Overland Track Tasmania - Sue's solo trip report

Want to walk the Overland Track solo?

Not sure if you have the experience or are brave enough to do the hike on your own?

What is it like hiking the Overland Track solo?

Sue headed off to walk the Overland Track in Tasmania in march 2008. It was her first solo hike. She decided that, rather than writing up a detailed trip report (how far, how long etc), she would focus on reflecting about her preparation, the people she met and observations she made along the way. Anyone who is planning the walk should refer to the numerous references that are available. We have listed some recommendations at the bottom of this post.

Sue's Overland Track

I am still not sure how, when, where or why the idea of doing the Overland on my own came about. Perhaps the week camping at Blanket Bay, on my own (after the family had gone home) in January. I think I also hoped that someone, anyone, would offer to accompany me BUT it appeared that no one wanted to rain on my solo parade.

Part of any trip is the experience of planning. I had never planned a trip before and had always been very happy to leave the details to Frank. I began by looking at the bus timetables, then available flights, accommodation in Launceston and Hobart and finally booked the Overland Track. Meal planning is fairly easy and has become easier with the purchase of a food dehydrator.

The weeks prior to leaving I conjured up every “if” scenario possible missing planes, buses, bad weather, and really bad weather. I had been concerned about the mental aspect of walking on my own. I knew I could physically deal with the Overland (having done it before) but who was going to jolly me along when fatigue set in? Sitting at Tullamarine airport an hour before my departure, watching black storm clouds race across the sky, did nothing to alleviate my anxiety.

Barn Bluff sunrise on a frosty morning

Once in Launceston, having done my fresh food shopping, I became resigned to the inevitable and a sense of calmness enveloped me. I had a great nights sleep and was awake well before the alarm went off. All went according to plan and at 7:00am I was on the bus and on my way. The sun started shining on the bus trip and my sense of optimism began to improve.

I decided to take to the Horse Track as it’s a steady climb onto and across the plateau, opposed to the steep incline of “Marion’s”. Prior to turning onto the Horse Track I met a young woman who was walking the “wrong way”, she and a friend had come onto the track via the Never Never. Her friend had walked out from Pelion on the Arm River Track and she had continued on alone. This bolstered my confidence.

I had stopped half way up the Horse Track, beside a small creek for lunch, and didn’t feel the need or want to stop at Kitchen Hut. I wanted to escape the vicinity of day trippers as this is when my adventure would truly begin. Just after passing Kitchen Hut I met the bus driver from Cradle Huts walking out a client who had found the going too tough. She had lasted about half of the first day. He provided information about the fagus (Australia’s only deciduous plant that begins to change colour about ANZAC Day) and employment with Cradle Huts ,something Clare is keen to try.

Following recent rain it was great to be able to look into Waterfall Valley and see waterfalls. I arrived at Waterfall Hut at about 4:30pm, just before the rain and the steady stream of walkers who had climbed Cradle Mountain. We were all met by Bill (volunteer hut host) and the lovely ranger (whose name I have yet to retrieve from my memory bank). The hut was quite full, with some opting to camp. The dangers of the weather became evident when a trio of young people arrived, one of whom was experiencing the first stages of hypothermia. She was quickly cared for by her companions following the directions of Bill and the Ranger.
Autumn Fagus

The highlight of the evening was meeting the couple who had got onto the plateau, via Marion’s lookout, the day before as I had sat at Tullamarine Airport watching the storm clouds race by. I learned that getting onto the plateau in bad weather is a challenging experience – enough to make a grown woman cry. They had spent the previous night at Waterfall Hut and then continued on to Windermere where they planned a recovery day snuggled in their sleeping bags reading. Until it was discovered they where missing a sleeping bag which had to be back to Waterfall Valley Hut! This delightful, friendly and highly amusing couple then backtracked to their previous nights hut. They decided not to continue on the Overland but to go back to Dove Lake via Scott Kilvett Memorial Hut.

