Tasmania’s ‘Overland Track’

As a Tasmanian icon for those who love the bush and wilderness, the walking track between Cradle Mountain in the north of the state and Lake St Clair in the centre of the state, offers a rite of passage. The Tasmanian Touring Co site includes the following map.

When I made my passage at the ripe old age of 54 years, I remember feeling enormously privileged to be able to take this 6 day walk, see very few people, enjoy the details of the landscape, appreciate the extensive stands of leatherwood trees which our bees love, understand a little of the social history of inland Tasmania, and marvel that once up on the higher plateaus I could almost see the east and west coasts of Tasmania – or at least I had a sense they were walkable distances, with the right gear, food, weather and attitude.  Sadly I have never tried this; other distractions have taken the place of this idea.  Here are a selection of photos from my memorable walk.

My memories have been stimulated by the recent treks of two different friends on two different occasions over the past month.  Both have returned with a thrill in their hearts, so glad they did some training in advance (mostly up and down and around our Mt Wellington) so their bodies and feet were prepared for the load on their backs and the hours of walking each day. No amount of explanation afterwards or photos can take you into the atmosphere of the spaces, the track, the trees and other vegetation, the birds, the sky, the clouds – but they do provide a guide.  Hopefully these few words and photos will inspire Tassie blog readers to give this walk serious consideration.

All of us purchased a space with the Tasmanian Walking Company and took the walk ‘the easy way’.  That is, we were not travelling independently with 15-20 kgs of tent, cooking gear, food, sleeping gear and clothes etc on our backs, and needing to pitch a tent every night. Instead we had two or three professional guides with our small groups. These were people who insisted we have the correct gear and checked it before departure, who provided well equipped huts (beds with sleeping bags, hot showers, tasty cooked meals and Tasmanian high quality wine, cooked fresh loaves of bread each morning) and provided a great deal of expertise in walking, and knowledge about the area.  Money well spent – we all thought.  I was always impressed that mid-afternoon one of the guides would race ahead (carrying a 20+ kg pack with fresh vegetables and fruit) and cook up a batch of scones or muffins or other such. So by the time we arrived and showered , refreshing hot cups of coffee and tea and cake were waiting for us.

Artist Chantale Delrue has sent four photos from her walk to share with you. The first photo shows a view across misty Cradle Lake, the second is Pelion Hut, the third is the ‘Japanese garden’ with a wonderful expanse of native cushion bush in the foreground, and the fourth photo presents the sultry power of Cathedral Mountain (further below you will see another shot of the same).

Neil Morrison has sent his photos to share with you.  The first photo was taken on the way from Marion’s Lookout with a spectacular view towards Barn Bluff.

The next photo is looking up through the Gates of Mordor on the climb up Mt Ossa.

The third photo shows the tarn on Mt Ossa plateau known as the Pool of Icarus; surely this location inspired the myriad of infinity pools which accompany contemporary architecture.

The fourth photo which Neil sent presents Cathedral Mountain from the hut at Kia Ora.

If you are a mainlander or from overseas and contemplating this walk, please read all the cautions for this walk. Please. People die on this walk. In recent history people have died because they believe they understand how it will be (‘they know better’ than the experienced experts who provide advice). Too many do not read and listen, and even if they don’t die they have a miserable walk. People get hurt or die because they didn’t heed weather warnings, they did not have all the cold wet weather gear (even in the expected heat of summer a blizzard can come through without warning), they did not wear worn-in ankle-supporting footwear suitable for uneven ground that may be wet and deeply muddy, sometimes be covered in eminently trippable tree roots, or sometimes the long lengths of hard unforgiving duck boards lead to large expanding painful blisters for which they come unprepared. Some walk without at least two litres of water a day and become dehydrated and make mistakes. This ABC story is one where walkers narrowly avoided the ultimate tragedy.

This is, for most, a six day walk with no towns, outposts, marks of civilisation except for the track, and the occasional huts (each about one day’s walk from the next). There are no nearby roads to take you out, if you wish to leave early. Your only way out is to plod one step at a time southwards, day after day after day. For me that is the joy. The simplicity of the experience. No phones, no internet reception, nothing except yourself and nature. Marvellous. Totally and absolutely wonderful.

Having said the Overland Track is generally considered to be a six day walk there is a manic (my word; others might say ‘amazing’) running race competition held once a year. Lean fit runners start early morning at Cradle Mountain and in one long day run the 65 or so kilometres. If they do not reach a particular point within a set time they must turn back because they carry nothing except a little water. Along the way they have friends with backup food and drink or they  collect from strangers, energy bars to eat as they run. On one of the days of my walk I was fortunate to watch athlete after athlete running through. I plodded on the track and here they were springing along the track, their feet hardly touching before lifting off and on. I was super impressed. At their speeds the dangers of falling on the uneven parts of the track would always be uppermost in their minds. Nevertheless the experience would be exhilarating. You can see this year’ winner pictured here. One company  offers a running tour !!!!  If I thought running through the Overland Track was a little crazy, this news item by the ABC  pushes the story up to another level. 

Enjoy whatever way suits your needs and temperament. For me going slowly to see and ingest the atmosphere and the details of the flora and fauna and geology is what is important. It is what makes a walk memorable. And sometimes I enjoy the company of others such as those I walked with including my sister, on the Overland Track. In the photo below she is happy as can be on the summit of Mt Ossa (Tasmania’s highest mountain, an optional extra located about half way through the Overland Track walk) looking towards Mt Pelion East. Sensational day. Sensational weather.

Thanks to everyone who contributed photos – clearly Tasmania’s Overland Track presents stunningly striking landscape vistas. It was a delight to walk this and I recommend you add it to your bucket list of things you must do, if you haven’t already walked this.

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