Category Archives: Hiking

Packing Guide to Wilderness Trekking

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Overland Track food for 7 days: Couscous for 7 dinners, one pack rice noodles, crackers, oats and fruit for 7 mornings, falafel mix for 3-4 meals, 6 wraps, one loaf bread, peanut butter, dried figs and dates, 4 large baggies of trail mix with chocolate, nuts and fruit, dried milk powder, tea/coffee bags, spices, 8 vegetable broth cubes, olive oil, one garlic clove, one onion, one emergency Snickers bar. This was not enough snack food for Tom, but was fine for me. He forgot his cheese in the car, but ate it a week later :)

I recently finished the Overland Track in Tasmania, a 65-110km hike through a World Heritage Wilderness Area. I was shocked at the weight most people I met were carrying. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to keep your pack to ¼ of your body weight, not to exceed 35lbs for a short hike- more if it’s a long hike, or if you’re an experienced hiker.  Many people had packs weighing 25 kilos (a whopping 55lbs!) for just 5 days on the trail. And these weren’t only big men carrying this weight- I saw numerous fairly unfit women struggling under their enormous loads, too exhausted to do any of the beautiful side trails. In one group, the two men and two women each had 25 kilo packs, even though the men themselves were far larger than their ladies. They had way too much food, gear and luxury items (multiple bras, swimsuits, plates and bowls, two pairs of shoes each, enough food to sink a battleship…). They looked at my 16.5 kilo pack enviously (and I thought mine was heavy!), and tried pawning snacks off on me.

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Here’s the food I packed for 8 days on the South Coast Track: 3 packs of rice noodles, couscous and dehydrated peas for 8 dinners, oatmeal and quinoa flakes with dried fruit for 8 mornings, falafel mix for 4 meals, dried milk powder, 16 tortillas, plenty of coffee and tea bags, two soup mixes, three coconut curry packets for couscous or noodles, spices/salt, olive oil. I included a big container of peanut butter, two bars of chocolate, banana chips, crackers and trailmix (not shown). 8 kilos total.

Because the Overland was a relatively easy hike (for those not hiking the side trails to mountain summits, and even those weren’t too hard), you could probably do this hike with just a daypack if you were happy living very simply. Although I was satisfied with the amount of food I packed, Tom struggled with the lack of lunchtime snacks, but it should be noted he eats a lot more than most people and has a very high metabolism. Above is a picture I took of the food I packed for the South Coast Track, which should take 7 days. I packed enough for 8-9 days in case we hang out on a beach or get stuck due to high water crossings.

Here’s a list of food ideas and what I think are the necessities for hiking in non technical/snow/freezing conditions, as well as a list of ‘to consider’ items and luxuries. It’s important to take into account terrain, duration of hike, your specific needs, weather, and how remote you’ll be.

Food Ideas for 2 People: Frugality tip- avoid expensive “backpacking” foods

  • Heavy duty bag for all food (or drybag for $30, helps mask smell, keeps things dry)
  • 1.5 cups Couscous per night feeds 2 – Dinner
  • 1.5 cups fast cooking oatmeal+dried fruit mixed in per morning feeds 2 – Breakfast
  • Tortillas/wraps – Dinner
  • Falafel mix for vegetarians (beans)- Dinner
  • Rice noodles (cooks quickly)
  • Small plastic container of Olive Oil
  • Baggies of salt, pepper, curry, herbs, milk powder
  • Vegetable broth cubes, 1-2 per night for Couscous or rice noodles  
  • Block or two of harder variety white cheese (lasts longer)- Lunch
  • Tub of Peanut Butter (this is my #1 feel-good food item, with banana chips, chocolate and crackers)-Lunch
  • Banana chips- Lunch
  • Crackers in Tupperware- Lunch
  • Dried fruit/trailmix- Lunch (I pick out cashews to use in CousCous for dinner, plus vegetable broth and herbs or curry)
  • Chocolate- Either bars or mixed in trailmix
  • Dehydrated mashed potatoes or vegetables
  • Dehydrated hummus mix
  • Instant coffee or coffee baggies, tea
  • Eggs cracked into bottle and frozen for short hikes
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For the South Coast Track, Tom had other ideas and packed 7.5 kilos of snacks!: extra peanut butter, another bar of chocolate, a bag of chocolate chips, 24 mini snickers, 4 packets of beef jerky, two big blocks of cheese, dried fruit and another bag of trailmix. 15 kilos total (delicious, but TOO HEAVY!)

