The Overland Track experience, Vacation – December 2011, Tasmania

All pictures are here.

Ok, so I had done various mini-vacations before (hiking and biking in Taiwan, climbing Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, rustic hikes in China, etc, etc) but what I hadn’t done before was a long camping + hiking trip in true wilderness. And a family reunion in Melbourne, Australia presented the perfect opportunity to do just that. The idea was to spend enough “reunion time” in Melbourne and then disappear into the Tasmanian wilderness for about a week. Some Googling revealed The Overland Track in Tasmania as the place to go to. I started doing a bit of ground work and spoke to a friend of mine from Hobart called Keith. He told me three things during my first meeting with him which pretty much made me reconsider my plans:

a) Tasmania is home to some of Australia’s deadliest snakes and spiders

b) Doing a walk in true wilderness requires adequate preparation – carrying a tent, stove and all kinds of gear is a must. Tasmania is notorious for its weather and if you aren’t prepared, it’s goodbye baby! (Well, he didn’t say “goodbye baby” but you get the picture..)

c) People who attempt this walk without adequate preparation can potentially die of hypothermia, etc, etc. The track covers a large area and there is a good chance of not bumping into anyone else for a lengthy period of time

Actually, (a) on its own was enough to convince me to abort my first solo attempt at camping and hiking in true wilderness. The part about Tasmania being home to some of Australia’s deadliest snakes and spiders?? I like watching those creatures on Animal Planet but not in real life, thank you very much! I am no death-defying, snake-loving Austin Stevens or Jeff Corwin of Animal Planet. In fact, truth be told, I am ever scared of lizards! Also, the very idea of packing a huge rucksack, shopping around for gear, putting up a tent, etc was less than appealing to me. So, my decision was made. I was going to abort.

Then I called China Southern airways (I was supposed to be flying with them from Hong Kong to Melbourne via Guangzhou – the cheapest possible option). I wanted to check if I could return to Hong Kong earlier and do some trail running in China instead of spending two whole weeks in Australia. “No, this is a non-refundable, non-endorsable, non blah-blah-blah ticket” , came the swift response. So, there went my hopes of returning sooner to Hong Kong. So, destiny (and China Southern Airways) had decided that I was going to have another crack at organizing this trip in the Tasmanian wilderness.

I started reading up on the Overland Track online. The gist was this:

- I had to fly to Launceston
- I had to find transportation from Launceston to Cradle Mountain
- I had to book my walk with TAS (Australian Parks) and start on a particular day
- I had to find transportation from the finish (Lake St. Claire) to Hobart
- I had to fly from Hobart to Melbourne

The above steps sound simple BUT TRY IT!! I challenge you to try getting all this sorted out from Hong Kong in less than half a day! These steps sound so simple but that’s like saying that sending a man to the moon is very easy. You need a rocket, you need a man, you need some fuel and voila – you’re on the moon!

Anyway, somehow I got all this done in about 3-4 days! (Trust me, it does take that long for various logistics to align!) The next step was to come up with an itinerary for 6 days. I had plenty of help from these guys who helped me come up with a perfect itinerary.

And the hiking + camping gear… well, Keith Gelling and Dominic Rigby came to the rescue! Therefore, this trip report is brought to you by Gelling and Rigby productions! Dominic lent me his tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and gave me a much needed how-to-pitch-a-tent 101 lesson at his place. And Keith lent me his winter gear, rucksack, stove and gave me a much needed how-to-pack-a-rucksack 101 lesson.

In fact, I have a diagram. Here, take a look at what I call ‘Backpacking – the Gelling way’.

Backpacking – the Gelling way

Essentially, the sleeping mat and bag go at the bottom, dry set of clothes go immediately above, food stove, gas canisters go right above that and then finally the warm clothes, wet weather gear, coat and over trousers go at the top.

And here’s a schematic diagram of a fit hiker hiking in the cold.

Thermals, jumpers, wind stoppers and an overcoat keep the doctor away!

