Guest Blogger Anthony Grace: The Overland Track, Tasmania

I pleased to share the experiences of Guest Blogger Anthony Grace as he and his wife Monique walk the Overland Track in Tasmania. Anthony reached out via the Facebook page seeking to share his story. There are some great notes on how to plan and train for such an iconic yet challenging trek. I shall certainly be taking note when I walk this track some time in the future. All of the content below is owned by Anthony and is shared with permission. Enjoy!

Overland Track 2016

In August 2014 we decided to do the Overland track. This was after our last trip to Tasmania during winter that was our inspiration.

I had first read about the track probably about 20 years ago in Wild magazine. I was inspired by it but thought I would never be able to do it. As we have gotten older and had more time we had hiked more and speaking to people doing the track we had decided to do it.

We started to buy gear as sales were on. We bought packs first, then a tent, then sleeping bags and then sleeping mats. We bought all of this with minimal research and this came to bite us. We found the mats were too wide for the tent and very heavy so we bought some more that were 1/4 of the size and 1/2 the weight. We got all the things we needed for the trip, then the next issue was fitness.

We were doing some hiking here and there but not anything regular. We were not very fit and so after a few false starts we got serious. We started with 3kms on a flat path 1 to 2 times a week and build it up to 5kms very quickly. We added some hills and had a nice 5km loop that we did 3 to 4 times a week. We started to do some longer walks; we would walk 10kms 1 to 3 times a week as time allowed – 10kms took us about 2 hours. We stayed at 10kms as most days were 10kms or shorter. We packed our day packs with flour and long life milk up to 5kgs and walked.

Then we packed our main packs they both weighed about 18kgs and we still had more things to pack but we walked! We started at 5kms on a flat path, then through the bush, then 10kms through the bush and up some hills. Surprisingly our pace stayed almost the same with the packs – 10kms, 2 hours. My wife could not get comfortable with her pack and we happened to find a pack at a hiking store that was closing down I also got some new boots as mine were just not that comfortable. About 1 month before the trip we decided to try our gaiters and hiking poles. I hated the gaitors and I was not keen on the poles either and my wife hated the poles.

Around the same time we started training, we also started looking at the logistics of the trip. The first thing was: who was going? We asked the kids and got a resounding no from all but they wanted to come to Tasmania with us. As none of them drive yet this would mean that they were stuck somewhere for a week while we did the hike. The next thought was to fly them down and this became harder than first thought what if we get caught on the track what if we missed transport what if??? So we asked if they were happy enough to stay home which was ok with them.

Next was how to get there. Our first plan was for 3 weeks in Tasmania, first week on the track then 2 weeks with the kids traveling around, so it would be easier to have our car. The boat (car ferry) seemed to be the best option but with the kids not coming we had to rethink our plans. We opted for two weeks. This was a great option so we could spend as much time as we needed on the track. Checking out the airlines was not a great help as we needed to take two bags each and try to find information about it was not easy, adding to this car hire and it just seems easier to take the boat.

Next was transfers to the track as we were going in September we could walk either way and we had no preference we decided to go the traditional North to South so, where do we leave the car? This was the cause of much debate and back and forth in the end we decided to leave the car at Lake St Clair. In my opinion this is the best option as when you are finished you can get in your car and go and not have to worry about buses or transfers. As for getting to Cradle Mountain we looked at public buses. This would have taken 2 days so private transfer was the best option. So the next thing: where to stay the night before? Lol, not a lot of options really so we stayed in a nice cabin at Lake StClair.

So months of planning and training and thinking and here we are ready to go! My full pack weighs just over 20kgs no water, my wife just under. I had the walking poles sitting off to the side when my wife said let’s take them just in case. Final weather check: rain for the first two days, rain with a chance of snow on the third day, then clearing.

Headed for Tasmania

We woke at 4 am had a shower, woke the kids and packed the car, said our good byes and headed for Melbourne.

After an uneventful trip we arrived at Port Melbourne with a few hours to kill. We wandered around and had an early dinner before boarding. An uneventful crossing of Bass Straight and we arrived in Davenport to poring rain. We ate breakfast at a lovely cafe and headed to Launceston for some supplies, I can’t for the life of me remember what. Then headed for Derwent Bridge. We took a wrong turn and ended up at the start of the Meander Falls walking trail. We contemplated doing some walking but our gear was all packed. We had a look around and took some pictures and got very wet before heading out to Derwent Bridge. We stopped at the Wall and checked the carving what an amazing place we had some lunch then off to Lake StClair. We hired a PLB from the visitor centre and checked in to our Cabin. It had stopped raining so we decided to check out Pump house Point. We went back to our cabin and we decided to repack our packs again probably about the 6th time then we headed for dinner at the pub then bed.