TravelBug’s Essential Items:

  • Well-fitting backpack and waterproof cover (Osprey’s ospreyAether 70 is my current pack- not that great for packs over 35lbs)
  • Plastic garbage bags to line inside of pack or fancier bag liner
  • Matches or lighter(s) in waterproof container
  • Headlamp and extra batteries
  • Water purification tablets (iodine) or water pump
  • First aid kit
  • Sleeping bag (check warmth rating), plus stuff sack and garbage bag to keep it try, or fancier dry bag/waterproof compression bag (which don’t always work!)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Good, lightweight 3 season tent with ground cloth
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lightweight stove and fuel in MSR container (+ extra fuel for hikes over one week)
  • Cooking pot with lid
  • Water bottle x2+ depending on water availability (or water bladder)
  • Sufficient food and snacks
  • Spoon or fork
  • Knife
  • Map of area
  • Duct tape
  • Compass
  • Clothing + rain jacket/pants
  • Evening footware (sandals)
  • Extra plastic bags for garbage, things that can leak/spill
  • Sunblock, SPF 30 or higher, waterproof
  • Camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Toilet paper (dig hole 15cm)

To Consider and Luxury Items:

  • GPS Navigator
  • SPOT Device/EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon)
  • Toiletries: hairbrush (or just French braid hair) toothbrush and biodegradable toothpaste
  • Hiking poles- good if you have knee issues (I always bring mine)
  • Wash rag, body sponge or unscented baby wipes (pack them out though!)
  • Pot/dish sponge
  • Pack towel
  • Trowel – (dig hole and poo into it- very important in some wilderness areas)
  • Biodegradable soap (try using just hot water to preserve environment)
  • Bug repellent, bite cream
  • Gaiters (may be in the “necessary” category depending on hike)
  • Watch (if you have somewhere to be or use it as an alarm)
  • Warm hat, sun hat, or both (I always have at least one of these)
  • Gloves, depending on climate
  • Windscreen for stove
  • Whistle
  • Needle/thread for blisters
  • Blister pads/moleskin/etc (very necessary for my feet in any climate, if more than 3 days of hiking, or 20km+/day)
  • Small notepad, pen
  • Chapstick (one of my “necessary” items if more than 3 days on trail)
  • Deck of cards, light book or standard Kindle
  • Cord (hanging clothes, tarp or if tenting on wood platforms)
  • Phone, turned off and in ziplock baggie (for end of hike- sometimes a necessity)
  • Sewing kit
  • Feminine products plus ziplock baggies to pack things out while on long hikes

Necessary Clothing: No cotton!

  • Longsleeve shirt (Merino is great. Expensive, but not stinky like synthetic materials)
  • Pre-broken in boots or trail running shoes depending on terrain/needs
  •  1-2 pairs hiking socks (again, Merino is best. Bamboo is nice but isn’t quick drying, which can be a real problem)
  • One pair quick dry pants
  • Lightweight shorts unless you have zip-off pants (I use yoga shorts for hiking/swimming/sleeping)
  • 1-2 pairs undies
  • Sports bra, if applicable
  • Hiking shirt
  • Warmer layer, weather dependent (I often bring my down jacket)

Some Examples of Totally Unnecessary Items:

  • Excessive amounts of clothing. Even if wet, Merino or similar clothing should keep you warm and will dry while you hike
  • Soap/detergent for hikes under 4 days- bad for environment, even the ‘earth friendly’ stuff- use hot water
  • Deodorant- you’re in the woods for Pete’s sake
  • Can opener (don’t bring cans!)
  • Wallet – use plastic baggies

I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list, so if I’ve missed something important, please post below!

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The South Coast Track: A Warning to Hikers

 

The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service: “Please note: The South Coast Track is a challenging walk in a region of Tasmania exposed to harsh weather conditions. There are no huts along the track. Track conditions are often difficult. Walkers must be fully self-sufficient, well-equipped and experienced.”

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*No, that’s not really us. Apparently this is a big no-no, as there is QUICKSAND BELOW! 

