Preparing for the Overland Track

Picture of trail.

The beginning of the Overland Track.

January 9 – 13, 2015
Days 176 – 180

Before coming to Australia, I had lived for five months in Beijing, China. After having spent so much time in one of the biggest cities on the planet, I just wanted to get as far from people as possible. Tasmania was a good choice. The entire island only had 513,000 people, and nearly half of them lived in Hobart. “Tassie” had plenty rugged wilderness to explore. Where, exactly, would I go?

The lack of public transportation, combined with the fact that I would most likely be on my own, limited my options. After doing a bit of research, I learned that the Overland Track is one the highest-rated treks in the world. The trail starts at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, a few hours from Devonport and accessible by bus. From there, the trail goes south, skirting the edges of some of the tallest mountains in Tasmania. The trail ends at the Lake Saint Clair Visitor Centre, which is close to a highway (ie, easy to hitch a ride back to Devonport). The route was supposed to be easy to follow, and there were bound to be lots of other people in the same general area as me, so I didn't mind going it alone.

The only problem with hiking the Overland Track was that a permit was required. This trek was popular – hikers generally bought their permits six months in advance. But they also tended to go in groups. It just so happened that there was still a single permit available a few days hence, so I scooped it up. There weren't any days with multiple permits available for the next two months. Traveling alone does have its advantages.

I couldn't start walking for a few days, but that was OK by me. The forecast called for thunderstorms on the last day before my trek was to begin. After that, it was supposed to be warm and sunny for the next week. But even so, the Tasmanian Mountains were notorious for bad weather. Snow was possible, even in summer. I would have to prepare for the worst.

Picture of train.

The Don River Railway train.

The next day, I followed the hiking path that went past my campground. It took me through a eucalyptus forest for a few miles, and ended in a village called Don. I was about to turn around and walk back to my campsite when I spotted a railway museum. I spent the next few hours looking at the old passenger trains that used to cart people around Tasmania. Most of the cars were bare-bones by today's standards, but the carriage the British royal family took across the island was an example of late-Victorian opulence. When I left the museum, I ate my lunch in a park and met a lovely retired couple who invited me to visit them in Deloraine after I finished my trek. I told them I'd call them when I got back to town.

One day I decided to buy a few supplies for the Overland Track. I didn't bring a sleeping bag on this trip because my plan was to travel in the Australian summer for two months, then spend another month in tropical Cambodia and Vietnam before heading back to Beijing. The weather was hot in Devonport, but I knew I would need something to keep me warm in the mountains. I picked up a pink fleece blanket from the Salvation Army for $2 and a space blanket from an outdoors shop. I also had a winter hat, a down jacket and two sets of long underwear with me. Even though the forecast called for warm weather, I figured I could survive a night in my tent, as long as the temperature didn't drop much below freezing.

On the last day before my trek, I went grocery shopping. The Overland Track was supposed to take seven days, but like the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria, the official sections were short. Still, this was the only trek I planned to do in Tasmania, so I didn't mind taking my time. On the other hand, the longer I stretched out my trek, the more the extra food would weigh me down. This is one of the guessing games involved with trekking. Take too much food and you can't carry your backpack. Take too little and you go hungry. I ended up buying enough quick-cooking food for seven days, with the thought that if I was going to run out, I could always combine two days of walking and hike out early. When I got back to my campsite in Devonport, I carefully planned each meal, keeping in mind how many calories I would be taking in, and how many I would likely burn on the trail.

As expected, it rained hard for most of that final day. The temperature also plummeted. I was on the coast and it was the middle of summer, but I was freezing. I dreaded to think of what would have happened if I had been in the mountains during the rain. I just hoped the bad weather would clear as quickly as it had come.

More photos from Devonport

External Websites:
Official Overland Track Website
Wikipedia's Overland Track Website

Continue to Day 1

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