Day off

We woke early and showered and dressed and headed for our pick up point at the visitor centre. It was drizzling and looking set in, but the forecast had said for rain clearing and fine for Tuesday but still a chance of snow on Wednesday before clearing. There were 5 other people catching the transfer. There was a couple from Melbourne that were starting the next day, two Brothers from Sydney that were starting with us, and a girl from Melbourne that had finished the day before. We spoke briefly with all of them. The girl from Melbourne said she wished she was going with us and kept apologising about being smelly (she didn’t smell).

We arrived at Cradle Mountain right on time at 11 we had some lunch and got our ticket for the bus in. The rain had cleared and it was a lovely day. It was our third time here and the first time it was sunny. It was very busy and we had to wait some time before we got a bus. I was sat next to a guy from QLD, he was amazed at our packs and of how long the track was. He then proceeded to tell me how bad conditions on the track that he had never heard of were. Four foot of snow, l had to chuckle.

Day 1

Currawong

We dropped our packs at the sign in Humpy and filled in the log and came out to find a Currawong on our packs. I had heard that they were bad but I didn’t expect one this soon. We stopped at the Overland track sign and took a few pictures it was 1pm we figured we would be at Water Fall Valley by 4pm at the latest going on our training pace, so then the adventure began.

Wombat at the start of the track

We only managed to get about 50m before we saw a wombat with a baby under it – very cute! We started at a cracking pace and with the heat it was not long before we were stripping off our layers. We were feeling the heat and even before we got to Crater Lake we were struggling more than we would like to admit. I think the excitement of our first big hike had us pushing hard. We had not eaten much so we had a few lollies and drank some water, stripped more layers and decided to slow down and this worked wonders. We stopped at the lookouts and took regular water and lollies. We met a couple walking South to North and had a bit of a chat; they looked stuffed but very happy. Before long we were at the base of the climb to Marion’s Lookout. There were heaps of day walkers around and we had to wait a few minutes before we could climb. This had been my wife’s biggest fear before starting as she is petrified of heights. For those that have never been, the climb to Marion’s lookout is steep – I would guess between 60 and 80 degrees and has a chain along the side of the climb to help. My wife made it up easy which surprised her. We had been a Cradle Mountain twice before and done a lot of walking but it had always been raining or snowing so we had never made it up there before. I can assure you that if it is clear it is worth the climb the view is incredible. So from what I understood it was not far from Marion’s Lookout to Kitchen hut and not far from there to camp. In reality it is only about half way. We found some snow just past the lookout and stopped for some photos then we had more snow just before Kitchen hut.

The hut was cool, it is incredible to think of the snout to the top door. It is such a shame people feel the need to vandalise places like this. We moved on up the hill and through some bush. We found our first mud and it was fairly uneventful, but it was getting later and later. We came across a sign saying 2 kms to the hut. This gave us a lift and a very short time later we came across a sign that said 1km to the hut we were stoked. Looking back I am pretty sure the 2km sign was right and the 1km sign was just a tease. At least the last 500m to 1km is downhill and it is actually quite steep and challenging when you are fatigued.

We had always planned to sleep in the tent but as it was getting dark we decided to try to get into the hut, Alas it was full so we headed for the camp area and we ended up on the group platforms. We started putting the tent up as it was going dark and the temperature was dropping which was a challenge but didn’t take too long. We took turns in the tent getting changed to our camp clothes then I started dinner while my wife sorted out the tent.

Dinner was a packet of dehydrated spaghetti Bolognese. It was our first time trying dehydrated food and we were pleasantly surprised. Then there was dessert dehydrated apple crumble and hot chocolate. This warmed us up and improved our moods. Looking back, the first day was much harder and longer than we had anticipated. Starting at 1:00pm we expected to be at camp by 3:00 maybe 4:00 at the latest. The terrain was tougher than we had anticipated, I was sore and exhausted but it had been good too.

There are two toilets at Waterfall Valley, one near the tent area (I didn’t notice this one on the way in), the other near the main hut. That was the one I was headed for and at the bottom of the stairs from the tent platform we came across a possum and watched it for a bit, then went to wash up. Monique finished up first and headed back to the tent and I was about 5 minutes behind her. I was walking back and found my wife coming back towards me telling me I was going the wrong way! I said, “no, you’re going the wrong way” and she walked past me and headed for the helipad… We came across the two young guys from Sydney that were on the transport with us that morning and were camping next to us and they pointed us in the right direction. Turns out we had confused each other when we saw the possum, my wife had thought we had gone to one toilet when we had actually gone to the other.

