Planning to hike one of the greatest wilderness treks in the world?
What information do I need to walk the Overland Track in Tasmania?
Gretta who is based in the USA sent us a great email from her asking for some advice.
Gretta is in the early stages of planning a trip to Australia and sent us the following (edited) email. We posted the reply here so that other "Our Hiking Blog" readers who are thinking about how to arrange their Overland Track walk from overseas can share in the knowledge. Hopefully the following information will be a useful resource.
Gretta had originally sent a general enquiry and we asked her the following questions:
1) What sort of hiking experience do you have?
2) How fit are you?
3) How tight to time will you be i.e. do you have to start and finish on exact dates or will you have a bit of flexibility
4) Are you prepared to bring stuff like a tent, sleeping mat, back pack etc over here or hire it?
5) Are you on a tight budget?
Your blog definitely brought the "reality" of the hike to the forefront! I read further on the crowds during high season, the food and equip. needed etc... Don't really want to be surrounded by tons of people. Kinda ruins the whole experience.
I don't have much hiking experience except for short local day hikes. The only other hike I did, was in Crete (part of E4 trails) from Sougia to Agia. Definitely needed lots of water for that one. I'm planning on doing a few long weekends hiking and camping probably in West Virginia just to test the waters. But if I can't find anyone to go with on this extended trip, will probably consider an outfitter who can organize the logistics of the hiking part.
I would say that I'm relatively fit. Run about 12 miles a week, and work out about 4 times a week.
Somewhat flexible on dates. Plan on spending about 3 weeks in Oz - want to spend some days in Sydney, and then possibly doing some diving. Just started planning, and have no idea what all the options are!
I have a tent, but thinking if I am to take over, will have to look for a smaller lighter tent (have book marked the site you recommended for gear). But yes, will probably want to bring my own tent, sleeping bag, mat.
I haven't figured out the budget, but will definitely be on one. Don't want to be completely "hard core." While I know I love a challenge, I also love being able to relax and enjoy the whole experience. For me, the most important thing is the visuals. I am a photographer, and for me, the visuals is what a good chunk of this trip is all about. And hopefully coming in contact with some cute fuzzy creatures.
Thanks again for your help! Just starting this whole idea, and gathering all the info. is so much fun.
Ok Gretta (and anyone else who reads this)first of all, just remember that this is our personal opinion and it is up to you to read and learn as much about the Overland Track as you can. There are some excellent resources on the Web and in addition we would strongly suggest you purchase John and Monica Chapman's guide Overland Track as it is THE definitive guide. The new edition is a vast improvement on their original guide.
I won't try and repeat Chapman's or other information that is generally available but will focus on trying to give you broad advice so you can make an informed decision as you plan your trip.
Guided or Solo?
There are many people who undertake the Overland Track solo. The infrastructure (track markers, huts, information, length of stages) lends itself to a solo walk. That being said, unless you are walking in the depths of winter, it is highly unlikely you would ever be walking the Track alone. This post is about one section of the Track in July 2007 where we shared the Kia Ora Hut area with 10+ other hikers.
You commented in the email:
Don't really want to be surrounded by tons of people. Kinda ruins the whole experience.
We agree, but seeing people on the Track is the reality BUT it can work in you advantage.
This is a long walk, it is in VERY isolated country, the weather can change DRAMATICALLY and it can be DANGEROUS. Having the knowledge that there will usually be someone coming behind you is very reassuring when you are hit by a blizzard and you can't see more than 2-3 metres in front of you and you are cold and wet!
The other wonderful thing about the Track is that you can "walk alone" , stop where you like, take photo's or have a long lunch but when you arrive at the campsite each evening you generally meet up with the same groups as the previous night (as everyone you leave with on day one tends to do the same stages). We have met some fantastic people from both Australia and across the world on every trip. We still keep in contact with many of these people and it is often an added bonus. Great scenery, great experience and wonderful people to share it with!
Guided walks are of course an alternative. Simple to arrange (you pay, they plan, organise food, transport and gear), potentially safer because you are with a group and experienced guides and it is a very easy way to undertake the walk if you are time poor. The disadvantages we have observed include the cost, being in a "group" (have noticed "tension" in groups several times), having to stick to the hike plan (can't decide to sleep in, have a rest day, take 2 hrs for lunch, have a swim etc) and the group "exclusion" mentality i.e. groups tend to stick together, eat together and not interact very much with others on the Track.
Within our group of hiking friends I am seen as the "anti paid walks" person. Others argue that it allows access to people who are not confident, who may need some assistance with planning and gear and that it is a "free country" and that people who can afford to pay should be allowed to pay to get to their "Wilderness Experience". I just don't really like the whole concept (hiking snob maybe)of heading out for a "wilderness experience" and having to pass large groups, several times a day, and having huge demand on the infrastructure from people who are making a profit out of a National Park. That being said, good on em for having a go and getting out there!
Getting there (and back)
We have found the simplest way to organise the trip is to arrange transport to Cradle Mountain from Launceston or Devonport. We would allow time here to purchase and prepare your food (maybe half a day) There is a scheduled bus service operated by Tassielink or private operators such as Tasmanian Tour Company will get you there. We use Tasmanian Tour Company if there is a group of us because of the flexibility they offer e.g. pick us up from the hotel/ airport, stop for a quick stop for lunch etc, get gas bottles for us in advance.
On completion of the walk, we have found the best option is to catch the Tassielink bus to Hobart. Getting BACK to Launceston or Devonport is a long trip by Tassielink (I think 4-5 hrs) and a bit of a fiddle to organise. This also give you the chance to experience Hobart, which is a lovely city and well worth a visit.
We have also developed a system where we post our spare clothes and gear to our accommodation in Hobart from Devonport or Launceston. It is quite cheap (and Australia Post is very reliable) Tassielink also provides a service along these lines. Doing this means we can wear "good" clothes to Tasmania, have a look around, do our shopping, pack up and post it all so that when we arrive we have clean clothes, toiletries, comfy shoes etc waiting for us at the hotel.
Backpacking the Overland Track - a view from the States
Planning food for a multiday hike
Various Overland Track posts
Planning to hike one of the greatest wilderness treks in the world?