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To see some of the wonders of the island off Australia, all you need are your own two feet – and careful preparation, writes Erin Walton.
Text by: Erin Walton
Country: Australia

or many visitors to Australia, Tasmania remains a forgotten stopover, an island at the end of the country that all too often slides into the shadows of large cities like Sydney and Melbourne. However, it’s a mistake to think that Tasmania offers nothing to curious travellers. The island holds some of the country’s most ecologically important forests, sports a vibrantcottage industry” (think artisanal cheese, liquor, textiles, and woodwork) and is home to the Overland Track, a true wilderness trail considered one of the world’s top ten hikes. For novices and experts alike, Tasmania’s premier hike comes highly recommended.

What is the Overland Track?

The Overland Track (OT) stretches 65 km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair, taking hikers through scrub, boulder fields, forests, past dolerite cliffs, lakes, and subalpine mountains including Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt. Ossa. While not technically difficult, it is a genuine, long bushwalk, entirely uninterrupted by major roads, towns, or shops. Therefore, OT walkers must carefully prepare for their journey, meaning carrying everything necessary to keep healthy during a week’s walk, without the chance to stock up en route. Happily, Andrew Davey, Walks Secretary of the Hobart Walking Club, explains that while careful preparation is necessary, hikers are rarely alone, and first-timers and solo hikers are still encouraged to take up the challenge. “As many walk the track, it’s safe to do so solo, unlike on other well-known trails.”

Side trails and attractions

The OT gives walkers access to several extra mountains and side hikes to attractions such as waterfalls 10 to 17 meters high. As Andrew says, a great benefit to hikers is that “nearly all (of these side hikes) can be gained via a day trip based at a hut, meaning you don’t have to carry a heavy pack.” Instead, leave your backpack at the side hike’s entrance and make your way with a day pack. Side trails of interest? Try scrambling up Cradle Mountain or Barn Bluff, visit Lake Will, the heights of Mt. Ossa, and waterfalls D’Alton, Ferguson, and Hartnett. As for the best views, Andrew says, “the view of Cradle Mountain near the start is hard to beat, as are the views from Mts. Ossa and Pelion West.”

Facilities and when to hike

While the views are spectacular, Andrew confides that the OT’s huts are one of the track’s attractions. “The huts are the unspoken drawcard as they allow protection from the elements during a six or seven day walk … For a tired walker at the end of a day with miserable weather, I can say that the highlight is having a hut bed!” Less speedy hikers need not worry about missing them, as distances between them are not excessive. In fact, Andrew says, “they’re spaced so that even the slower walkers reach them within five (to) eight hours.” However, always bring a tent as a backup: Huts fill up quickly, particularly during the busy summer months, leaving latecomers to pitch their tents in designated sites nearby. Finding hut space is more difficult from mid-November to the end of March, when the track’s popularity increases due to the longer daylight hours, warmer weather, and diminishing chances of slipping on the peak’s boulders.

Food, kit and clothing

Because the trail doesn’t pass through any towns, villages or shops, hikers are responsible for bringing all food and equipment with them. Considering this, one of the first things walkers need to ponder is their packing list. When recommending essential items for backpacks, Andrew explains that visitors must think about their fitness, health, weather, food, sleeping arrangements, and medicines if necessary. So what will you need? Some essential items include:

Food:

● Pack lightweight food for each day. Say goodbye to heavy, fresh produce and tinned food and stock up on dehydrated meals instead. Good energy-packed snacks for hikers include muesli bars, nut mixes, and dried fruit. (Tip: take a pillbox filled with salt, pepper, and spices to jazz up your camp meals.)

Equipment:

● Bring a compact stove for reconstituting meals, heating water, and making hot drinks. Large gas stoves are not recommended as they are heavy and bulky.

● Tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat. (Remember that the huts are not guaranteed to be empty.)

● Maps for side trips to peaks and other attractions.

Clothing:

● Warm clothing, wind and waterproof clothing (“Make sure it doesn’t leak, and dries easily,” says Andrew. “Your clothing must be able to withstand brushing past scrub, and wildly wet and windy weather.”)

● Clothing to suit temperatures ranging from -2oC to 25oC in the summer (avoid cotton as it dries extremely slowly.)

Worn-in boots.

Flip-flops for campsites and huts.

Other:

● Materials for treating blisters – nothing ruins a long hike faster than blisters.

● Medicine, toothpaste, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses.

● Optional: biodegradable/eco dishwashing liquid and shower gel.

Preparation tips for happy hiking

Rest assured that your food and equipment will quickly fill up your pack, especially when walking alone. For this reason, it’s a great idea to “test pack” your backpack a few times, to ensure your kit fits and the weight is reasonable.

But your preparation won’t end there. Andrew recommends new walkers set off on practice walks with weight. “Ensure you can walk comfortably for up to 15 km with 20 kg on your back, on gentle slopes initially.” Can’t stomach walking that far? Start with 1 km and go for longer, steeper slopes as you build up your endurance. Remember to test your backpack too: Is it comfortable for hours of hiking? If not, alter the straps—and remember to use the waist buckle—until you find your ideal fit.

Your boots will be your best friends or worst enemies once you’re walking, so they must be prepared for the challenge. New hikers are advised to choose their boots well and “break them in” before setting off. (This means wearing them wherever possible, especially on practice hikes, to soften them up for your big hike.)

Andrew’s final tips include practicing erecting your tent and using your stove. You don’t want to be wrestling with them for the first time, tired after arriving at the campsite. Look out for weight-saving tips and multi-use items. If it’s smaller or lighter yet works just as well, choose it. You won’t regret it when you realize how much weight you shave off your pack: kilograms that you’ll no longer have to carry.

This challenging yet accessible hike through some of Tasmania’s most beautiful terrain invites you to come and experience it for yourself. Will hiking Overland Track make your Aussie bucket list?

Tasmania Fact File:

● Tasmania is an Australian state, separated from the mainland by the 240 km stretch of Bass Strait.

● The island was cut off from mainland Australia around 12,000 years ago.

● Tasmania is home to some of the world’s oldest living flora, including a 10,000 year old Huon Pine tree, the oldest tree in the world. “This species, and some similar ones, also with long lives, only grow in Tasmania,” says Andrew.

● There are more than 2,000 km of walking tracks and 18 national parks in Tasmania.

● Tasmania’s scenery is very diverse. Visitors will see everything from old-growth forests to craggy peaks, eye-popping lakes, and dramatic coastal headlands.



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Overland Track

Visitors from all over the world come to Australia every year, but few people spend any time on Tasmania. Tasmania is an island off the coast of Australia, and although it is not well known it holds some of the country’s most ecologically important forests, has a vibrant cottage industry, and is home to the Overland Track (OT).

The Overland Track is a hiking trail that stretches 65 km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair. It goes through scrub, boulder fields, forests, past dolerite cliffs, lakes, and subalpine mountains, including Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt. Ossa. It is not a very difficult hike, rather it is a beautiful long walk that is not interrupted by major roads, towns, or shops. Therefore, hikers must prepare well for their journey. This means they must carry everything they need with them as there is nowhere for them to stop and replenish their supplies.

The OT also gives walkers access to several extra mountains and side hikes to attractions such as waterfalls. One of the best things about the trail are its huts. The huts are spaced throughout the trail so that even the slowest walker can reach them within five to eight hours. The highlight of a hiker’s day is often having a hut bed. But since the huts can fill up quickly, especially in summer, you should always take a backup tent and sleeping mat. And try to carry as little as possible to make the hike easier and more enjoyable.

Next time you plan a trip to Australia, you may want to consider stopping over in Tasmania to hike the trail!

 

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