Back at the tent we tried to put our boots, socks and gaiters in the vestibule. It turns out the vestibule was not big enough and once inside the tent things got worse for me. My wife had stacked the packs at one end of the tent as there was nowhere else to put them but this meant I needed to sleep with my knees bent. To make things worse we had piled our clothes at the other end of the tent so my feet were raised so not super comfortable.

Day 2

We woke early and had breakfast before changing and packing. Neither of us had slept well and it was quite cold early. It had snowed higher up in the mountains overnight and we had a few drops of rain on the tent early in the morning before sun up. Day two is the shortest day on the track and we were in two minds about stopping at Windermere hut or pushing on to New Pelion. We started out and even though we were sore from the previous day we found the going not too bad. I found the scenery nice and it changed so often – plains, mountains, forest, valleys – absolutely breathtaking.

We reached the turn off for Lake Wills and stopped for a snack. We met a father and son there and had a chat. They had stayed in the hut the night before and, because they had not seen us, thought we had started that morning and were quite impressed by our pace! I told them we had camped the night before and had only walked as far as they had. My wife was starting to get some hot spots on her feet so we put some bandages on her while we were stopped.

We decided not to go to Lake Wills as we were still contemplating pushing through to New Pelion. The rest of the walk to Windermere was good and very pretty and we arrived at about 10:30 feeling quite good but still sore from the previous day. We sat and debated whether to push on or stay; the two brothers from Sydney and a young couple from Melbourne were the only other people at the hut at this time. The brothers told us they were going to push on because they wanted an extra day to climb Mount Ossa and reasoned that they would camp at Frog Flats if they had to. The couple from Melbourne were already unpacking so we knew their intentions. They had lunch and then slept most of the afternoon, we were seriously impressed and a little jealous.

I was sore and the thought of sleeping in the tent again didn’t appeal to me. I reasoned with my wife that the next day is the longest and we could make today a rest day and have a good look around.

We unpacked and had some lunch then had a rest before having a look around.

At dinner we chatted with a couple from near Hobart that had started that morning and had come in via the horse track. The husband told us that his dad had done the track 30 years ago in his 70s, like wow what am I complaining about! We also met a German couple. I must say that the atmosphere in the hut was great but everyone was ready for bed early.

Day 3

We woke early and were the first up we moved our gear out of the sleeping area to try to be quiet and let other people sleep. I went to the bathroom while my wife worked out breakfast. She met a guy who was going to go for a run. He told her he does ultra marathons and does the Overland track race every year. He also said he had found walking with a full pack harder than running. He went to stand up and he accidentally pivoted the bench he was sitting on then the other end crashed to the ground in a loud bang. He said good by to my wife and took off leaving her to take the blame for the loud noise.

By the time I got back a few people were up and most others were stirring. We ate breakfast and packed and started on our day. Again today it was beautiful and constantly changing. It was also the most mud we had encountered. There was more forest today and I have to say that the forest sections were my favourite parts of the trip. Lots of tree roots and downed trees, I would walk second and keep my eyes on the ground to stop from tripping on roots or slipping in the mud then every now and then I would look up and be amazed at the forest – just incredible. We reached the half way point and had a break and a snack. The young couple from Melbourne were there and we had a chat before we moved on. We got into a section of forest shortly after and could not find any markers and the track was not as obvious as it normally was. My wife was a bit worried but I pointed to fresh foot prints and she was relieved. As we moved on we met some people walking the opposite way and had a lovely chat. One of the ladies had told us how she had slipped over quite a few times already today. This was to be an omen. A little way down the track further my wife was standing on top of a little clay ledge thinking which way to step down it as it gave way and she landed on her butt. She still talks about leaving her butt print on the track. We met up with the father and son from Melbourne at Frog Flats and had lunch there. We didn’t stay long as there were a few mosquitos about and we decided it was the right decision to stay at Windermere.

