It’s minding its own business, so, gingerly, I make my way around it, trying not to make any noise and holding my breath until I’m at more than a safe distance.

Exhaling a sigh of relief, I carry on my way, the fact that the last person to die from a snakebite in Tasmania was in 1979 offering little comfort.

I’m on day four of the mammoth six-day, 65km Overland Track walking tour, through the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. 

And there’s been a lot of ground covered in five days.

Starting near Ronnie Creek, my wife, Carly, is dressed for the part in matching backpack and boots, and is bounding around with energy – just as well, as we’ve got 10km to cover today.

Going at a steady pace, we walk along the track, which leads us to open buttongrass plains, filled with pretty, wild flowers and colourful birds, on to lush, temperate rainforest, rising to Crater Falls.

We’ve only been walking for about two hours, but this sight alone is one to keep us going; the furious shoot of white water crashing down on to the rocks below, heading downstream, past the swampy grasslands to join Ronny Creek. 

Then it’s on to the breathtaking, dark, sapphire-blue Crater Lake. We opt to continue our ascent up to Marion’s Lookout (there is an easier route) to take in the sweeping views of Cradle Mountain. The bright blue sky is reflected in the calm waters of Dove Lake, while the jutting mountain soars an impressive 1,545 metres high.

We plod on to the Cradle Mountain Plateau, which opens up a postcard-pretty view.

Tired and ravenous, Carly and I descend through the highlands and call it a day in moss-carpeted Waterfall Valley. 

At the end of each leg of the Overland Track, there are huts available for weary walkers. We set up camp in our modest surrounds and prepare dinner.

It’s nothing à la carte, but the two-minute noodles with dried peas and iodine-flavoured water taste like a gourmet meal right now. That is until I look across at our fellow campers who are chowing down on freeze-dried chicken curry feast and sipping red wine. 

I have immediate food-envy. Who says you can’t enjoy the good things while hiking?  

The next day, the birds are cheeping and the air is crisp as we begin our 8km trek from Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere.

The three-hour route heads south across sedgeland moors dotted with pandani bushes, eucalyptus trees and rare pencil pines, some up to 1,000 years old. 

After breaking for lunch at Lake Will, it’s a short stroll to Innes Falls at the lake’s southern end. 

The trails then turn off at Lake Holmes and head across the jaw-droppingly beautiful buttongrass plains to the welcome sight of tea-coloured Lake Windermere, our home for the night.

Forest of illusion

Day three promises to be a bit more challenging. We rise early to try to make a dent in the staggering 17km we’ll need to walk across the moorlands and mountains to Pelion Plains.  

But there are plenty of amazing sights to keep us going.

A stop at Forth River Lookout affords astounding views over the river’s glacial valley and the giant eucalypt forest around it. 

From Pine Forest Moor, the route winds past twisted, moss-covered forests, beneath the rocky overhang of Mt Pelion West. 

And the final section the track to Pelion Hut follows the 1898 horse trail built to transport miners from eastern towns to mines on the West Coast.

I’m relived when we finally reach the Pelion Hut. It’s summer – allegedly the best time for inexperienced walkers to endure the route, which can be moderately challenging. 

Couple that with a 25kg backpack, and a beach holiday in Thailand looks rather appealing!

My legs are aching, and I’m in need of sustenance – it’s just a shame the food we’ve packed looks almost inedible.

But it does the job, and I drift into an exhausted slumber.

Re-energised, Carly and I eat breakfast overlooking the mind-boggling expanse of the South West wilderness. While we pack our equipment, a couple of friendly wallabies hop around our camp eager to play.

But we’ve got walking to do – we’re covering 9km today, past Pelion Gap to Kia Ora Hut.

En route, we’re greeted by more wildlife that inhabits the highlands. Spotted quolls hide under boardwalks while wombats and echidnas waddle across the track as we pass by. 

And then there are the snakes …

I spot five of the reptiles today. Each time, I’m frozen to the spot in fear. I reassure myself with the facts, but it doesn’t make each sighting any easier to deal with.

I’m relieved when I see the campsite’s nearby, although I do double-check my sleeping bag that night.

It’s the penultimate day, and the realisation buoys me with renewed enthusiasm.

We hike the 10km to Windy Ridge hut, through rainforest beneath Castle Crag to the historic Du Cane Hut – once home to trapper Paddy Hartnett – where overnight use is only permitted in an emergency. 

For fans of waterfalls, this is your day. The route takes in Fergusson, D’Alton and Hartnett, which we get a little closer to by navigating some of the safer-looking rocks.

Then it’s just a short climb the small ridge to Kia Ora Hut, nestled beneath Cathedral Mountain, where we put down roots for the night.

 

Going down by the river

It’s the last day and the home stretch – it’s also the longest distance, at 18km. We wander for a few hours through dry eucalypt forest and down the rainforest valley to the Narcissus River. Then it’s across a suspension bridge, towards Narcissus Hut where we board the ferry and cross Lake St Clair to Cynthia Bay 

I turn to my wife. No longer is she looking immaculate – her once straight hair is frizzy, her clothes are scruffy and she looks exhausted. 

 However, as we stumble to Narcissus, our finishing point, a smile spreads across her face as she realizes the magnitude of our 65km, self-sufficient adventure. 

I’m overcome with emotion – the past six days have been exhilarating, tiring, emotional and inspiring – definitely worth every blister on my tired feet. 

I decide there’s nothing else for it and peel off my clothes, much to Carly’s amusement, leaving just my pants, and jump off the jetty into chilly waters of Lake St Clair – Australia’s deepest lake.

Thankfully, there’s not a snake in sight.


Info: The Overland Track takes you on a six day scenic adventure from Cradle Mountain to Australia’s deepest lake, Lake St Clair.
When to go: Tasmania is moderated by a temperate maritime climate, and even in summer it can be quite chilly. We say this is the perfect weather for trekking. Summer season number limits are imposed, so plan in advance and liaise with Parks and Wildlife for permits.
Getting there: Virgin flies from Sydney to Launceston daily. See virginaustralia.com.au

See more: discovertasmania.com.au