The Overland Track was our first serious multiple day hike. After research, training and much excitement we were ready to face the adventure and challenge of the unknown that awaited us. We arrived in Launceston and the next morning were transported to Cradle mountain by McDermott’s bus service.
On arriving at Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre, along with other excited Overland hikers we boarded the shuttle bus that delivered us to Ronny Creek car park being the start point of the Overland Track of 65kms. Once registering our hike intentions we set foot onto the Overland Track, we were on our way.
We ambled along following a well defined pad through dense vegetation passing by Crater Lake and the historical hut. Before long the first climb appeared, Marion’s lookout!!!! Not until we stood at the base of the climb did we appreciate the challenge that was about to begin. Along with other Overland hikers and day walkers doing the Dove Lake circuit we started the climb and OH what a climb it was for a first time hiker with a loaded back pack. With every ounce of grit and determination Marion’s Lookout climb was conquered. Thank goodness for the chain hand rails in the last section that enabled a hefty heave ho and there we stood gazing upon Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. More times than not low cloud cover obscures the full view of cradle mountain but today she stood proud in full view.
Time to push on as Waterfall Valley was the destination for the day. The track was a combination of rough stone, sections of board walk and dried muddy bog holes being evidence of the previous weeks rain. Kitchen Hut, an emergency shelter with a history of being built by animal trappers many years ago made for a well earned break. The climb to Cradle Mountain veered off at this point. Along the way we bypassed the track junctions to Lake Rodway and further on Barn Bluff.
Many hikers took the option of staying in the hut but for us we set up the tent.
With daylight breaking and another days walk ahead of us there was no time for snoozing on but rather up and at it and back onto the track.
The walk was through scrubby vegetation and dense grassy exposed areas giving no respite from the blaring sun as we ventured towards Windermere camp. With only a 7km stretch and fairly flat terrain it was pleasant to stroll chatting to other hikers. Being peak season only 30 people set off each day along with a guided group. The guided group enjoys 2 guides, one who walks with the group whilst the other goes ahead and prepares morning tea and lunch along the track. The guided group stay in different huts and are treated to beds with soft mattresses, shower and full on cooked meals, I think that’s called “glamping”. As for us it’s a tent, thermarest, birdbath and dehydrated meals.
Lake Windermere was a welcome sight on such a hot day with many downing their backpacks and taking a splash before reaching the camp site.
We were greeted by the ranger who informed us to expect a run of hot days with temperatures in the 30s which was unusual as traditionally snowfall was always predictable between Christmas and New Year. This news meant water tanks would be low and with the high temperatures dehydration was something to be aware of.
The walk to Pelion camp proved to be a challenge in the heat but thankfully the track weaved its way through dense forest leaving us in the shade of the tall timbers. At lunch break everyone gathered on the Forth River bridge where much shade was appreciated along with the cool refreshing water from the creek but this could only be enjoyed for a short time as Pelian Camp awaited our arrival.
We took a breather at Frog Flats which is well known for its leech infestation but due to the dry weather there was not a leech in sight. After a steady consistent climb Pelion camp site appeared and without wasting any time we headed down the steep banks of the Douglas Creek for a refreshing splash in the cool waters.
Before we headed off to our sleeping quarters we sat in awe watching the setting sun go down over Mt Oakleigh, the beauty of raw nature is rather spectacular. All camp sites have a basic hut and tent sites. For us tenting is the way to go for a peaceful nights sleep, believe me there is always a snorer in the hut and many hikers appear rather sleep deprived next morning.
Resident mice and possums are at most camp sites and as we were settling down to a well earned sleep there was much commotion from near by campers. Wasn’t that long before the commotion was in our tent as the resident possum doing his rounds in hope for a midnight feast wandered into our tent vestibule but there was nothing for poor percy possum from our tent as our packs with the food had been hung on the hut veranda out of any possums reach.
Off to Kia Ora Camp but not without the steep climb to Pelion Gap following a very rough track. In fact one guy took a fall and fractured his wrist. Once at Pelion Gap the decision to summit Mt Ossa was made easy for us as cloud coverage was low and the looming dark clouds hinted rain was on the way so we ventured on making camp early which allowed us to set up the tent in advance before the heavens opened up. Other hikers off loaded their backpacks with the intent to climb Mt Ossa but low cloud cover and windy conditions. On return to collect their packs a few currawong birds where attempting to get into the packs in search of food. There actually are signs up warning hikers of the currawong birds.
Kia Ora hut was much smaller than other huts and we found it amusing observing others cramming in the hut to avoid setting up their tents and enduring a rainy night. The putter patter of rain persisted all night but we stayed nice and dry within our tent.
As morning crept in the temperature certainly had dropped a few notches having us reach for the thermals and wet weather gear.
Just a couple of kms down the track we stumbled across Ducane Hut which is another hut built by trappers of yesteryear and only to be used in an emergency. Much work has been undertaken to restore and maintain these historic huts.
As no water was flowing at Hartnett Falls we kept moving forward through dense pine vegetation. The climb to Ducane Gap wasn’t as taxing as we had anticipated but then again our fitness levels perhaps had peaked, track fit they call it. With a steep decent to negotiate through large protruding tree roots, believe me one slip and you would roll all the way to the bottom we arrived at Bert Nichols camp. This hut was built in memory of a local trapper “Bert Nichols” with much info and paraphernalia displayed.
Well we caved and spent the night in the hut and believe me first and last time. This new hut featured a large communal area, a room to hang damp clothes and numerous sleeping platforms. With everyone tossing and turning and a few snorers we woke sleep deprived not to mention its much warmer in the confines of a small tent.
The Ranger greeted hikers with the distressing news of ‘ the ferry from Narcissus to Lake St Clair was out of the water for urgent repairs’. For us this was no problem as we didn’t have time restraints but for others this news posed real issues. We left the distraught hikers behind as we had made the decision to walk out via Echo Point. After stopping at Narcissus Hut for lunch we continued on through dense overgrown forest following the the lake. Arriving at Echo Point we discovered the most beautiful campsite nestled amongst the trees.
The last day of our hike dawned. Strolling along feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves we chatted about the highlights and challenges if the past days on the hiking track. Living out of a backpack, camping in a 2 person tent, a different hygiene regime, walking for 6 days and the repetitiveness of daily routine certainly was a new experience for us. Despite being stretched beyond our comfort zones we certainly were captivated by nature and the serenity. Not only did we survive individually but as a couple with great plans to continue this hiking adventure.
On arriving at the Lake St Clair visitors centre we feasted on hamburgers, paid $5 for a shower, chatted with other hikers we meet along the way then boarded the bus back to Hobart.
Until next yarn, happy hiking