Hmmm, here we go again! By the time this post is published, I’ll be 4 days into another well known Australian hike, The South Coast Track, famous for bad weather and for being the ‘wettest’ hike in Australia. Coming from Seattle, I’m hoping it’s not going to be that bad… Scratch that- apparently it rains every other day on average. Glad I bought that fancy Mammut rain jacket.

The small twin engine plane has been booked from Hobart to Melaleuca airstrip (in the middle of the woods/nowhere), for Friday, November 29th at 9am. At $240/person, it’s pricey, but not really that bad considering it’s the only way to access Melaleuca, and you get to be in a tiny airplane. This is almost the same price as the BUS SERVICE from Lake St. Clair to Cradle Mountain, which was totally outrageous.

The Overland Track was just a tester for this next hike, since Tom hadn’t ever spent more than a night or two backpacking. This time, we won’t have huts to rely on in case the weather turns, for cooking, or keeping food away from critters.

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The South Coast Track lies entirely within the Southwest National Park and takes you through the heart of over 600 000 hectares of wild, inspiring country. The track is more remote than some other walks in Tasmania, such as the Overland Track. It is recommended that you gain experience on other Tasmanian walking tracks before attempting the South Coast, as you will be a long way from help should you need it.

The 85km South Coast Track runs between Melaleuca and Cockle Creek. There are no roads to Melaleuca, so walkers must either fly, sail or walk in and out.

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Most people take about 6 to 8 days to complete the South Coast Track, depending upon time spent enjoying the beaches. Walkers should note that the track surface may be rough and muddy over extended sections.

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Most people walk during the warmer months from December to March, but walkers must be prepared for cold winds and heavy rain at any time of year. Check the latest weather forecast before starting your trip.

It’s possible (but not advisable) to walk the track in winter, or alone, as long as you have good equipment, thorough experience and are well prepared. However, walking in winter and alone is definitely not advised.”

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“Accommodation near the start of the track

There is no formal accommodation at Cockle Creek, Melaleuca or Scotts Peak. Walkers must be self sufficient and able to camp at the start of the track. There is a camping ground at Cockle Creek.

Facilities at Melaleuca include two bushwalkers huts, a toilet and a rainwater tank. There is a small shelter at the airstrip at Melaleuca. From the airstrip, a short path leads to the Deny King Memorial Hide, which offers visitors the opportunity to see the highly endangered orange-bellied parrot during the summer months. The hide has plenty of information on this and other birds in the area.


Fees and permits

You are required to pay a fee and have a pass before entering a National Park (e.g. before flying to Melaleuca). The most convenient pass for these walks is the Backpacker Pass.  This pass is valid for all National Parks for a period of two months.

If you are unable to purchase this pass in person from park centres and selected retail outlets such as Service Tasmania, please purchase a pass online. Information on park entry fees can be found online.

There is no permit or booking system for the Southcoast Track.


Walker logbooks

For your safety please record your trip intentions in the logbook (near the start of your walk). Your entry may save your life should you become lost or overdue. There are booths with log books at Cockle Creek and Melaleuca.  Accurate log book information also provides the statistical basis for proper management of the area. Please remember to sign out at the end of your walk.

The books are not checked regularly and a search will only be mounted if someone else reports you as being overdue. So, leave details of your trip with a reliable friend or relative. Be sure to advise this person when you have completed your trip.


Huts and camping

The Southwest National Park is a wilderness area. There are no walkers huts along the South Coast Track. The only huts are at Melaleuca. Very basic accommodation for 20 people is provided in the two huts at Melaleuca. Water and mattresses are available but there are no cooking facilities. A fuel stove is essential.

The recommended campsites for the South Coast Track are Cockle Creek, South Cape Rivulet, Granite Beach (east), Surprise Bay, New River Lagoon Boat Crossing, Deadmans Bay, Louisa River, Point Eric and Melaleuca.


Walking times

Walk times given are what the average walker would expect to travel in good conditions. If you are new to bushwalking or the weather conditions deteriorate you can expect to travel for longer times.

