When we first visited Tasmania it was for 3 weeks flying in from Perth and picking up a Campervan. This enabled us to see a lot of Tasmania and also gave us so many ideas for a second trip to do the things we never had time for. Travelling around Australia for a year gave us that opportunity and our plan was to spend 6 weeks or so in Tasmania although we ended up with only 4 due to car trouble. One of the real highlights was to undertake the 6 day adventure backpacking across the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St.Clair.
I knew that Sarah would love this trip but had concerns over the length and number of days carrying all of our gear as this would be Sarah’s first multi-day hiking trip. We came across The Tasmanian Walking Company who offer a private hut walk staying in huts each night so we did not have to carry too much gear. This seemed perfect and so we booked up a number of months before and made sure we had all the gear from the equipment list we were sent well in advance of the hike.
We started our adventure by staying at the Quamby Homestead where the Tasmanian Walking Company also have their walking HQ within the grounds. Quamby Homestead is an amazing place to stay, it enabled us to get all our gear sorted in the afternoon. The Homestead offers accommodation and meals which are both first class in a heritage building with so much character. The staff are very friendly and welcoming, we would definitely stay here again.
The first morning started off with a briefing, introduction to our two guides (Kat and Nick) as well as a gear check to ensure we all had the right things. The Tasmanian Walking company provide some equipment if you need it and also have the ability to hire in other gear so it’s there waiting for you (Cam got so attached to his new gaiters he bought them!). The process was very slick and organised with a bus waiting to take us off to the start of Cradle Mountain. The experience with the Tasmanian Walking Company starts as soon as you walk into there HQ and carries on through the whole extraordinary trip. I would say you could sense the company you were going with had systems for everything and the guides and staff knew precisely what they were doing down to amazing levels of detail. This gives you a sense that the company has a passion to provide this experience and it’s not just about running a business, but runnng a world class trip that everyone will take away a life experience never to forget.
Our party consisted of 3 different groups of people who knew each other before the trip and a total of 10 individuals. The group was a good mix of personalities and straight away you could tell the dynamics were going to work well. I have taken a lot of groups on multiple activities all over the world through Scouting and this group was one of them that just worked well, often it’s hard to get to such a good group dynamic so quickly. Yes people got to know each other better as the week went on but there was never a sense of 3 groups of people it was always one group of individuals with everyone contributing and everyone having their own different experiences.
We set off on the first day with a climb up towards Cradle Mountain and then beyond to our first hut. This was to be a longer day and I was eager to get past Cradle Mountain, an area we had explored on our previous trip in Tassie and I knew after that point we were into the multi-day hike leaving the day hikers behind and onto our new adventure. The first time we tried to summit Cradle Mountain the weather was so bad we turned back at the summit path and unfortunately Cradle Mountan was not on our list of side trips but we did come back later to do this and I think this was certainly the best way to do it and enjoy as a seperate day trip as it’s fairly challenging.
Heading out past Cradle Mountain through the moors of Button Grass and over the board walk was a great feeling. I think at this point my expectations were lots of open moorland in an Alpine environment surrounded by incredible summits. As the week progressed however we would find the hike to be much more than that and such a variety of surprises every day.
We arrived at the first hut heading up the secret track and seeing the little cradle mountain huts sign and then suddenly a little oasis nestled away hidden from view. The huts are incredible with a huge drying room, a gas fire and diesel heater to really dry everything off, hot showers, afternoon tea on arrival, large living room and bedrooms with bunks, mattresses and sleeping bags (you carry your own sleeping bag liner). Outside there is a helicopter pad and more decking to relax and enjoy the environment. I hadn’t realised the huts would be so luxurious and such an impressive operation to stock them and keep them running in an environmentally sound system taking away all waste and fully self-sufficient.
Next I need to mention the food and wine prepared by the guides which is unexpected and truly wonderful. The guides rustle up scones, bread, cheese boards, soups, wines and amazing dinners all using local Tassie produce and prepared from scratch in the huts. The guides not only need to have the skills of group management in an alpine environment, safety and navigation but also be great cooks. Watching the guides operate over the week is certainly impressive as they have 101 things to do keeping things running along but also take the time to ensure everyone’s individual requirements are met. It’s just like having your mum and dad along on the trip with you making sure everything is perfect! Kat and Nick (Mum and Dad as we called them) did an amazing job of looking after us balancing all our individual abilities and experiences as the week went on. For me going on a guided hike can seem less of a challenge as lots of the work is done for you and you don’t need to think so much about the logistics and navigation. After this trip I have changed my opinion somewhat as the guides enrich the experience through their knowledge of the environment, discussing things that you may otherwise miss and allowing you to truly concentrate on the path you are taking and allow you to look around and see more than you otherwise would.
