to wait 9 hours for the Tassielink to Hobart. Although the waiting is some what less boring when somebody sees a Tiger Snake near one of the picnic tables. Afterwards I meet a Canadian couple, Adam and Chrissy, from Edmonton in Alberta. Sharing some stories about The Overland Track, daily life, movies, travel and work. And Adam ruined the ending to Hamlet for me. The time does go faster this way though.
Total distance: 63,28 KM / Total time: 28 hours and 10 minutes
After reaching Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, we stayed for 5 nights and on the fourth day we ended up renting a car to drive to Freycinet National Park on the east coast of Tasmania. We is a strong word here by the way as Alexa does the driving and I must say she does this quite well. Although hitting the windscreen wiper control instead of the indicator happens a lot ;) Seeing Wineglass Bay from the lookout point and finally finishing our visit with the lighthouse at Cape Tourville.
Last Tuesday night I got back from Tasmania. The flight this time being very smooth. I’m back in the same hostel, room and bed in Melbourne, which is like a home away from home. The last days I haven’t done much besides running around Albert Lake with some British girls & finally managed an 8 K run, went out once or twice, applied for a dozen IT related jobs and learned to make scrambled eggs with a microwave. The last being quite a handy and even tasty thing because most of the pans are missing the teflon layer and end up eating most of my eggs.
So as you can read I’m still fine in Oz and enjoyed The Overland Track and Tasmania immensely. Now however it’s time to look for work here in Melbourne as funds are running a bit low. I want to say thanks to Alexa for coming with me on The Overland Track and to Catherine whom helped proof read this rather lengthy post. Thanks girls!
More photos of Tasmania here