I finished the Overland Track 10 days ago. Although I’m back in civilization and getting comfortably settled in Sydney, I think about the Tasmanian wilderness and miss waking up in complete silence of the mountains. I didn’t really plan for this but a year ago I was getting to know a different city, Buenos Aires, and posting about the hiking trip I took to Patagonia. Maybe this is a new tradition I am making; to start each year with a long hike (or bushwalk, as Australians call it) and explore a new city/country…
This afternoon I leisurely strolled around Sydney through the Royal Botanical Gardens, Circular Quay, and to the Rocks gazing over at the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House under the clear blue summer sky. But on New Years Eve, December 31, 2012, I spent a cold afternoon hiking in the rain. It all started in the wee hours of the morning. We took a private shuttle to Cradle Mountain, opting to start our hike in the afternoon rather than spending the night in Launceston before our walk. This meant getting up early (I woke up at 4:30AM because I indulged a bit at the Taste the evening before) and leaving Hobart at 6:00AM.
The sins of the prior evening, again at the Taste. Oh so delicious but maybe not the best thing to do before setting off on a major hiking trip. FYI- the legal blood alcohol level in Tasmania is .05, i.e. .12 is more than double the legal limit (last photo)… We all
stumbled walked home.
While waiting to be picked up by our shuttle, JC pulled out the bathroom scale so that we could weigh our packs prior to departure. My fully loaded backpack weighed 15kgs (~33lbs), a bit heavier than I would have liked (I learned that you should carry about a third of your body weight and this was more than how much I should carry), but knowing that my camping buddy AC’s pack was even heavier had me buck up and take on the challenge.
It took several hours to get to Cradle Mountain and another hour or so to get our trail passes sorted out, etc. By the time we started our actual hike at Dove Lake it was well past noon. The weather forecast we got from the Cradle Mountain visitor’s center wasn’t very good and the sun was nowhere to be found, but we were all quite excited to get going.
I don’t know when it started but sometime after our brief lunch break, it began to get misty. I could feel the heaviness of my pack dig into my shoulders, but the rain and cold winds were the primary focus of my energy until we hit the harder part of the trail. There I had to think about carefully putting one foot in front of another and catching my breath. We were heading up towards Marion’s Look Out, a tough incline that required chains for us to hold on to and pull up with. By this point we’d been walking for a couple of hours but I had no idea how many more hours we had left to go. I am usually the organizer of… everything. But I didn’t look up or research a thing about the Overland Track and trusted that S&A knew what was best. I hadn’t a clue as to where we were spending the night until we got to the visitor’s center and S showed me the map. Very unlike me, I know. Maybe it was the 28-day cleanse I’d just finished in India, but I felt calm and at ease. I suppose what they say is true, “ignorance IS bliss.”
We took our second break at Kitchen Hut, a tiny little wooden shed that felt like a warm and cozy haven. There were other hikers taking refuge, maybe a dozen or so in total including us. This hut was was teeny, tiny.
There were two professional hiking guides in the hut who told us to take note of the location of the shovel hanging outside the hut; it’s way up there because that’s how high the snow comes up. A couple of days later we met two Americans who said it snowed on them around these parts (near Marion’s Look Out/ Cradle Mountain) the day after we hiked it. When they were telling me this it was sunny and close to 90 degrees. Tasmania!
I was thankful for the last minute REI run in NY two days before leaving where K insisted on getting me a pack cover. I never used any of my rain gear in Patagonia but on this trip, they all got a workout and I managed to remain relatively dry. Walking in the rain for hours with harsh winds on your face, terrible visibility, and a pack that weighs a ton might sound absolutely miserable. But I found it rather tranquil and beautiful. We had many sunny and gorgeous days on our hike but I think this first day was my favorite, even without seeing the famous Cradle Mountain.
If I thought the climb up to Marion’s Look Out was difficult, I had another thing coming. The walk down to the Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut where we spent our first night, was much, much tougher. I didn’t know until about half way down towards the lake that the next day we had to double back and return back up! Lord, have mercy.
AC took a tumble along the way but was unhurt, and we eventually made it to the hut around 7PM. Yes, that’s about 6 hours of solid walking and that’s how I spent the last day of 2012. Happy New Year! 6 more days on the trail to come.