We reached New Pelion around 2pm, set up our beds and changed. My wife had talked me into talking a pack of Beef Jerky with me and I decided that the half way point was a good place to open it. I offered my wife some even thought I know she is not a big fan but she decided to give it a try. I had planned to eat half and save some for the last night but my wife really enjoyed it so we ate the lot. I have to admit it was really good it may have been because of all the hiking though. I went for a short walk and spoke to a couple that had just arrived and were walking South to North. They told me they had walked through a blizzard at Pelion gap which surprised me as we had had sun all day I guess it goes to show you do need to be ready for any weather. We had planned to go and check out old Pelion hut but we started talking to a young guy from Melbourne. He was 17 and was walking the track with his older brother and his dad. We spoke with him for an hour or so before we were joined by the German couple and we continued chatting until dinner time. We had dinner with the Germans again and got to know them more. They were quite lovely. The young guy and his brother and father were at the next table and the conversation went on between the two tables until bed time. As it turned out we were sharing a bedroom with the young guy and his family.

Day 4

We woke early again and my wife was the first up again. She went outside while it was still dark and got the most stunning photo from the deck. The sun was just coming up and there was a fog over the hollow, it was pretty cool. Again we moved out of the sleeping room and into the meal room to try to not wake people. By the time we had breakfast most people were up and about. We packed and got ready to leave. My wife’s boots had gotten wet the day before and she had developed some bad blisters as a result. She dressed her feet as best as she could before we left. We knew that it was to be a hard climb to start the day and this proved to be true. About half an hour along the track I heard something in the scrub. I looked into a small clearing and I could see something hiding under some low branches but I could not work out what it was. I called my wife back to see and as she walked back the sounds of her steps scared it and it took off and I got my only look at it – a devil! I could not believe my luck. I was disappointed that my wife had not gotten to see it.

We walked a little bit further and my wife needed to fix her dressings on her feet. We found a small, not marked track and wandered in. My wife sat down and tendered to her feet I could hear some running water and had a bit of a look around. I found two creeks meeting and each had a small waterfall. I took some photos. We had a small snack and moved on to Pelion Gap.

Pelion Gap was cool, literally. We had gotten quite warm walking and when we stopped the wind howling through the Gap was freezing. We put our jackets back on while we had a snack and chatted with some of our new friends. A lot of people were going to climb mount Ossa but we had planned to keep going to Kia Ora. The father and son from Melbourne asked me to take a photo of them both at the sign and then offered to take our photo this was good as it was the only photo of both of us from the trip we just never thought to ask.

The trip down to Kia Ora was quite uneventful and probably one of the easiest sections. We arrived at Kia Ora at about 11am and, being so early, we decided to push on to Windy Ridge. My wife fixed her dressings again and we had lunch before leaving. The couple from near Hobart, the young couple from Melbourne, the father and son from Melbourne and the German couple were all at the hut and all decided to keep going as well. Some people were doing the waterfalls that had been our original plan but my wife’s feet were getting quite bad so we decided to give it a miss.

The section to DuCane hut was quite pleasant and fairly flat but the next section to DuCane Gap was hard. The first forest section had more roots and mud than anywhere else witch made for tough going. The climb to DuCane Gap, while not steep, was unrelenting. The climb to Pelion Gap in the morning had taken a toll and we were now paying for it. My wife’s feet were giving her hell and the climb was not helping. The German couple overtook us not far from the top and waited for us at the top. They had seen we were struggling and stayed with us for the rest of the day just to make sure we were ok. They really were lovely and if they ever read this I thank you for your help. For the first time on the track we had to use our water bottles as we had both emptied our hydration packs. The walking down to Windy Ridge was hard- very steep, big step downs, more mud and roots, but for me it was the prettiest. Incredible trees and rocks covered in moss fungi everywhere, just stunning.

We arrived at Burt Nicole hut around 4:30pm. We found somewhere to sleep and started setting up. I was stuffed and I was struggling to do things. My wife was in a similar situation and had really bad feet as well. We took forever to get changed and set up, fatigue was really playing with us. We met a group of older people from Melbourne who were going North and had been to Pine Valley the night before. Most of them were bigger people and to be honest they all looked to be struggling and it was only their second day. I was worried for them but they were determined to keep going. At dinner we sat with a couple from our home town. We chatted briefly which was nice. Because we were ahead by one hut and had an extra meal we decided to have a meal each rather than share. This really hit the spot and helped my energy level. I had my best night sleep on the track.

