The Overland Track

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
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Trip End Jul 20, 2014


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Sunday, September 18, 2005

The climate of western Tasmania can be summed up in one word - wet! Tasmania lies in the path of the 'Roaring Forties'- strong westerly winds traveling from South America. Much of the beauty of the region is a direct result of the high rain fall (between 1500-3000mm). Waterfalls, lush rainforests dripping with mosses and lichens, lakes, tarns and creeks; are all fed by the persistent rainfalls. Therefore, those who venture into these mountains should not only be prepared for the rain, but should also learn to enjoy it. Though I enjoyed the rain and snow, the muddy trails I loathed.

And here begins my story. I decided, or better the weather decided for me, to start the Overland Track from South to North instead, as I had originally planed, from North to South. Due to less frequent bus schedules to and from Cradle Mountain, I needed to arrive at Cradle Mountain visitor center by 2:30PM on Saturday. This gave me exactly 5.5 days on the trail, instead of the 6-7 days I had planned. The night before the trekk, I stayed at Lake St. Clares Holiday Accommodation for one night, apparently being the only person in the camp, and left the next day by boat to Narcissius Bay. The boat ride is about 30 minutes and cuts down on a 5 hour hike through muddy and boring vegetation. My first stop for the night was Pine valley Hut; the trail to the hut gave me the first taste of what was to come for the next couple of days; mud and water pools everywhere. So, lots of times were spent jumping like a deer over and around mud pools to avoid messing up my hiking boots during the first few hours of the hike. I gave up on the attempt of hiking to Labyrinth Lakes or the Acropolis due to low visibility. At the hut, I met three other hikers who where on a holiday from Sydney. We fired up the coal stove and were in our sleeping bags by 8PM. The next day, I took off for a 7 hour hike to Kia Ora Hut. Wildlife abounds as I saw Wallabies, Pedemelons, Brushtail Possums, Wattlebirds, a feral cat and lots of Currawongs. The weather was cloudy, the trails muddy again but the hut was steaming when I got there. A bunch of jolly people had been firing up the coal stove and wet clothes where hanging all over the place. It was cozy and we exchanged trail stories before going to bed early again. All the huts are equipped with clean and non-smelly composting toilettes.

The next morning, after having a fresh and ice cold wash in the creek (face wash that is), I headed back on the trail toward Pelion Gap. The trail was mixed, some rain forest but mostly open vegetation with lots of button grass. At Pelion Gap, I left my backpack and headed to the summit of Mt. Pelion East. This was the first day to have blue sky and sunshine and clear visibility. The view from the summit was amazing. Back at Pelion Gap, I decided to skip Mt. Ossa, Tasmania's highest mountain, as this was supposed to be my rest day and I was satisfied with the view from Pelion East. When I got to Pelion Hut, the hut was packed with a party of 12 who headed from North to South. Their prediction of the condition of the trail wasn't to encouraging as they informed me to brace myself for a very nasty trail. I stayed the night and dried out my shoes and left at 8am for the 5.5. hour hike to Windemere Hut. But that day, I had lost my enthusiasm for the walk as I didn't enjoy traipsing from one mud pool into another. Due to the rainforest, the trail receives very little sunshine and the continuos rain and snow melt leave the trail unpassable. I think I would not have minded navigating through the muddy trails if I had gum boots. Who needs waterproof boots, which are not waterproof by any standards, in the first place if you can just wear your worry-free gum boots? So I thought. The highlight of the day was the beautiful view near Forth River Lookout. It was absolutely amazing to see the low white clouds hanging over the forest. Unfortunately, the clouds covered Mt. Pelion West which towers to impressive heights near Pine Forest Moors. The forests itself are lush with eucalypt, tee tree and myrtle. The plains consist of button gras and heath covered moors and beautiful Pandannis, giant grass trees reaching up to 12m high. To my delight, once out of the Frog Flat area and up on the moors, the trail became less muddy as I left the rain forest behind and climbed up to subalpine vegetation. The landscape was somewhat surreal - this is how I imagined it looked like millions of years ago. Put some dinos in the picture and you are ready to film a sequel to Jurassic Park. I got to Windemere Hut around 2PM, just in time to get settled in and start the gas heater. By 3PM, it was snowing heavily and didn't stop until late in the night.

Next morning, it was a beautiful winter wonderland. It was sunny, white and just breathtakingly beautiful. Around the hut, there was a congregation of Wallabies, Kangaroo Rats, Currawongs and near by some Wombats. On the way to Waterfall Hut, my next and last stop for the night, I got the chance to watch two wombats (see pics)foraging for food. The hike to the hut was about 3 hours and since the weather was still clear, I decided to head up the trail and climb up to Barn Bluff. About 15 minutes later, reaching the trail head to Barn Bluff, I saw a huge black cloud moving in and starting to engulf Barn Bluff in clouds. I forecasted rain and snow and rushed back down the trail to the hut. Before I could even reach the hut, it started raining and snowing and the visibility went down to almost zero. Cuddled up in my sleeping back near the gas stove, I resigned myself to reading. About 4PM, two very wet guys reached the hut and settled in. Andy and Reagan, from Scottland and New Zealand respectively, but living in OZ, were on a 4 day trip from Sydney hiking part of the Overland Track. We had coffee and Portwine (yes, they did carry a box of Portwine with them) and chatted happily about our experiences on the Overland Track.

On Saturday morning, I left at 8am to give me enough time to make it to the visitor center by 2:30PM. It had snowed the entire night; everything was covered under 10cm of snow and I had no way of taking pictures as my batteries died the night before. What a walk, all this new snow and I was out there all alone, admiring the beauty and taking it all in. Nobody else was out there, i was the first person to cut the trail, hard work as at times i sunk into the snow up to my waist. The visibility was pretty much zero which meant I won't even attempt to hike up Cradle Mountain. How I wished to have my snowshoes handy, this was the perfect condition for snowshoeing. The earlier days of muddy frustration were forgotten. I was happy that I did hike the track; of the approximately 7000-9000 people a year who walk this track, I was one of them. But I did it during a time of the year, where the weather is even less predictable, but I had the track pretty much for myself. The world opened like a flower before me, and I appreciated the privilege of being able to soak it all up by myself. I don't take anything for granted in this world, so I enjoy every minute I get in beautiful surroundings.

I made it to the visitor center on time for the bus. On the way back to Launceston, we stopped in a rather interesting town, which I would think is the town with the most murals in Tassie or Australia - Sheffield.
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