All serious Aussie walkers will have heard of the Overland Track. This Tassie epic, spanning 65km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair through Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, is renowned for its spectacular scenery and the personal challenge it presents.
Every year, around 8000 people undertake the journey. According to Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania, 30 per cent are from overseas, 60 per cent from interstate, and 10 per cent from Tasmania. The trek must be booked well in advance if you plan to hike during the ‘booking season’ between 1 October and 31 May; during this period it must also be walked in a north-south direction, starting from Cradle Mountain.
The track takes hikers through valleys carved by glaciers, age-old rainforest, moody moorlands, flourishing meadows and eucalyptus bushland. Approximately half of the walk is spent on exposed plateaus 1000m above sea level, with the hike peaking at the optional side trip to the 1617m Mt Ossa (Tasmania’s highest). Six nodes provide nightly rest sites for hikers. Each has basic facilities including tent platforms, toilets and rainwater tanks.
PICTURE CREDIT: Hans Harms/Getty Images.
The hike can be undertaken independently or as part of an organised tour. This January, Mitchell Parker completed the Overland Track with Tasmanian Expeditions. He can confirm that the track is popular for good reason.
“I really enjoyed the disconnection,” Mitchell says. “I think that’s what a lot of people are finding great about doing these sorts of trips. They go to areas which are remote, where they don't have phone reception and they're forced to interact with other human beings and the world around them. I think that’s one of the reasons hikes like the Overland are gaining popularity. That’s certainly one of the things I enjoyed – being present with the people around me and the place I was in.”
“A highlight for me was climbing Mt Ossa. From there, you can see so many other mountains – Cradle Mountain, Frenchmans Cap, Walls of Jerusalem. It’s just peak after peak going off into the horizon. Seeing back to Cradle Mountain, where you started, you can appraise where you’ve been and where you’re going to.”
“On a guided trip, you’ve got someone to interpret what you’re doing,” Mitchell continues. “With someone there to tell you the stories of the place, tell you about the animals and the plants, show you their uses, and show you the history of the people – and there is a lot of history, from the early indigenous to European fur trappers – you gain a deeper sense and appreciation of your surroundings.”
“You’ve got support, too. If something goes wrong with the gear, or if someone gets hurt – my knees were in a bad way coming down Mt Ossa – the guides know how to fix it. Having someone prepare a meal for you is another thing. When you’re on Day Five and you’re eating a meal with fresh vegetables in it, while other hikers are eating freeze dried spaghetti for the fifth day in a row, you can see the advantage.”
Overland Track bookings for upcoming seasons open on 1 July every year and usually sell out quickly. Already many of the December and January permits have sold out. If you’re keen to hike it yourself, get in early!
To find out more about the trek head to www.parks.tas.gov.au or, if you are interested in a guided tour, www.tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.