  • Melaleuca to Cox Bight – 4 hours
  • Cox Bight to Louisa River – 6 hours
  • Louisa River to Deadmans Bay – 10 hours
  • Deadmans Bay to New River Lagoon – 4 hours
  • New River Lagoo to Granite Beach- 5 hours
  • Granite Beach to South Cape Rivulet- 7 hours
  • South Cape Rivulet to Cockle Creek- 4 hours

Track conditions

When crossing the Ironbound Range, note in one day the track goes from sea level to 1000 m above sea level, and back down again. It’s a very full day. Start from the campsite right at the base of the Ironbounds. The South Cape Range is half as high as the Ironbound Range, but equally difficult. It’s a rough and muddy track. Start from the nearest campsite and expect a full day. Note that there’s no creeks for most of the Ironbound Range and the South Cape Range.

There is no reliable fresh water at the campsite at New River Lagoon crossing. Most other creeks marked on the map are big enough to be flowing even in the driest time of summer.

If you want to visit Osmiridium Beach, be aware that the turnoff is not obvious and many people walk past it. Look for a little path meeting the track.

At South Cape Bay, there’s no track down to South East Cape (the southernmost point of the continent.) There’s no point leaving the South Coast Track to reach it as it’s an impassable coastline. When walking along narrow or rocky beaches at high tide, beware of large wave swells.


Boat Crossings

There is a water crossing that requires walkers to use small boats at New River Lagoon. Extreme caution is needed when making crossings, particularly in windy weather. You should carry a couple of days extra food to allow for delays.

When you row across New River Lagoon you will find a boat on each side. Please leave a boat secured on each side, with oars, for the next person. If you’re alone, you may find the passage difficult as the boats are quite heavy for one person to drag across the sand to secure to the cables. If alone, consider waiting till high tide so there’s less distance to drag the boats.

Be aware that the outlet of New River Lagoon may not be as the map shows, as the river shifts its course across the shifting sand dunes. There may be temporary signs to show you a new route.


Water

Few places on Earth have water as pristine as in the Tasmanian wilderness. Of course, the water within our national parks is not treated and all natural water sources are subject to local habitat contamination and may not meet health authority guidelines for drinking water. Although the risks to your health are low, authorities suggest it should be treated. Always treat water (e.g. boil for three minutes) where water flow is low and visitor use is high.

Beware that what appears to be freshwater on a map may turn out to be brackish if close to the sea. Take special care to keep water supplies clean, particularly around the campsites. Always wash 50 m away from streams and lakes and avoid using soaps and detergents. Don’t throw food scraps into streams or estuaries.


Toilets

There is a composting at Melaleuca. To ensure efficient operation please follow the instructions provided. All other recommended campsites on the South Coast have pit toilets. In areas away from toilets, faecal waste must be buried 100 m away from any watercourses or campsites. Carry a lightweight trowel in your pack, dig a hole 15 cm deep and bury your waste and toilet paper. Cover it well so that animals will not dig it up.


Fuel stove only area

Wildfires have damaged parts of the Southwest National Park. Please carry and use a fuel stove. A Fuel Stove Only Area has been declared over the whole of the Ironbound Range due to the sensitive alpine vegetation and along the section of track from Cockle Creek to South Cape Rivulet. Fines can be imposed for lighting fires in these areas.

Most campsites in the southwest are on peat soils. A campfire lit on peat can burn down into the soil and remain smouldering for months. The next hot weather can cause a flare up. It is illegal to light fires on peat anywhere in the state.


Walk softly

Keep on track

Try to minimise your impact with every step you take. Always walk in the centre of the track and be prepared to walk through the mud – attempting to skirt bogs only makes them bigger and causes more environmental damage. It is also usually quicker to walk straight through.

When walking on beaches, please be aware that you are sharing the beach with shore-nesting birds such as the endangered Fairy Tern and the rare Little Tern, as well as other species whose populations are declining. Shorebirds nest from early September to late March. Please walk below the high tide mark.

Group size

Keep your party size to less than 6 people to minimise social and environmental disturbance. Large groups can be difficult to accommodate at campsites and have greater social and environmental impact.

Phytophthora root rot

Phytophthora cinnamomi is a fungus that kills many of our native plants. It is known to exist at Melaleuca and other locations. Mud and soil, which is carried on vehicles, boots, gaiters and toilet trowels, helps to spread the disease.To prevent in fecting new areas boots and all gear that comes in contact with the soil should be cleaned of any mud or dirt prior to your walk. You should also wash your boots at each significant stream crossing. If you come across a washdown station please follow the directions.

