I really wanted to write a little prequel to this bushwalking addition, only because all the things leading up to the trip almost outweighed the trip itself (not really but you know what I mean). The seed that sparked the idea of a trip to Tasmania’s ‘Overland’ track began three years prior when I visited Tasmania on a driving holiday for the first time.
Tassie, as it’s fondly known, is not a place I had ever been to in my younger years. The reason? In my younger years I was a Victorian and Victorian’s, generally, just don’t go south for their holidays unless they are some kind of cold freaks. I had, by that time, been living in Queensland for around 14 years so a trip south over the summer period seemed like an awesome idea. My partner Minako and I were down there in February and travelled all around the Island including some places of great natural beauty. One of my favorites was Wine Glass Bay where I took a full day out to hike around the National park. Further on in the trip we were driving through the north west highland area and we drove past the turn off to Cradle Mountain. Being a little pressed for time we didn’t take a closer look but I remember looking over at Cradle Mountain and other ranges in the distance and having an almost irresistible urge to go there, so much so that it made me feel a little sad inside driving past. A couple of days later, at the bottom end of the track, we took a small detour to Lake St Clair and I gathers some track info etc, put the whole thing on my bucket list and that was that for about 2 years.
(Much later) I do a lot of day hiking but really wanted to do the three day ‘Great Walk’ located in the Gold Coast hinterland near where I live. I got a few friends together who were interested, we will call them Simon and Guy (that’s there real names by the way) and planned the hike for a weekend in the future. As this weekend approached I decided to have a look at my gears. It shouldn’t be outdated, right. I should be able to carry it on my back for 3 days, right. I know what I’m doing, right. No it was all wrong. The pack weighed a ton and was too big for this trip, my knowledge of what I was doing was from my Scout days and so out of touch with what we were doing it was ridiculous. The day came, we ended up driving to our destination, doing two day walks with day packs, sleeping in the car and having pizzas (and beers) at the local lodge for dinner, pathetic.
After the weekend one of our other mates, Sam, who was interested in the trip at the time, but had other family commitments, was super keen to hear about our weekend. When he heard what happened he couldn’t stop laughing. As I was the organizer, I got the blame and thought I was never going to here the end to the mockery. Out of all that, however, I only became more determined and used the experience as a positive to get all the right gear, do all the right training and go on a great adventure. The ‘Overland track’ came straight to mind.
I planned the trip for 12 months away giving everyone the chance to organize themselves. The original 4 people that showed interest in this trip were Myself, Simon, Sam and Guy. Unfortunately for Guy, being a borderline Gen Y , he was unable to plan that far ahead so dropped out early. Firstly, I promptly got all my hiking gear and took it straight down to the local charity centre, that is, bar my sleeping bag (it had stood the test of time). It was an expensive duck down sleeping bag rated too -5 degrees celcius. I would recommend something with a hood or semi hood. Your neck and head get very cold at night.
Now I’m not going to be a sell-out here because I’m definitely not making any money from doing this, but I would like to show you some of the gear we purchased and where we purchased it from. I will even put in a link or two.
A brand new Wild Earth shop opened up in our neighborhood (Burleigh Waters) which was a bonus because up until then, to really get top hiking gear, you needed to go into Brisbane, over an hour away. The very first things that were on the agenda were backpack, tent and cooker. For the backpack I got a 65 litre Osprey. We all eventually got these packs which were brilliant and extremely comfortable with multiple adjustments. Backpacks are a bit like computers though, turn your back and your three models behind (I know this from experience because I was 3 models behind in less than 6 months). The tent was an MSR Hubba solo, this was the pick of the bunch after much research, breathable, comfortable and so easy to setup and pack up. Its only 2 down-falls, 1: the price (its expensive for what it is) and 2: its very narrow inside which I combated with my slightly wider than normal air-mattress. Which brings me to my next point Klymit Static V Luxe blow-up sleeping mattress, forget the rest, this is super comfortable and compact. Make sure you go for Luxe though. We got Jetboil Flash stoves which work extremely quickly and are tough and easy to use. That’s the main things I guess, we also had a thousand little accessories, water bladders, waterproof bags, first aid kits, tried all the different dehydrated foods, etc, etc. This is one of those things where the more times you go the more you learn. Food in particular depends heavily on how long you’re going and how cold or hot the climate is. Chocolate for instance, useless in hot weather but great in cold.
The other super important requirement is clothing and footwear. All I can say with footwear is make sure they are made for hiking, have ankle protection, comfortable and worn in. Now saying that, one of the guys from another group on the Overland trip had a blow-out on the first day with one of his boots, wrecked his whole trip. When we asked how old the boots were, he said over 20 years, so maybe don’t go too worn in. Layering of clothing is the way to go, I used Icebreaker merino gear including jocks. Super expensive but extremely comfortable (jocks were incredible) don’t hold smell and wick away from skin. Don’t take anything cotton unless you’re into dying, water and sweat does not wick away from skin (with cotton) causing you to become wet and extremely cold. Ensure you also have protection from the rain, Gortex products seem to work the best, they are waterproof, breathable and tough, a lot of the other products are sometimes better at maybe one of these 3 things but not all. Take lots of warm socks, beenie, hat, gloves and don’t forget the 3B cream, I put this as part of your clothing because its that important.
We booked our trip for early November, we figured this would be a good time as the weather would have warmed up a bit and everything would be just coming alive for the very short summer in Tassie. It was quite a job to coordinate everything, flights, hotels, times, tickets, etc. I did find a fantastic coach company Cradle Mountain Coaches that made the travel part of it extremely easy though. They picked us up from Launceston and dropped us off at Cradle Mountain (beginning of Trip), picked us up again at Lake St Clair and dropped us off at Hobart (end of trip). All coordinated to our times requested and they even organised stove gas bottles and looked after an extra bag for us (for the end of the trip) with clean clothes and other personals too hard to take.
The big day finally arrived and we all met at Launceston airport, I had flown in from Melbourne where I was visiting and Simon and Sam from the Gold Coast via Sydney. I arrived about 1 hour after the others, Sam was already annihilating beers. We caught a cab for a short trip to our first nights accommodation at the Able Tasman Hotel which is the closest hotel to the airport. I guess we could have flown in, got picked up and and went straight to Cradle Mountain but have you ever travelled domestic in Australia, you are just as likely to arrive a day late, as it was I was delayed 3 hours (but at least they advised me beforehand). The weather was unusually warm and would stay that way for a couple of days. We unpacked our stuff, went looking for a local pub close by, but couldn’t, so ended up having a few beers at the hotel bar, had a meal and got a reasonably early nights sleep. The next morning we were picked up by Cradle Mountain Coaches who, also, picked up another 2 groups, one group that we became friends with and headed for Cradle Mountain about a three hour drive away.
This was it, that exact point where I was 3 years earlier but instead of driving past the turn off , this time indicator on, we turned and headed for Cradle Mountain. The next three-quarters of an hour was both a mixture of being awestruck at the scenery and holding back the urge to throw up from the windy road. We finally got to the Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre where we had a bite to eat, got our track and parks permits and proceeded to our backpackers accommodation at Cradle Mountain Discovery Park which was more than enough for our last nights stay. We had a little last night overindulgence with steaks and snags on bread. The boys had purchased a bottle of red wine which quickly turned into two (Simon wasn’t well later on but ok next morning), I restrained myself, I really wanted to start fresh for this trip. I went out just before it went dark and took some snaps and that was pretty much that. Next morning we were to be on our way.
Join me next time as we begin our journey on the ‘Overland Track’.