The Tricky Route to Devonport

Picture of Dan.

The end of the trek.

Missed the earlier sections? Here they are:
[Planning] [Day 1] [Days 2 - 4] [Day 5]

January 19, 2015
Day 186
Overland Track Day 6

At seventeen kilometers, the last section of the Overland Track was one of the longest. It was also one of the easiest sections because it was flat, hugging the shore of Lake Saint Clair. That was a good thing: my right shin was swollen, and the pain had been mounting over the last few days. I figured I had shin splints, the result of carrying a forty-pound backpack that was missing its frame. (My backpack's frame had broken during the flight to Australia.) It was time for me to finish the trek and give my leg some much-needed rest.

When I stepped outside of the Narcissus Hut, the deep blue sky struck me. It was my first rain-free morning on the trail. I relished in the warm sunshine for a minute, then started walking.

I was the last one to leave, so I was extra cautious. Nobody would cross this section of trail for a whole day. If there existed a good place to get hurt, this was not it.

Picture of the lake.

Lake Saint Clair

A few hours into my walk, I reached Echo Point, the last hut on the Overland Track, nestled on the shore of Lake Saint Clair. A long jetty led over the crystal-clear water, and there was a sweeping view of the surrounding forests and hills. Most hikers took a ferry across the lake, and the few who actually walked this section (including me) tended to skip the hut because it was so close to the end of the trail. It sure would have been nice to stop there for a night, though.

The trail continued through the forest, near the lake's edge. On a normal day, tiny streams would flow across the trail, and empty into the lake. But after five days of constant rain, the “streams” were actual rivers, knee-deep in some places. The only way across was to walk through them. Alas, even with the picture-perfect weather, I still couldn't keep my boots dry.

I sat on the trunk of a fallen tree near one of the rivers and ate my last salmon packet and energy bars for lunch. My food supply was down to the bare bones. When I continued, I saw that the large group from my cabin had coincidentally also stopped for lunch, about 200 meters in front of me. I said “hi” as I passed them, and made my push for the finish line.

Picture of echidna.

An echidna spotted on the trail.

As I continued, I started to see signs of civilization. First, the path became flatter and wider; later, it was paved. Then I saw some people hiking toward me – everyone on the Overland Track was required to walk from north to south, so I hadn't seen anyone walking north in six days. Those hikers were only carrying day packs, and they didn't even return my greeting when we passed each other. “Civilization,” indeed.

Just like the Great Ocean Walk, the Overland Track ended in anticlimactic fashion. I limped into the Lake Saint Clair Visitor Centre early in the afternoon. The swelling in my leg had gotten worse, and each step had become painful. I was glad to be done.

The $3000 tour group was gathered outside of the visitor center, celebrating their achievement with a glass of champagne. One of the guides informed me that the terrible weather had been caused by two rare cold fronts, back-to-back. And it affected all of Tasmania: large portions of the island were flooded. When the group finished their champagne, they headed to their private van, bound for Hobart. I drank some water and looked for info on the public bus.

It turned out I was mistaken. The next public bus didn't leave until the following morning. Camping at the visitor center for a single night wouldn't be an issue, but tomorrow's bus only went to Hobart. I needed to return to Devonport to pick up my stuff. If I took that bus, I would end up circumnavigating Tasmania, and it would take all day, if not longer. If I had a car, I could drive to Devonport in a few hours. The lack of public transportation was my biggest frustration in Tasmania.

The large family group finished the trek about twenty minutes after me. We all congratulated each other, and soon they took off in their cars, all bound for Hobart. Later, the Lake Saint Clair Ferry arrived, and dropped off many people I had met during the trek. Simon, Bob and Craig were among them. Their wives, kids and grandchildren met them at the visitor center, with many hugs and kisses. The French guys who traveled with a liter of milk and four cans of Red Bull were absent. Apparently, they were going to stay the night in the tiny Echo Point Hut.

I recognized another group on the ferry. They were from various parts of Australia, and they had converged on Tasmania for the trek. They informed me that they were heading to Devonport in a private van, and they had space for me. Their friend Balki picked us up and we were off. Score!

The drive to Devonport was mostly on gravel roads. Along the way, we saw some spectacular mountainous scenery. There was even a “Great Lake,” and the weather remained perfect. I kept thinking: So this is what Tasmania actually looks like.

Balki dropped me off at my old campground in Devonport, and he drove the rest of the group to the next town. I thanked them for the ride and retrieved the stuff I had left at the campground's office. Then I set up my tent and stocked up on food at the local supermarket. I went to bed at 10:00, my latest night in a week.

Despite the terrible weather, I still had a good time on the Overland Track because of the people. It's amazing how quickly you can get to know someone when you spend the afternoon together in a cramped cabin. Someday, I'll return to Tasmania and hike the Overland Track again. Hopefully the weather will be better. It couldn't have been much worse.

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