 Campsites

Carry something for collecting water so as to limit the number of trips that need to be made for water (a well rinsed, empty wine cask bladder is recommended). Do not dig drains around tents.

Dishwashing

Try using just hot water and a scourer to clean plates and cookware. Despite their name, biodegradable products still impact on water-life. Dish washing should be done 50 metres away from water and the waste water scattered.

Keep Wildlife Wild

The smell of food will encourage native animals to raid your pack, rattle your cookware and riffle through your rubbish. All food, rubbish and packaging should be sealed within 2 bags. Wrap food in a plastic bag and then store in a larger stuff sack. At night stow your food bag securely in your packs.

Do not feed animals. Processed food is not part of their natural diet and, in some cases, can lead to the death of native animals.

Rubbish

All rubbish must be carried out with you. Rubbish includes cigarette butts and leftover food. Used sanitary pads, tampons, condoms and baby nappies are also items of litter and must be carried out.


Walk safely

Most of the coast is exposed to cold, wet, southerly winds. Rain falls on average every second day during summer and more often in other seasons. On the South Coast Track, the Ironbound Range rises to 900 m where the weather can change rapidly. A warm sunny day can quickly turn to a day of high winds, hail, sleet and snow – even in summer. Walkers should be fit and prepared for a long days walk (up to 10 hours) as there are no campsites on the Ironbounds.

At times of heavy seas and high tides, some rocky sections of the South Coast Track can be unexpectedly inundated by ocean waves. Particular care needs to be taken at Granite Beach and the unnamed bluff on the eastern beach at Cox Bight.

Streams along the coast that should not be crossed when high are the:

  • South Cape Rivulet
  • Louisa River
  • Faraway Creek

Spotting a snake can be common along the South Coast track. Snakes are shy animals and will usually get out of a walker’s way rather than attack. Wearing sturdy boots and a pair of gaiters will protect your lower legs. Most bites occur when people try to kill snakes (this is illegal). If a bite occurs keep the person at rest, lying down. Do not wash or cut the bitten area. Apply a firm pressure bandage (not a tourniquet) from the bite site, all the way down the limb then back up the limb. Death from snakebite is very uncommon. You do not need to catch or identify the snake as the same antivenom is used for all snake bites.

It is always wise to carry a first aid kit.”

Updates to come! We should be back in civilization by Dec. 6th or 7th. Wish us LUCK!

**All images here have been taken off the internet. Mine will be up soon!**

Hitchhiking Blues: The End of the Overland Track

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Our time on the Overland Track in Tasmania was flawless. A couple blisters, a few leeches, but the rest was a cakewalk. Getting back to our car at Cradle Mountain Visitor Center though… Now that was a challenge!

When planning the trip, I wrote several bus companies from the Tasmania Parks website, inquiring about transportation from Lake St. Clair to Cradle Mountain visitor centers- both part of the same park, the “Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. You’d think they’d have some kind of service for through hikers, right?? I received numerous emails stating that if we weren’t in a group, it wasn’t really worth it to arrange a shuttle. One company quoted an outrageous $400 to get us back to our car at the north end of the park. Granted, it’s a 200km drive, as there are no roads within the park itself. Still, it was a shockingly high figure, so we took the loose advice of the Parks website, which suggested hitchhiking as an option. In talking to a park ranger at the visitor center, I found out that transportation is an ongoing problem they’re trying to address. Apparently the bus companies are fighting a dedicated daily shuttle because it will “hurt their earnings”, preferring to gouge hikers instead, or leave them stranded.

Upon arriving at Lake St. Clair 6 days after setting off from Cradle Mountain, we asked around for an hour to see if anyone had current news about shuttles. With no luck, we hitched a ride from an elderly English couple into the nearest town, Derwent Bridge, 5km away. I quickly booked a “Bushwalker’s Room” for $70 at the Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel. Sounds kind of fancy, doesn’t it? Eco-resortesque maybe? The pictures looked nice, and I was looking forward to a hot shower. I didn’t mind that the room would probably be modest and sparse. It was going to be great just having a real bed.

