Tasmania and the Overland Track
Jan 18, 2014
|Hi everyone from sunny Tasmania,
When we last left you we were preparing to travel back to Sydney by train. We managed to get to our hotel using two trains to get us to the airport. This hotel was far too nice but ideally located right next to the airport. Having spent 2 months living between the tent and hostels we felt a bit out of place in the enormous lobby and when we reached our room it took us a while to locate some decent clothes and work out how to order the movie channel etc etc...
We had a nice meal and afterwards retired to our kingsize bed to watch the movie channel. In the morning we transferred to the domestic airport where we had breakfast which consisted of scrambled egg and bacon in a long flat toasted roll that looked like it had been run over by a road train but tasted great!
We flew with an airline company called JetStar which are very similar to Easy Jet as it's no thrills. We arrived 2 hours later at a very small airport in Launceston in Tasmania. The town is pronounced Laun-ces-ton - we got it wrong!
We checked into our hostel which was an old Victorian building that wouldn't have looked out of place in "The Munster's" or for those who remember the Wacky races it resembled "The creepy coupe" (photo)
We did the tour of the hostel and after inspecting the kitchen we decided to avoid cooking as much as possible and ate salads.
What this hostel lacked in cleanliness it made up for in charm as it had a fabulous first floor balcony with settees that we sat on every evening to watch the sun go down over the towns two brewery's - how romantic?
We had a couple of days to kill waiting for our pick up for the trek so on the Saturday we took a stroll up to Cataract Gorge which was very scenic with a suspension bridge and rapids. This then led to the towns first (but no longer operational) hydro electric plant and you can enter the old buildings which they have turned into a display. On Sunday we completed the last few pre trek chores and then visited the local museum.
We had considered completing "The Overland Track" on our own but after careful consideration we both decided that there were several good reasons not to do this.
The first was the safety aspect, knowing that Helen's mum would never forgive Nigel if we got lost in the Tasmanian bush.
The second was comfort. Having researched the route it was evident that each of us would have had to carry the standard items of a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, spare warm clothes, waterproofs jacket, waterproof trousers, a wash kit, which had to be minimal to protect the environment as we could not use soap or shampoo for the 6 days and about 3 litres of water each day. All these items had our packs weighing roughly 15 kgs (31lbs). If we had gone independently we would also need to have carried between us, six days of food, a stove, cooking pots, fuel etc etc and our packs would have been much heavier. As we hadn't carried heavy loads and backpacked since we went to Canada and completed the 'West Coast Trail' in 2007 it would have been a bit silly.
The third and most important consideration was the use of guides and having the group experience. If you don't have local knowledge you only experience the physical element of the trek and you don't get to hear about the history, flora and fauna of the area.
The group also always makes a trek and this would prove to be the case with our party consisting of five Australians, two Americans and us Brit's.
So on Monday 13th January we met Stan the owner of Adventure Seekers, the company running our trek and he drove the trekking group in a mini bus to the trail road head which took about 2 hours.
Stan had kindly lent Nigel a rucksack and was storing our travel bags whilst in the bush.
At the road head we met our three guides for the first time, Zane, Nick and Bevan.
We shared out the group equipment and Nigel (having a thing for tents) was delighted with the quality of the tent we were using.
A New Zealand make, a tent called a MacPac Apollo. It was a 2 person tent with a self supporting design which was very important as we would be pitching our tents on wooden platforms. It also had a fly sheet with a double porch area to cover and protect the rucksacks so they could be kept outside. (Photo)
We said our goodbyes to Stan and then headed off on our first day of walking. As we were a commercial group we had the maximum number allowed to set of in one go with nine of us and the guides. Unfortunately as we started walking quite late in the day we couldn't take the first side trip from the trail which would have been an ascent of Cradle mountain but just walking around this mountain was amazing.
It quickly became obvious that this trail was being well cared for. There was no litter and large parts of the trail which could have been very muddy and had previously been ripped apart with numerous pairs of boots were now covered in boardwalks. On the first day there were the usual group adjustments with everyone finding their natural position in the group based on fitness, age or length of leg.