So, the modern (and warm) hiker has to wear polypropylene thermals, a light jumper, a wind stopper and an overcoat to stay a happy hiker in cold weather. The happy hiker also has to use the toilet adequately, so tissue rolls have to be kept dry and well within timely reach of the happy hiker; ideally, somewhere near the top of the rucksack. You just can’t have accidents when it comes to the bowels!

At first glance, the rucksack Keith had lent me looked like I could pretty much fit all my worldly possessions inside it. It seemed to have more space than my apartment here in Hong Kong! But, packing a rucksack has since taught me a very important lesson. I even made up my own saying based on it: “He who judges a rucksack by its space will never have enough!” Ok, that might be a little hard to grasp (I am still working on refining it) but you get the point! My advice to first time rucksack packers is this: pack well, practice packing and your rucksack will have enough space!

November 28th 2011, Hong Kong to Melbourne
I flew China Southern Airways to Guangzhou in the evening. It was the shortest flight I had ever taken in my life! Basically, the plane took off and I was looking through the window and admiring all the beautiful Hong Kong city lights below, and before I was done admiring, the plane made its descent into Guangzhou airport! In fact, within ten minutes of the flight, I started to smell the Guangzhou air pollution inside the plane!

Upon reaching Guangzhou, I had an overpriced, rip-off 150 RMB noodles before boarding the next plane to Melbourne. Big rip-off but a hungry man can’t eat his money!

November 29th 2011 to November 30th 2011
Family reunion time! Basically, it involved teaching my sister’s two young kids two important principles of life (a) don’t call your mom’s brother an “uncle” because it makes him feel real old (b) “Uncle” does not know much about Thomas the train or an Octonaut (?!) -the latest action figure for kids, I think!-

December 1st 2011
Pictures are here.

Me and my 17Kg rucksack landed in Launceston, Tasmania at about 8.20am in the morning. Paul Griggs of Outdoor Tasmania (a company that specializes in Transporting hikers to and from various remote destinations) was supposed to pick me up at 10.30am from the airport. I had two hours to kill, so I had some breakfast at the airport and received some very useful advice from the bottled water manufacturer called “Cool Ridge”. Here, take a look:

Advice from the bottle manufacturer

“It’s good to GET THINGS OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM, emotionally and physically. So, don’t keep a lid on your feelings, or your Cool Ridge Spring Water. Open up and let it all out. You’ll feel a whole lot better”

Maybe the CEO of that company watches a lot of Oprah Winfrey.

I exchanged pleasantries with other backpackers and walked around the airport until I eventually got picked up by Paul. He was like a walking or rather “driving” encyclopedia on bushwhacking in Tasmania. Three hours later, we reached Cradle Valley.

I was at the Visitor’s Center at about 2.30pm in the afternoon and the ranger there was a bit hesitant to let me start that late. However, Paul and I managed to convince him that I was indeed fit enough to be able to get to the first hut (Waterfall Valley hut) before sunset.

Paul then drove me to Dove Lake (starting point of the track). I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the lake. The water was crystal clear, the skies were blue and many mighty mountains rose in the backdrop. It was serene.

Paul’s Outdoor Tasmania

Dove Lake, Cradle Valley

It was supposed to be summer in Tasmania but it certainly did not feel that way. My watch said the the temperature was two degrees. The wind in my face said it was even lower.

The first stop for the day was Marion’s lookout. The terrain completely changed by the time I got there. There were now pockets of bright white snow everywhere. The views of the mountains and the lake were even more breathtaking. I felt like a little kid in a playground. I hadn’t seen that much snow in a long time.

Snow, snow and snow!


After walking for about an hour from Marion’s lookout, I reached a small hut called Kitchen Hut at about 4.30pm and met an elderly couple there. They looked like they were in their 70s. They seemed to be walking slowly and I mean very, very, very slowly but I was in admiration of their effort. They showed me their guidebook which mentioned a sidetrack to Cradle Summit from Kitchen Hut. It said 2.5hrs return (or something similar) but I decided to do it at full speed. I left my rucksack at Kitchen Hut and made a dash for the summit.

