Hitting the track

    Tasmania’s Overland Track isn’t just one of the world’s most impressive hikes, it’s a tough six-day workout. Anne Majumdar explains why you should do it.

    You probably know the Overland Track from breathtaking photos taken by trekkers of the imposing Cradle Mountain in the north west of Tasmania. But rest assured, that’s not the only stunning vista you’ll experience – the 65km six-day trek through the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park offers incredible scenery at literally every turn.

    The views

    You’ll come across waterfalls and plateaus, glistening lakes and jagged mountaintops as far as the eye can see. Then it’s on to the moors before heading up into the mountain plains and past myrtle forests and pandani trees, travelling between Mount Pelion West and Tassie’s highest peak, Mount Ossa. Near the end, you’ll walk along the shores of Lake St Clair, the deepest natural freshwater lake in Australia, with its backdrop of jagged peaks from nearby Mount Ida and Mount Olympus.

    As for civilisation, you may come across some abandoned copper mines, but that’s really it. This experience is all about leaving the world as you know it behind and getting back to nature – perfect for lovers of the great outdoors.

    When to visit

    The ideal time to do the walk is from the start of October all the way through to the end of May, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll avoid uncomfortable weather conditions. Because of the mountainous nature of the surroundings, you could come across rain, wind, sun and even snow at any time of the year, so you’ll also have to be prepared to turn back if necessary.

    Just ensure you pack wisely with gear that will equip you for any eventuality and whatever you do, don’t test new hiking boots on the track for the first time. A friend who did ended up with several bleeding blisters she had to bandage every night.

    Fitness

    You need to be reasonably fit to take on the challenge. If you can walk an average of 12km a day for a week across a variety of terrain, occasionally steep ascents and descents with around 18kg on your back, then you’re a contender. Even if you’re not quite up to a week-long trek, there are still a number of day and overnight treks you can do from Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. On the other hand, there are plenty of ways to make the trek even more challenging; for example, experienced climbers can add on a five-hour climb of the 1617m Mount Ossa.

    To get ready for the Overland Track, start by doing around 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week in the months before your departure. You should also get used to hill walking by heading outside with a backpack, no matter the weather. Wet and windy walks will help prepare you for the challenge ahead.


    Alternative accommodation

    During the trek, you’ll stay in simple huts and campgrounds, so why not treat yourself to a comfy place to rest before and after your adventure? You’ll find unique luxury eco-retreats at the start of the hike near Deloraine like Forest Walks Lodge, quaint Quamby Home and Falls River Luxury Accommodation. Or check out Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat near Cradle Mountain itself for some secluded serenity.

    Once you’ve finished up, head for the Derwent Valley for some serious rest and relaxation in properties such as Tyenna River Cottage, Ratho Farm or Truffle Lodge.

    Mix things up with a post-trek coastal getaway in the summer months. Feeling the sand between your toes will be the perfect remedy for those cramped hiking boot toes. The Bay of Fires is home to a number of stunning retreats including Holland House, Villa Rochford and Halcyon.

    For more information, visit wildescapes.com.au


    Hiking rules

    When setting off into the wilderness, there are a few things to bear in mind.

    1. Go as part of a group

    No matter how romantic the notion of “finding yourself” while all alone in the wilderness, you’re better off going as part of a group. That’s definitely the case when tackling the Overland Track – not just because getting lost on your own in a remote forest is a bad idea, but also because it’s a shame if there’s no-one there to share the spellbinding experience with. Groups of three or more are recommended.

    2. Make sure to tell people where you’re going

    Play it even safer by telling someone what your plans are and making sure they know to call for help if you don’t make it back as planned. Recording your movements in the park log books is another way of leaving a trail. These are regularly checked by park staff and can be found at the start and end of the track, as well as at the huts along the way.

    3. Take a first aid kit with you

    Don’t forget to pack a first aid kit or even better, take a first aider along with you. A tent is essential, too, even if you plan on staying in the huts. These precautions may seem a little over the top, but in 2014, a tourist died of hypothermia while undertaking the trek. Rising numbers of visitors to the Overland Track have prompted local authorities to underline the safety measures that will stop tragic incidents like this from recurring.