Okay so now for a run down of the days and the highlights….
Day 1 – Waldheim to Barn Bluff (12kms) – Day 1 was interesting as nobody knew the group abilities and most people were hoping day 1 would not be too hard. Yes, there is a lot of height climbed on day one but the track is great and the pace easy to maintain. My favourite part was leaving the track junction for Cradle Mountain Summit and heading off through the button grass with amazing views of the mountains ahead. It doesn’t take long before you don’t see many people and get the feeling of being out in the wilderness with the only way out by helicopter or to continue along the track!
Day 2 – Barn Bluff Hut to Pine Forest Moor Hut (12kms) – We had the first of our side trips to Lake Will today and it certainly is worth doing some of the side trips to see what lies away from he main path. Some of the side trips like this one are fairly easy and you can drop your pack off at purpose built platforms to ease the load. Today was pretty cold and not a lot of height gained so we tended to walk a bit faster to keep warm.
Day 3 – Pine Forest Moor Hut to Pelion Hut (10kms) – We woke to thick mist which at first was disappointing as we were keen to climb Mt.Oakleigh as a day trip. However the mist was magical, walking out of the hut and across the moors and by lunchtime it had all cleared to deliver superb views of Mt.Oakleigh. A subset of the group hurried on so we could make this side trip and others in the group went of to see the copper mines. The climb up Mt.Oakleigh was certainly a highlight with navigating the swamps (on a lovely newly formed boarded path) and then a steep climb up to the summit to be rewarded with superb views and rock formations. This was the day Garran managed to walk into a tree by mistake, something we never let him live down for the rest of the week.
Day 4 – Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut (7kms) – We were not to be too lucky with the weather today. Pretty much a solid day of rain and winds which of course is to be expected at some point in completing the Overland Track. The downside to this is that we would not get the opportunity to summit Mt.Ossa which is Tasmania’s highest. We made our way up to the pass where the summit track starts and didn’t hang around long before making a quick journey to the next hut. Yes it was wet, yes we were dissapointed we didn’t get to go up Ossa however the paths turned into streams, the button grass was full of water droplets and there was a different type of magic within the forests. It was nice though to get into a warm drying room and have a hot cup of soup. As we were all in the hut relatively early we embarked on a game of Articulate with a glass of Pinot (Greg’s Favourite).
Day 5 – Kia Ora Hut to Windy Ridge Hut (9kms) – A little bit of rain about today but not too bad as the sun came out. The highlight of the day was stopping at the Du Cane hut and then taking the opportunity for a water crossing on a side trip that took us down to one of the most amazing waterfalls after all that rain yesterday. This was our last hut night so we ended with a celebratory homemade pizza night and a few wines.
Day 6 – Windy Ridge Hut to Lake St Clair (9kms) – Our last day today needing to make it to the top of the lake to catch our ferry ride back down to the visitor centre at Lake St Claire. Today we started to see hikers coming in from Lake St Clair to tackle some of the mountains on this side of the Overland Track. You can complete the track on foot rather than the ferry which Sarah and I would have quite liked to do but would have needed another night to complete this. A walk we can save for next time we are back in Tassie to explore the mountains in this area. Quite a few mixed emotions and tears as the journey had come to an end and I think we would have all liked to continue on for a few more days.
Who can do this multi-day activity? That is a good question and we had mixed abilities and experience within the group. I do believe using a company like the Tasmanian Walking Company makes this accessible to a much broader range of abilities and allows many more people to undertake this experience which is great. The best way to know if you can do it is to give them a call and discuss your level of fitness and they will certainly advise you. If you are someone who has only ever undertaken day hikes then this is an excellent introduction into a multi-day trek. Since completing this I think Sarah now sees the appeal of the multi-day trips and since this we have completed a couple more on our own and plan to do many more!
In Summary the Overland Track is not just a hike, it’s an experience which is different for everyone. The distance is not great but you need to take the time to explore and appreciate the environment as well as undertake some side trips which all adds up in time and distance and adds to the challenge. Tasmania National Parks have got this track in my view perfected, maintaining the balance between pristine wilderness and letting people experience it and ensuring the path will live on for years to come without damaging the environment. The path itself is a masterpiece with raised board walks and platforms keeping the many hikers off the precious fauna allowing nature to thrive either side of the path. Yes, there is always more to do and we could see more work being undertaken on the path building to develop this further in the years ahead. What amazes me about Tasmania is every time I leave I don’t want to leave and I go back with another long list of things I want to do on the next trip. Could this be my favourite state in Australia? Quite possibly and only time will tell.
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