We were fairly surprised to be pointed “out back” to a trailer park with tiny rooms, stained beds covered in large dirt particles and hair, with mildewy dark showers a 100 feet away through the rain. We asked for a different room and were given something just as bad with a “boy, I’m surprised the room is dirty- our cleaning lady is usually pretty good”. Right. The place was a dump. A depressing, disgusting shit-hole. We sat around in the dining room wondering what to do as the rain pounded the asphalt outside on the Lyell Highway. An executive decision finally made, we begged for a refund under the pretense that we’d have better luck hitchhiking from the park itself, and walked 5km back to the visitor center in  subsiding drizzle. At least the weather was on our side.

We spent another night camping and being thoroughly disappointed with the amenities for hikers at the end of the Overland Track (no showers, except for the one I illegally snuck into, no shelter, hardly a flat spot in the free Overland Track campground). They put all their money into the track itself, but left hikers to fend for themselves once they reached the end. We had to walk 15 minutes from camp to find a picnic shelter, and the saving grace of the place: free firewood! Stringing up a clothes line in front of our new hearth, we spent the evening eating the rest of our food stores and watching our clothes dry, and only singeing one pair of socks on my “sock drying stick”. It’s like a marshmallow stick, but with a sock on the end.

The next day, we poached the restaurant facilities for all they were worth, claiming a table with a fellow Spanish hiker, and waiting out the morning hours over coffee, eggs and toast. I made friends with the only waitress, who had a recent hitchhiking story of her own and thus took pity on us.

Tom and I took turns asking everyone we saw whether or not they were heading to Cradle Mountain, a natural next tourist destination. They all said no. Some nicely, some not so nicely, hurrying away. At midday, I finally struck my luck: 3 young college guys with two spare seats. I neglected to mention I was traveling with a man, and just left it at “me and another person are trying to get to Cradle Mountain. Any chance you have room for two more?”. The only caveat is they were stopping for the night at a town called Strahan, but at least it gave us an opportunity to shower and wash our clothes in a proper washing machine.

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You know you’re a dirty, stinky hiker when you use natural bug repellent as deodorant, like this guy–>

We eventually made it back to our car, and immediately set our sights for Hobart. Just before leaving I ran into an older dour-looking couple I had spoken with the day before at Lake St. Clair. They had told me they’d already been to Cradle Mountain, or weren’t going there, or some other similar fib. Upon seeing them, I smiled and said, “Hi! Well, we finally made it back to our car!” They were in a massive van all by themselves.

Next time you see someone hitchhiking who doesn’t look like a psycho, please consider picking them up. You never know who they are or what their story is. Hitchhiking is a real lesson in humility, and you’re at the mercy of other’s good will.

We’re now recuperating with world travelers Dann and Rosann and their labradores Patty and Moby near Hobart, a motorcycling duo and all around wonderful couple I met at the beginning of my Wayward Roll motorcycle trip, at the Horizons Unlimited Cavendish meet-up. Another example of motorcyclists taking care of fellow bikers. A big thank you to these two for providing us with much needed rest and relaxation, and the chance to post this missive!

Leeches to Mountains: Hiking 100km of Tasmanian Wilderness

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I set off on Saturday, November 16th, on a 100km  hike through some of the most pristine wilderness in the world: The Tasmanian Overland Track, a World Heritage Area on an exposed plateau known for its remote and rugged beauty. I’ll admit to not researching much beyond that- I paid the $200 reservation fee, bought a map, packed my bag and was off.

Day 1: We hit the trail late in the day, around 3pm. The recommended start time is no later than 2pm, so we hustle along as quickly as my 38lb pack would allow. The initial terrain is easy; a wide and well maintained boardwalk undulates across the Ronny Creek Buttongrass moorlands, near 900 meters in elevation. After an hour, the terrain changes sharply as we climb the Cradle Plateau, topping out at nearly 1300 meters in the windswept alpine area. We still have a couple of hours to hike before reaching our destination for the evening, but we can’t leave without first climbing Cradle Mountain, the first in a series of jagged peaks. Missing the turn to the true summit, we find ourselves scrambling hands and feet through a scree field on much steeper and harsher trail, heading straight up to Smithies Peak, instead of diagonal to the true summit, 18 meters higher. We climb and scramble along the ridgeline, and happy with our viewpoint,  head down and continue on to Waterfall Valley Hut, where we’re fortunate to share with only one other person, a Search and Rescue volunteer.