The ascent wasn’t much but the ever increasing thick snow cover made matters quite slippery. Soon, I lost the markings on the track as the signs were probably buried under the snow. My foot sank so much deeper into the snow with each passing step that my gaiters proved useless. I was alone and I took extra precautions. I took a photo of Kitchen hut and the “landmark” nearby to maintain my bearing (basically, the landmark was a small lake to the right of Kitchen hut which was visible from a much higher altitude). I kept climbing and then it struck me, it doesn’t just get “lonelier at the top” but it also gets “lonelier, snowier, scarier and slippery-ier” at the top! At one point, I decided that it was going to be too risky to find the official summit, so I stopped at “a summit” instead of “the summit” and named this summit after me.

Views from the “Natteri” summit


This is the way to the Cradle Mountain Summit and Natteri Summit (the white snow covered track)

Coming back down the snow covered track reminded me of kindergarten. Back in the day, I used to be a big fan of sliding down on my butt on those man-made slides in the playgrounds for kids. Today, the slides were all mountain-made. My butt was transformed into an instant ski (no, not because it is that big) and I slid down all the way from the top of my summit to the bottom while maneuvering my way around big boulders and jagged rocks.

Reaching Kitchen Hut again after that little sidetrack to Natteri Summit brought a big sense of relief. I was happy to see people again. And then, I continued my way along the track to the first “proper” hut for the day – The Waterfall Valley hut. The path was simply spectacular. This section of the track alone made all the effort of organizing this trip worthwhile.

The way from Kitchen Hut to The Waterfall Valley hut

The Waterfall Valley hut

Given my charming personality, I made friends instantly after reaching the hut. There were Brad and Hannah from Tasmania, Mitzy and friends from Japan, Frederick from Sweden, Scott from New Castle and Cyril from France. And there was also a very friendly and polite couple from South Korea who looked like they couldn’t harm a fly EXCEPT WHEN THEY SLEEP! More about that later.

It was about 7pm when I got to the hut and even by 9pm, there was no trace of that elderly couple I saw back at Kitchen Hut. Brad, Hannah and I decided to go look for them. We backtracked for about 30 minutes and met a ranger who was also trying to find them, albeit unsuccessfully. The four of us came to a conclusion that the elderly couple were well equipped and probably had all important survival gear. In the worst case scenario, they would have had to pitch a tent somewhere along the track, that is, if they were not able to get to the Waterfall Valley hut before darkness.

My first night in the wilderness seemed to be going great until the bed suddenly seemed to shake violently. I got startled. I thought we were experiencing an earthquake. I panicked and opened my eyes as fast as I could and I instantly heard the equivalent of a Boeing 747 jet taking off. That noise was followed by a sharp shrill and then there was silence – pin drop silence. And a few seconds later, this episode repeated. Bed shook violently, 747 took off and a sharp shrill accompanied the noise. One look at the source of disturbance below revealed that it came from my lower berth bunk bed partner – the guy from South Korea. He was snoring. And this was no ordinary snoring, it sounded like GODZILLA was snoring. Brad and Hannah were kept awake as well. I slept intermittently during the lulls before the storm, i.e. when the plane was simply taxiing instead of taking off!

View from my bunk bed

December 2nd, 2011
Pictures are here.

The sun was shining bright at about 6am. It was a clear blue sky. It turned from winter and snow to summer and sun overnight! I was repacking my rucksack and desperately trying to get my sleeping mat and sleeping bag back inside their original cases. I tried, tried and tried again but eventually resorted to violence. I put the sleeping bag inside my rucksack and gave it some nice Rambo-style punches (sorry Dominic) to get it to go in. Mitzy (the girl from Japan) who was also my bunk bed neighbor, probably thought I was crazy. I realized that those campers who really manage to repack their sleeping bags, mats and tents into their original cases every single day deserve my deepest respect. I think the manufacturers use some kind of ultra-high vacuum method to make them extra-compact before selling them.

This was also the first time in my life that I used a compost toilet. I was expecting some kind of design like the ones I had seen while hiking in villages in China.

