It was only when I tried to get some sleep that I began to regret being so stubbornly macho. “Pah, sleeping mats are for girls,” I had insisted a few days earlier, as my girlfriend and I made preparations to trek Tasmania’s legendary Overland Track. I thought I was being a rugged “I’ll sleep where I fall” hero-of-the-wilds type – I’d even cultivated some stubble to go with my all-action image. In actual fact, I was being a bit of a pig-headed fool and it was a phrase that had come back to haunt me. I had ample time to re-think my decision as I tossed and turned on my firm, wooden ‘bed’, as said girlfriend slept, mat-assisted, smugly beside me with a sweet told-you-so smile etched on her face. We were in the Waterfall Valley Hut, after completing the first southward leg of the 80km trail, which leads from the iconic Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, where an alleged Tasmanian tiger had recently been seen and photographed by another tourist. But things were all going a bit Steve McLaren. As it was only November, and as the crowds tend to wait for warmer months, there was plenty of room in the huts. But I had counted on camping – on copious, luscious, ultra-comfortable grass. So not only was I without mattress, I was needlessly lugging a three-man tent around. And the weather had been dreadful, too. I got to know this incorrigible macho streak of mine rather well during the trip. So well, in fact, I gave it a name. I called it Brad. Please bare with me. The Overland Track is camera film-devouringly beautiful and wonderfully rewarding – a rival to anything New Zealand has to offer – but just on that first night, I was feeling a bit fed up. Fed up with myself. But most of all, with Brad. Earlier that day, we climbed from the Ronny Creek car park up the grassy hill and into the mist that hid Cradle Valley. Pausing to photograph Lake Lilla, nestled at the ankles of the foreboding Cradle Mountain, we were hit with strong winds and aggressive rain. And as we climbed the steep, rocky path, the weather gods upped the ante, flinging sleet, then snow, then hail at us. An hour later, we glimpsed Cradle Mountain’s double-headed, gothic peak through the mist and the uncomfortable journey seemed just about worthwhile. But there was more to come. Snowdrifts regularly blocked the path and feet quickly became wet and then cold, as snow whirled viciously around us. Thankfully the weather softened, our spirits lifting with the clouds as stunning views revealed themselves on all sides. We were travelling along a plateau, steep green valleys on either side, with lakes and snow-capped mountains stretching into the distance, all looking alluringly anachronistic. After a night of fleeting sleep (for the mat-less), the merciful weather smiled on us, granting us joyful sunshine. The day would not be gloom-free however, as we – ‘we’ being principally Brad – made another decision we would regret. The next leg, to Lake Windermere, was estimated at a mere three hours, so short we thought we’d do two legs in one. Oowwch.
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