At about 5.30pm we arrived at our first campsite and being a large group we had several platforms reserved for us. Guides set about the evening meal which was a pasta meal with smoked salmon and even a cup of wine. We were warned about Possums being a problem and secured all our snacks and anything with an interesting smell but there was no animal activity on the first night.
On the second day the group were given the option of climbing a nearby mountain, there were only two takers, Nigel and Gwili. They were led by Nick up Barn Bluff which is the 4th highest peak in Tasmania at a hight of 1559 meters (5,115 feet). It involved a slight amount of retracing our steps and then taking a side track. The route was on an even path that then involved some boulder hopping up a cairned route to the summit.
While they were enjoying themselves Helen and the rest of the group went for a side trip to a nearby lake and then continued to our second campsite. We all noticed the heat on this day with temperatures in the mid thirties. By mid afternoon everyone had reached the campsite and were cooling themselves in a nearby lake called Windermere, a lake significantly smaller than the one in Cumbria with the same name. Taking regular dips fully clothed helped to cool us down and freshen up our bodies and clothes.
During the evening we ate another culinary success with a meal of Noodles, fresh vegetables, soy sauce and sliced Chorizo sausage.
Overnight we experienced the first of several Possum visits. These furry balls of fun were waking us up in the middle of the night as they inspected our packs for any tasty treats and showed no fear as they were encouraged to leave with shouts, banging of tent walls and eventually the waving of a trekking pole. We all got an early night ready for the longest day (in distance) the following day.
Day three and we woke early and after breakfast we set off at our own pace to reach a viewpoint. The hot weather continued and we continued and descended to the lowest point (altitude wise!) in the trek. What goes down eventually has to go back up again and this was the case reaching a waterhole that saw most of the group plunging in to cool down. A fifteen minute soggy stroll saw us at our third campsite and a dinner of curry and more Possum activity during the night.
Our fourth day we had an option of climbing the highest peak in Tasmania, Mount Ossa at 1617 meters (5,305 feet). Most of the group (both of us included) went for the option and in the soaring temperatures we guzzled water as we made the summit. There is a "top stone" which allows the person stood on top of it to claim for the few seconds they stand on it the accolade of being the "highest person in Tasmania". Only our guide Zane, Nigel and Richard decided to ascend to this hight. We descended off the mountain and returned to our large packs that had been left on the main path and then to a stream where we guzzled more water. If we hadn't had our guides with us to locate and advise us on the safety of the water supplies it would have been significantly less comfortable as the temperatures we were walking in were apparently quite unusual. To give you an idea of the heat, we had been given large family bars of chocolate that were not only melting,they were turning to liquid inside their wrappers, only returning to a solid state overnight.
Before our fourth campsite we had another dip in a cold stream near a small waterfall before reaching camp and finding some shade.
By this time we had "broken the back" of the trek but still had two days of walking until we met our ferry which took down Lake St Clair.
The fifth day had us walking in the shade of rain forest , meeting a deadly Tiger snake and visiting waterfalls. The sixth day was a three hour descent to the jetty at the end of our trek and a final dip.
On the way back to Hobart we had one of the largest burgers we've ever seen at a restaurant called "The hungry Wombat" the burger is called "The works" which involves your chosen burger being a meat or vegetable option followed by, pineapple, beetroot, tomato, cucumber, onion, lettuce, cheese, fried egg and bacon. A couple of beers that had been made in a Tasmanian brewery were most welcome before we arrived at our hotel in Hobart.
Just to say that our 3 guides (Zane, Bevan and Nick) where amazing. It was not just their knowledge of the trail and trekking experience but also their enthusiasm, boundless energy and he help that they gave to everyone in the group. Thanks Guys!
If we had another month in Australia we would probably have delayed our departure and stayed in Tasmania which is surely the gem in Australia's crown.
So today is Sunday 19th January and we're both fit and well.
We're going to rest our weary bodies and explore Hobart for a couple of days (having scrubbed boots, Helen's rucksack and tackled our very smelly clothes).
We will then be leaving Tasmania and flying over to Adelaide where we may have to change our plans to dodge a few bush fires which are being mentioned on the news.