Memories of Friday - sun rise reflected on Barn Bluff, a clear frosty morning and frozen pipes. A brief stop at the turn off to Lake Will to talk to the guide from Cradle Huts. As this is a short day I was at the hut by lunch time. One of the downsides of sleeping in the huts is the nocturnal habits of others – snoring and early morning flatulence, so I decide to sleep in the tent. This new, Sea to Summit (Wilderness Equipment ) Dart, was on it's first trip. I found it very cosy to sleep in and enjoyed the solitude.Camped at Windemere in our new Sea to Summit - Dart

The Ranger,had followed us with news that we were in for some serious weather.
She had serious concerns about the trio with the girl who had hypothermia at Waterfall Valley Hut, their gear and their ability to cope. This is a frequent issue on the Overland Track.

I ate dinner in the hut and watched others prepare theirs. Tonight I met a Dutch gentleman who was doing the walk in 3 nights. His daughter had come to Australia 6 years ago on her GAP year and met a Tasmanian. After many years of travelling between the two countries, they had settled in Tasmania, and are to marry in September.

In light of news about the weather I felt it was important to get started ASAP on Saturday and had asked Sandra and George if I could walk with them. The wind was freezing, especially across the open and exposed Pine Forest Moor. We did experience a lot of weather – rain, wind, sleet and even sunshine.

It was great to arrive at Pelion and find the hut warm, almost a tropical atmosphere as people tried to dry wet clothing and boots. It had been a long day for most of us and it showed in own demeanour. Quiet chatter, most where tucked up in bed as soon as the sun set. The weather had sent many of the campers indoors.

We awoke to rain. No one was keen to get going as the prospect of the walking in the rain was not something anyone was looking forward to. I walked with Sandra and George again until the Ossa platform. Once in the open, I began to feel the need to increase my pace to keep warm. Even through the wind continued to blow, the rain eased and there were some sunny moments. The colours of the wet trunks of the Alpine Yellow Gums, with the sun reflected on them, were stunning.
Sandra and George arriving at Kia Ora - great day for ducks!

Kia Ora hut resembled a Chinese laundry and felt like a sauna. This evening only two hardy couples where camping. We had a very entertaining and amusing evening watching each other cook dinner. I had never realised how difficult it was to open a can of spam! We spent some time comparing cooking equipment and food. I was amazed at what some people had carried – gas barbeques, tinned fruit. At some point the fire had gone out, it became a personal challenge among some to get it going. George felt that he should be rewarded with personal favours for his persistence and success.
People carried all sorts of gear and food - cooking spam at Kia Ora Hut

We all adjusted our watches to not daylight saving time, only to discover later that we were in fact a week early. Much discussion was held regarding tomorrow’s destination, was it to be Windy Ridge Hut or onto Narcissus Hut? Much depended on the weather and how we felt. Sandra and George decided to camp at Windy Ridge.
Snow on Du Cane Ranges with Kia Ora toilet in foreground

The two girls the Ranger was concerned about had decided to exit the Overland Track at Pelion Hut via the Arm River Track. The third member of the group, Derek (German) had continued on. I discovered he had a job building a stable and had asked for some time off to do the Overland Track. His boss had asked if her daughters could accompany him, as they had always wanted to do the walk. He felt he couldn’t refuse his employer and had ultimately been stuck with the girls. His relief that they had gone was palpable.

The scent of burning boots permutated the hut, someone had left their boots too close to the fire. There was general concern that we may succumb to the fumes, windows were opened. I spent some time trying to conceptualise daylight saving – did we in fact get an extra hours sleep and how???? Not a good sleep – a lot of snoring, oh for a set of ear plugs.
Wayne and Coralie, with Du Cane Hut in the background

The weather on Monday continued – showers, strong very cold wind and just as we were leaving, snow. This continued to fall for most of the day. As I wasn’t sure of this evening’s destination I walked with Wayne and Coralie until we got to Hartnett Falls. They wanted to see the falls and having seen them before I decided to press on. I got to Windy Ridge at noon and after a brief chat with a track worker about the current renovations, I continued on.

