Having just returned from a fantastic six months in Australia, I had a niggling feeling I had missed something out. I had bypassed Tasmania, being told by numerous travellers that it was just like New Zealand, and I shouldn’t bother going. But I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had missed something good. So when I was invited to go down on Tassie (er, so to speak) by an Aussie mate on a walking break, how could I say no? I ignored the large travel debts hanging over my head and merrily booked a return flight to Melbourne.

Our plan was to conquer the infamous Overland Track, which stretches 70km from Cradle Mountain down to Australia’s deepest lake – Lake St Clair. The stunning scenery and physical challenge of the walk has given the track an international reputation as one of the world’s best wilderness bushwalks.

The route takes five-to-six days, depending how fast you travel, and the weather.

The best time to tackle the track is between December and April, as the daylight hours are longer and temperatures are generally warmer. Weather conditions can vary wildly, meaning that proper clothing and equipment is essential – including a good map. A clean burning fuel stove is also needed as there are no open fires allowed in the park. It’s essential to carry enough water to keep hydrated between huts, along with emergency food and equipment to keep you going for a week should you get trapped by bad weather. In fact, we learned that three walkers had got lost and died in a blizzard just weeks beforehand. Grrrreat!

Having arrived in Melbourne we then flew to Hobart, which proved a much cheaper and quicker option than the ferry. We met up with the other two others – both super fit and used to rock-hopping and swinging across canyons with heavy backpacks. I felt more than a little out of my depth. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I had suddenly developed a severe sore throat.

After a few welcome beers we were busy planning our adventure. Having done zero hiking before, let alone a six-day trip, my naive idea was to ease into a couple of nice overnight walks to break into this hiking lark gently. But my haze of idealism soon evaporated when I was told we had been booked in to start the Overland Track at 4pm the following afternoon. Ouch!

Once I had got over the initial shock, and the alcohol began to take effect, we decided to aim for a seven-day trip.


We registered at the start of the track, stating our return date. This was to make sure the rangers know if there’s anyone stranded out in the wilderness, being pecked to death by hungry crows.

It’s a fine balance between packing enough equipment, whilst trying to keep the backpack as streamlined as possible. Fifteen or 16 kilos is more than enough for a novice walker, let me tell you!

We were all set for our adventure, but I was not well. I’d almost lost my voice and felt all… strange.

A doctor quickly diagnosed a bad case of laryngitis and dished out some strong antibiotics. He’d done the track three times himself and advised me to rest for three days and not even think about starting the track for at least a week.

I smiled and nodded, but couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I would be starting it within two hours. Mmmm…

So with me dosed up and feeling happy, we arrived at the start of the track raring to go. After the compulsory team photo, we were off, and within 30 seconds we came face to face with… a wombat. My first ever! It was like a huge, damp, brown shuffling table and I was very excited. What a great start. On with the show!


The start of the track makes its way up to the foot of Cradle Mountain and involves a fairly steep climb on to a plateau. There are some great views of the dolerite mountains shrouded in mist, and of the lake at their feet. We reached our overnight stop after about four hours of fast-paced walking.

You can plan to stop at strategically placed huts, which were used for the traders and animal trappers that travelled the track. These have been modernised since then (but not much!). You can tell when you’re approaching one as the rancid stench of overheated feet and rotting socks hits you square in the face. The huts have stoves for the cold weather and basic wooden benches for cooking and eating. Facilities are very basic, but more than adequate – tanks of rainwater, long drop toilets and minimal first aid. They are very social – but be prepared to jostle with up to 24 other damp and sweaty walkers.

We opted to avoid the chorus of snoring and pitched our tents on raised wooden platforms designed to protect the vegetation. It is essential to stick to the paths and boarded areas at all times in order to minimise damage to the delicate soil and groundcover.


We walked for between five and 12 hours each day, which was hard going at times. The terrain varies from wide open plains of swamps and button grass, dark, damp forests with endless tree roots to negotiate, to steep rocky slopes and steps. The track has several sidetracks and mountain climbs, like the snow-tipped Mount Ossa – at 1,617 metres it’s Tassie’s highest. If you want to add some of these side trips to your journey, be prepared to wait for good weather and have enough food and supplies if bad weather closes in.

The scenery is ever-changing and quite simply amazing. We travelled along long plateaus with steep green valleys on either side, with lakes and snow-capped gothic mountains stretching into the distance. Some of the views are magical; that is, if you are lucky enough to have clear weather at the top.  

There were enchanting mossy woodlands, with pademelons hopping about all over the place. We even spied an ever-so elusive duck-billed platypus, sneaking off to hide from us.

Our daily diet consisted of porridge with honey and nuts for breakfast. Salami, crackers and cheese for a snack. Super noodles for lunch and a dry pasta meal bulked out with dried peas, tuna and instant potato mash for dinner. We also packed chocolate, dried fruit and nuts to boost our energy when needed. Which was often. Yum.


One of the great things about the walk is the social aspect and sense of camaraderie. We often met up with the same group of walkers in the huts at dinner to compare notes and advice. Everyone seemed to be looking out for everyone else.

The track is well marked and maintained, but you have to be responsible for your own safety. A German walker managed to break her ankle on a tree root (luckily only yards from a hut) and had to be airlifted out by helicopter. We fared a little better although we were plagued by leeches and even found an exploded leech in our tent one morning – which was nice. We stuck to our plan and stopped at most of the huts, although we chose to miss one and slog it out to reach the next one to give us a bit more time on the last day.

It was a happy moment when we spotted the shores of Lake St Clair, in time to catch the ferry! There is the option to carry on for another three hours along the lake. But my feet were in such a mess due to my boots being a size too small – a newby error! Nothing was going to stop me getting on that ferry. All we could think about was a hot shower and steak and chips!

Although the track is tough and unforgiving at times, the sense of achievement at the end is immense. I would recommend doing a few training walks beforehand to get used to carrying a heavy pack for hours on end and brush up on your first aid and bush skills.

So if it’s adventure you want, look no further than Tassie’s Overland Track for that little something out of the ordinary to add to your travelling experiences.

Yep, Tasmania is not to be missed.

The experience: Bookings and payment of the Overland Track fee ($100) are required during the walking season (1 November to 30 April), when you must walk from north to south. Plus, a park pass of $30 (which lasts for eight weeks), or $50 if you have a vehicle, is payable all year round. Shuttle and public buses run from Hobart, Devonport and Launceston. For more info, Phone: (03) 6233 2621 or visit http://www.overlandtrack.com.au.