Basically, when I was hiking in villages in China, there was a pigsty in the basement and on the immediate upper level, there was a carefully designed, strategic hole in the ground. While doing one’s business, the “human droppings” were meant to fall right through this hole and directly enter the pigsty basement. This was the cue for the pigs to go on a rave eating party. The pigs would have probably been looking up that hole towards “heaven” and would have probably been thanking God for all the gifts from above! Any human spending more than 2 minutes near that hole area would have died an excruciatingly slow death from foul smell.

In comparison, the compost toilets on the overland track were a world apart. Firstly, it didn’t involve squatting. So, getting back up on two feet didn’t involve a
high degree of fitness. Secondly, it did not stink even a fraction as much! There was some compost in a bucket by the side of the toilet. After usage, pouring a little bit of that compost into the toilet actually dried out the waste resulting in less stink.

Also, to keep the Overland Track hikers entertained during such visits to the compost toilet, there were poems written on toilet doors that were surely entertaining but probably didn’t do much to aid the “dumping” process. I’ll tell you why. On the door, there were some nice and rhyming poems about wombat poo. They say that many great ideas are conceived in the toilet. I thought of one such idea – basically, a great one line summary of this Overland Track toileting experience. It even rhymed. Here goes: “If ya want to use the Overland Track loo, you better take a lesson in wombat poo”. Apparently, a wombat suffers big time when pooing; each oblong shaped dump it creates is, in fact, very painful and a nightmare for the poor thing! Now, you tell me, would you really want to read a rhyming poem about a wombat suffering from constipation while you take your 6am dump in a compost toilet in the wilderness?

Speaking of wombats, here’s one I saw in the wild

Anyway, so back to the Overland Track. My morning breakfast was boiling water + instant mashed potatoes powder + oats. It was an instant appetite killer but nonetheless, it was much needed energy for the body.

I left a little late in the morning at about 9am for the best side trip of the day. It was called Barn Bluff. I could see the summit from the Waterfall Valley hut and it looked majestic under the clear blue sky. The views from up there looked very promising.

Barn Bluff

The good thing about leaving so late in the morning was that the ones who had left before me had left footprints in the snow on the way to the summit. I simply had to follow their footprints to reach the summit. But despite all that extra help, I got lost! I could not find the way to the top and so, I started to go back. But luckily, I met Mitzy and her friends a little way down below the summit. Together, (actually mainly Mitzy) we managed to find the right track that lead to the summit.

The views from up there were indeed splendid.

Footprints in the snow

View from the top of Barn Bluff

On the way back down, I met Brad and Hannah who had left Waterfall Valley hut even later than I did and they gave me some rather surprising news on the elderly couple from the previous day. Apparently, the two of them were too tired to reach the Waterfall Valley hut the previous day and had instead resorted to sleeping overnight somewhere on the Overland Track in one sleeping bag. They did not have a tent either as they had jettisoned it at Kitchen hut as it was too heavy to carry! They finally made it to Waterfall Valley hut today morning and were planning to stay there for 2 nights in order to recuperate.

After summiting Barn Bluff, I went back to the Waterfall Valley hut, spoke to the elderly couple and left for the next hut which was called Windemere hut. On the way to Windemere hut, there was a small sidetrack to a lake called Lake Will. I had the privilege of being introduced to a fascinating Overland Track bird en route.

Meet the Currawong

This bird looked just like any other crow but gave the term “bird-brain” a whole new meaning. She was like the Yogi bear of birds! She was capable of finding zips in rucksacks, opening them up and disappearing with any snacks she found! I found my rucksack’s zip opened up and the plastic bag which was inside the zipper bore marks of attack by bird beak! But, I was the one who had the last laugh as that plastic bag only contained my non-recyclable junk!

Lake Will was beaming of a bright sky-blue color and evoked a very soothing feeling.

Lake Will

Finally, before reaching Windemere hut, I passed through Lake Windemere (named after the one in Lake District in the UK). It was so calm and serene there that I felt I could sit there forever and read a book.