The renovations on Windy Ridge Hut

New ranger's hut, Windy Ridge

I made a brief stop for something to eat but very quickly started to feel cold. Onto Narcissus. Wayne and Coralie caught up with me. I passed the 4 girls of Brisbane and they passed me and then I passed them again. After 6 hours of walking and with very wet (blown out Gortex liner in left boot) and sore feet I arrived. Again the hut it was packed.

Much discussion was held about the inability of the ferry service and the bus service to coordinate their timetables. The ferry arrives into Cynthia bay 10 minutes after the bus leaves!

Next day many where up early to get the 9:30 ferry. Some decided to walk to Echo Point Hut or to complete the Overland Track by walking the length of Lake St. Clair. I had booked the 1:00 ferry and was very happy to stick with my plans and hopefully see George and Sandra. I used the time to sweep the hut and collect rubbish that had been left, organise my pack, do a couple of sodoku’s and make the most of this last opportunity to enjoy the solitude.

The Cradle Huts group began to trickle in at about noon and a French man who had been defeated by fast flowing, very cold creek on the Cuvee Track returned.

I enjoyed my first solo walk immensely. The opportunity to walk at my own pace to stop when I wanted to, to gaze at magnificent vistas, to enjoy my own company and to appreciate the solitude. One of the joys of walking is meeting people of all ages from many and varied backgrounds and countries all over the world. The Ranger at Windemere said that 70% of all walkers on the Overland are from overseas.

Narcissus Hut

Thanks to all who allowed me to be part of their experience – Colleen, Danielle, Jo and her mum (Brisbane), Tim ( Canadian), Derek (German), Sandra and George, Wayne and Coralie, Helga and her friend (German) Simon and Sarah.

Before I left I had many people ask my WHY??? I have thought about it quite a lot and there is no simple answer. I love walking and walk everyday and have done so for years– no, not just walking around but to work, after work, with the dog, with Frank, on the beach and around the river. I love the rhythm of walking, the opportunity it gives me to interact with the environment. It’s almost meditative. I am sure those who surf, run, ride bikes feel the same about their experience.

Walking in remote places, carrying all that is needed to survive just intensifies that experience. It offers the opportunity to escape the complications of modern life, to “refrag my hard drive”, to prioritise what is important, things always seem so much clearer and simpler out there. With no distractions, the full beauty of these sometimes wild and remote places can be appreciated fully.

It usually takes a day or so to unwind to stop thinking about the children, the bills, work and a hundred other things. I am never in a hurry to return to the real world. Last year after a weekend in The Walls of Jerusalem, a friend who was with us, made the inexcusable mistake of talking about the “real” world while were still out there. It was like being woken half way a through great dream. My mood darkened and my pace increase as she continued about the trivialities of life in such a beautiful tranquil place. The moment was spoiled.

A multi day walk carrying a pack can also be physically challenging. In this “modern world” very rarely do we have the opportunity to extend ourselves physically, to overcome challenges – like climbing mountains, crossing rivers and dealing with weather. The sense of self satisfaction is at time immense. Finally, one of the joys of walking is meeting people, of all ages, from many a varied backgrounds and countries all over the world.

Related Posts
The Overland Track solo?
The Overland Track - Planning the walk from overseas
Hiking food preparation - Part One
Hiking food preparation - (Part 2) Lunch and dinner

Suggested reading
The Overland Track - John Chapman - the definitive book
Bushwalk Tasmania forum - Overland Track and Cradle Mountain
Parks Tasmania - The Overland Track - bookings, track notes etc

4 comments:

Peter Franklin said...

An enjoyable read

Cheers
Peter Franklin
http://bushwalks.blogspot.com/

Deb said...

Sue My admiration for your thoughtfulness and fortitude increases. Thanks for the report Deb

Margie said...

I enjoyed reading your report Sue. Reading this makes me want to do this walk myself. Thank you

Philip Werner said...

Great trip report. I also like to hike solo. It's funny how people assume that this means you'll be alone, but I always meet great people along the way, and it sounds like you did too.