Thing that stunned me on the Overland Track

On the morning of our departure, the driver, Bruce, picked us up from luxurious Quamby Homestead and said the snow was down to 700m. I nodded, though with little idea of what that height meant – until Bruce dropped us off at 900m, way above the snow line.

Kitted up in waterproofs, gaiters, and walking poles, we stood outside the bare-boned Waldheim chalet, which has seen everything the Tassie weather can throw at walkers since 1911, and watched as a rainbow shone through the fat flakes of snow falling gently across the valley. Before long, we were moving through knee-deep powder snow.

We each carried a backpack, provided by our hosts, the Tasmanian Walking Company, to carry clothes, toiletries and a sheet and pillowcase. It is amazing how little you need when you have to carry it yourself.

Anyone can walk the track in the sunshine. Very few get the chance to see it like this, at its most powerful. I was one of the lucky ones. That first day, however, I admit I forgot the mantras such as “pray with your feet”, “I’m doing this for me” and “It’s about the way, not about the destination”.

Overland Track Tasmania tour

I love the wilderness, I love being in the middle of nowhere, I love walking and I even like snow. Throwing them all together made for the most physically challenging day I have experienced. There was a time I thought about turning back. But that would have been to admit defeat and I would never do that.

Day one is always the toughest, the guides kept repeating, with the steepest climb up to Marion’s Lookout. We sheltered for a snack at 1250m, by the lookout. The grey dolomite ice-coated cliffs of Cradle Mountain appeared as though from the kingdom of Narnia or out of Middle Earth. You could imagine Gustav Weindorfer, the father of the track, up there with his bride, Kate, on their honeymoon. It was Gustav who declared in 1910: “This must be a national park for the people for all time. It is magnificent, and people must know about it and enjoy it.”

The carrot at the end of the day was Barn Bluff Hut, one of the string of private eco-huts built by the Tasmanian Walking Company. Tourism visionary Brett Godfrey, who co-founded Virgin Australia, and former Virgin Australia deputy chief executive Rob Sherrard, have owned the company since 2013, keeping it true to its no-impact roots.

Tasmanian Walking Co's Du Cane Hut on the Overland Track
Tasmanian Walking Co’s Du Cane Hut on the Overland Track

Everything is flown in and out by helicopter in a couple of trips a year, and the huts, hidden away in the bush, are not even signposted. It’s as though they don’t exist until you find them. One of our three guides, Ziah, had gone on ahead, so the hut was warm, welcoming and dinner was ready to put on the table along with a glass of the company’s own Entally Estate pinot noir.

Faces tingling from the cold, we turned left in the hut into the oasis of the drying room, into the hot showers and soon we were raising a glass of pinot to the fickleness of nature as the snow continued to fall outside. A week earlier, walkers had been swimming in the lakes. Such is spring in Tassie. Bed was a bunk with a thick mattress and sleeping bag, which were waiting for us along with hot-water bottles. Of course, you can do the walk using the public huts (with outside toilets and minimal heat) or camping – but why would you?

The next morning, the blanket of snow brought silence and peace to the national park. Walking at my own pace, I shared the day with wallabies and big fat wombats. This was freedom, one step at a time. I even forgot to wonder how far it was to the hut that night. “Pray with your feet.” I was starting to feel it. The path took us across a wide plain and through what guide Jill called her enchanted forest, a maze of trees weighed down by the snow. Each of us in the group discussed how we had felt so isolated, so invisible, we could have been on the moon. We arrived at Pine Forest Moor Hut by about 5 pm; fresh scones with jam and cream were waiting, along with a big old-fashioned pot of tea. How true it is that tea cures all ills.

Spectacular scenery on Tasmania’s Overland Track
Spectacular scenery on Tasmania’s Overland Track

Every hut is identical and we kept the same rooms every night, so it was like coming home. Start to read a book and you don’t even have to carry it with you – you will find it at the next hut to pick up where you left off.

Day three took us through the myrtle-beech rainforest as we walked around the base of Mount Pelion West, following in the footsteps of the miners and fur trappers, who had none of the benefits of modern hiking boots. We walked along with the remnants of a trail that had been widened with the intention of bringing a railway up here with plans to mine copper. I thought about how the national park is a wild thing and it cannot be tamed.

The railway never came but the mine manager’s old hut, Old Pelion, still stands, oozing history. Close to it is the new Pelion Hut, with room for about 60 walkers.

The epic hike through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
The epic hike through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Picture: Tayla Gentle

The next day, as more snow melted, the green of the vegetation sparkled as though it had been washed as we began our descent. Wooden walkways across the marshy ground, designed to make it an easier walk, began to appear out of the snow. Our path took us east across Pelion Plains beneath Mount Oakleigh with its cathedral-like spires. Today, as other walkers passed us in the opposite direction, we left the Overland Track and headed for Arm River Valley, sort of a shortcut to make the trek four days.

Headed for Launceston airport, our group of nine realized we didn’t want to be here. We wanted to be back up in the wilderness. Four days wasn’t enough.

I was pleased I didn’t give up on that first day.

The writer was a guest of the Tasmanian Walking Company. Prices start at $2895 per person twin share. This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com

About the author

Ozzie

Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.

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