Highlights: Climbing Cradle Mountain and having sweeping views of the landscape to come. Seeing my first-ever leech, attempting to find a good spot to dine on my sandaled foot. Note to self: no more flipflops.P1010870

Day 2: At the wee hour of 9am, we backtrack uphill 30 minutes to the trailhead for our 2nd mountain summit, Barn Bluff, looming in the distance at 1559 meters. I estimate a round trip ascent of 4 hours, and Tom guesses 6. We complete the hike in 3 hours and 50 minutes, before hiking the 3 hours to our next camp at Windermere Hut, with a stop at Lake Will to bathe on its sandy shores.

Highlights: Viewing Cradle Mountain and Lake Will’s white quartzite sand beaches from above, fringed with pencil pine. Something sniffs food in our tent, and makes its way under the rain cover to the mesh lining of the tent. I turn my headlamp on to find myself nose to nose with an opossum. I see him, he sees a bright light in his face. We hold each other’s gaze, and then he’s off into the night.

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Day 3: Tom gets grumpy. We didn’t bring enough snacks to tide him over through lunchtime, and he forgot the cheese in the car. He announces he can’t stop fantasizing about the Snickers bar I have hidden in my backpack- the one I thought he didn’t know about and was hoarding to give him in an emergency. He refuses to eat it- it’s his last glimmer of something delicious, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. The guy can sniff food out for miles…

We hike 16km to New Pelion Hut, and not having had enough, we make lunch and start the long hike through more Buttongrass marsh riddled with deep water holes, leeches and streams to the wooded foot of Mount Oakley. On hands and knees we crawl upwards through dense palm forests with sharp cutting fronds until we reach the rocky alpine plateau above the bog. We’re back in time for an 8pm couscous and falafel dinner and an early night’s sleep.

Highlights: Experiencing Tasmanian swamp. Attempting to swim in a meter deep, meter wide stream winding its way through the Buttongrass bog. Pants-less, I gazed into the clear water surrounded by thick grass, wondering aloud how many leeches might exist in this one spot and if it was really worth it. Tom peels a sock off to find a fat blood-filled leech stuffed and sedate. I find another crawling up my foot. We make a quick retreat back to camp.

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Day 4: Exhausted, I stagger up to the Pelion Gap area with an upset stomach. Don’t believe them when they tell you you don’t have to purify the rain barrel water. Take extra precaution and use iodine tablets or a water pump. 10 minutes of rest and we’re on another side trail, leading to the summit of Mount Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak at 1617 meters. It’s a long steep slog through mud and snow, but the extra effort is well worth it.

Highlights: Views of the entire plateau at the summit of Mount Ossa, including the three previous mountains we climbed. Being called “super heroes” by a group of 4 Australians and a German lagging many hours behind, around our age, struggling up the mountainside as we bounded happily down.  Taking a bird bath on the bank of the freezing Kia Ora Creek, feeling alive and refreshed, alone in the woods. Debating which gets precedent to hang in our tent: my clean undies (the one I dunked in a cold river), or Tom’s manky socks. The debate rages on.

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Day 5: Another long-ish day from Kia Ora Hut to Bert Nichols Hut (10km) and then on to Narcissus Hut (9km). No major side trips possible save for 3 lovely waterfalls we’re glad we didn’t skip. Another day of stomach upset.

“Highlights”: Code Orange stomach problems! Seeing a leech crawl towards me as I try and find a woodside bathroom spot. Do they have eyes? Tom spots a platypus in the Narcissus River, right in front of our tent.

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Day 6: Our last day on the trail takes us from Narcissus Hut to Echo Point Hut (6.5km) and then to Cynthia Bay (11km) on Lake St. Clair through poorly maintained swampy trail. This section is the most deserted. Most hikers take a small ferry-shuttle from Narcissus Hut back to the visitor’s center. Echo Point hut is the smallest and most rustic of all the huts, and by far my favorite. Seeing more food at the end of the tunnel, we finally eat the Snickers bar I’ve been carrying for 100km.

Highlights: Perfect weather turned to dumping rain just as we entered the visitor’s center at Lake St. Clair. The timing couldn’t have been better.

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Now the adventure really begins: How are we going to get back to our car??