Day 5

We woke early again and started packing in the wet room, then had breakfast and dressed before finishing packing. We started walking and came across the brothers from Sydney. We chatted briefly before moving on. The track was relatively easy compared to previous days but still challenging. We had read the track was all downhill. This is not strictly true, there are some small up hill sections so be warned. It was about two hours into the walk when we got to the Pine Valley turn off and only a short time after that when we met our first track warden. He was a lovely man and we had a nice chat. He told us that the rest of the track was clear and in good condition. We continued on. We had decided to take the boat out as my wife’s feet were in bad shape. The rest of the hike was pretty uneventful but still stunning. We reached the suspension bridge and this is the last real landmark before Narcissist hut. I had seen photos from a few weeks before where the river was washing over the bridge at times and I was relieved that it was not on that day as I don’t think my wife would have crossed. There is a sign that says one person on the bridge at a time. My wife crossed first and when I saw her over I crossed. When I got across I got yelled at! “Only one person at a time!” she yelled. “But you were off,” I replied. She was off the main bridge but still on the down ramp on the other side and I had bounced her quite a bit. Oops.

We arrived at Narcissist hut and radioed for the boat. I then sat on the deck and thought about the trip and I was happy it was at an end, but almost immediately I thought I wished I was walking out. I had two Turkish Delights that I had saved to celebrate the end of the walk. I ate the first and the girl sitting next to me watched then I pulled out the second and was jokingly told that it was poor form to still have two chocolates on the last day. We said our goodbyes to the German couple as they were walking out and we walked down to the jetty and waited for the boat. We chatted to our new friends as we waited and lazed about in the sun. The boat crossing is a nice trip and I recommend it for a different view of the lake and surroundings. At the other side, a few of us helped unpack the packs from the boat. Interestingly our packs were by far the heaviest. We made our way to the end sign and took each other’s photo. I returned the PLB while my wife filled out the walkers register. We took our packs to our car and were asked for a lift to Derwent Bridge by the couple from Melbourne. I asked where they were headed and when they said Hobart we offered to take them there as that was where we were headed. It was about 2pm by this time and we were all hungry and looking forward to some real food. We tried the visitor centre but they didn’t have much left so we headed to Derwent Bridge pub with no joy as they had cleaned up already but they pointed us in the direction of the Hungry Wombat. I can’t recommend this place enough. I don’t know if it was the hunger or not but I swear it was the best burger I’ve ever had.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the Overland Track. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but also the most rewarding. Would I do it again? Yeah absolutely, I am constantly thinking about that. Would I do things differently? Yes. I would try to get my pack weight down more, I would start earlier in the day on the first day even if this meant staying overnight before and I would do more hill training. On the track I would do the horse track, I would go to Lake Wills, I would go to the waterfalls, I would like to go to Pine Valley and I would like to walk out around Lake StClair.

Highlights of the track? It’s hard to really narrow it down, but overall the people we met, the incredible scenery and the forest sections. Ironically we did not get any photos of them, I guess it is because we were too busy watching where to put our feet. Day 1 would be Marion’s Lookout and walking through snow. Day 2, the forest sections were great. Day 3, again the forest sections were a highlight. Day 4, seeing a Tasmanian Devil in the wild, finding the two waterfalls, Pelion Gap and the last section before Windy Ridge. Day 5, a gentle walk to the finish and the boat ride and that burger.

I would like to thank my wife for doing this with me and for being so tough and facing some of her fears.

I highly recommend doing the Overland Track, just start planning and training.

Solo Hiker’s note: Thank you Andrew for a wonderful account of your trip. This pictures are fantastic! I may have put some in the wrong day so apologies if that is so. Please comment below if you enjoyed this and also let me know if you have done the walk yourself or are planning to do it in the future.

13 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Anthony Grace: The Overland Track, Tasmania

  1. I have done the overland with my daughter in September last year, and it was the most incredible, amazing experience I have ever had. I didn’t do near enough training and not sure really if you could ever be ‘ready’, but I made it!!! We had thick snow this was a huge challenge for me as I have not walked in snow since childhood and with 16kg on the back, my leg went through the snow lol! I have wanted to hike it again but without thick snow, so next April myself and 3 of my children have decided that’s it let’s do it. I am so looking forward to again sharing this experience with my daughter, but also for the first time with my 2 sons, it will be awesome. Nathan reading your notes has just increased my excitement tenfold!!! Cant wait, thank you for such a brilliant read. Anybody who hasn’t done it stop thinking and do it, when I did it last year at 55 I trained some, but seriously unless you are totally unfit once over day one, its challenging BUT the most incredible life changing experience in my opinion! Once again thanks Nathan for the read.

    Like

  2. I have to confess when I walked the Overland Track I did it the easy way – with approx 8-10kgs in the day pack and guides, then staying in the wonderful huts with our meals cooked and wine provided. I take my hat off to those who do it ‘the real way’. However, which ever way the walk is completed the landscape is the winner.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s