For $100AU (less than a US C-note, depending on exchange rates) you can walk Tasmania’s Overland Track, experiencing some of the most beautiful vistas Australia has to offer. The terrain is as various as the weather—Tasmania sits in what are called "The Roaring Forties" — winds traveling along the 40° latitude, whipping weather around the globe, unimpeded until making landfall on Tasmania. Within an hour one day, we experienced raging ice storms across the heath, thick humidity under the jungle-like canopy, and bright shining sky above the mountains. Buttongrass and scrub brush conceal fauna, including the infamous Tasmanian Devil, wild wombats and wallabies, all of whom are unafraid of humans and can be seen mere feet away.
The Track is carefully preserved and its caretakers are adamant about low-impact hiking; all walkers must follow specific paths, many of which are marked by boardwalk. Do not be discouraged if this sounds too easy, the walk is rigorous, elevations vary, and the weather is like nowhere else on earth. The Track is about 40 miles long and travels north to south through Tasmanian dolerite hills.
From the Lake St. Claire visitor station where one can find last minute supplies, a ferry hurried us across the grey water, past mist-shrouded hills and into a small inlet flanked by mangroves and dark rocks. After disembarking, we started walking immediately. Right away, we realized the importance of having rain covers for our packs. Precipitation of all kinds arrives without warning, usually disappearing before preparations can be made. Keep raingear handy, as the climate can be quite warm in the trees only to drop severely upon venturing out on the heaths. It is remarkable to be walking in dappled sunlight one minute and have hail plinking off your hood the next.
The park offers cabins and huts, open to all who arrive and spaced out every 3-6 hours. Outdoor space is also available for tents. I recommend sleeping in a tent at least one night. The peaceful sounds of crickets or rushing waterfalls will surely lull you after a hard day of trekking. Sleeping bags are a must as are utensils, food, a stove, and fuel. Water is available, but be sure to have some with you, as well. Out-house toilets can be found near every hut.Each day of walking offers new sights. Much of the land is flat, and wallabies bound across the wide-open heath. The terrain boasts high, dark crags, some snow-capped, some gleaming a green glint in the sun. Visitors who climb over the northern-most mountains will be greeted with an once-in-a-lifetime view across the entire state of Tasmania. Vast expanses of sky hurry clouds over the tortuous hills and lush valleys, and different weather-systems can be seen by the naked eye.
Cradle Lake, a World Heritage location, dazzles the eye; its icy mountain water blazes in the sun. I highly recommend this walk to any hiking or camping enthusiast in search of a piece of the wild Antipodes.
New York, New York
March 1, 2007
From journal Australia's Wild Child