Lake Windemere

After reaching Windemere hut, as usual, it was time to unpack the sleeping bag and sleeping mat, have my noodles + oats for dinner and then, try and go to sleep by about 9pm. Brad, Hannah, Mitzy and the South Korean couple arrived much later. About one hour into my sleep, I could hear the South Korean Boeing 747 start his engines again and my sleep was interrupted by frequent and relenless takeoffs.

December 3rd, 2011
Pictures are here.

In two days, I had experienced winter + summer but Tasmania is really known for its rains. Someone told me that there is a one in ten chance of it NOT raining in Tasmania. We had been lucky the past two days but not so today! When I woke up, it was misty and there was plenty of drizzle. I usually like rains but carrying a 17Kg backpack in wet weather was a different story.

The destination for the day was New Pelion Hut. The signboards said it would take us five hours to get there but it always took us an hour or two less than what is said on those signboards.

I had seen snow, rain and sunshine in the past two days but today, I saw a combination of rain and tropical rainforests as I made my way to Pelion hut. And, I discovered that slush was the best friend of tropical rainforests. It continued drizzling and the way to Pelion Hut was adorned with tall trees and plenty of greenery on either side of the track. But, a rather unwelcome result of that combination was plenty of slush on the track. It didn’t matter whether I had worn the best brand of Goretex boots or the best gaiters in the world – it was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to have wet and muddy feet. There was no getting away from this slush!

On the way to Pelion Hut

The rain was heavy at times and my feet turned cold and wet. Walking the track for the most part was still very enjoyable. I could hear birds chirping and the air I was breathing in felt like it was cleansing my soul! About three and a half hours later, I reached Pelion Hut. I had originally planned to do a side trip to Mount Oakley from Pelion Hut, but on a notice board in the hut, we were warned about that route to the summit of Mt. Oakley. It said that the slush on the track to Mt. Oakley was waist deep! And, “waist deep” in Australia was probably more like “neck deep” for us Asians! I already looked like I had just come off working from a coal mine. The combination of not showering for days + rain + slush left me super smelly. I didn’t want to worsen that. So, I was more inclined to just sitting back and chilling in the hut.

Then we heard an epic speech from a tour guide in the afternoon urging us to climb Mt. Oakley. I can’t remember his exact words but his speech was enough to wake up a slumbering Scott and it also rekindled the adventure spirit in me. Scott and I were soon back on the trails and were armed with our gaiters. Unfortunately though, those gaiters weren’t much of a defense against the slush that lay ahead!

The jagged summit to the left is Mount Oakley

The track to Mt. Oakley went through a field covered with button grass and a creek ran through it. The rangers urged us to follow the actual track which had plenty of deep puddles of water. The track frequently felt like it was simply going to suck us in alive like a quicksand. However, one way to avoid being sucked in into this quicksand was to dance around the actual track – something we were discouraged to do as it could end up widening the track and destroying vegetation. So, the choice in front of us was simple. We could either (a) follow the actual track, risk sinking neck deep into slush and risk falling completely inside an unexpectedly deep puddle of muddy water OR (b) dance around the actual track thereby potentially keeping dry but risking destroying vegetation. Any normal human being I knew would have gone for choice (b) (yes, I have BAD friends). But, not Scott! Scott wanted to follow the actual track which, he explained later, was more because of “the enigmatic nature of the puddle” rather than actual care for vegetation. He liked the thrill of not knowing how deep a muddy puddle of water was before he risked putting his foot inside one of them. And, he certainly didn’t know! He reminded me of a determined and wounded soldier taking several hits to himself during a battle, but still gathering every ounce of remaining energy left in his body and marching on!

The deep slush and slush incarnate – Scott

We marched on in our attempt to reach the summit and went through a pristine rainforest. We saw sunshine and rain alternating every five minutes. The weather seemed as unpredictable as a woman’s mind. We were still hopeful of making it to the summit but as they say “hope is the last thing to disappear”. It wasn’t all that bad though because we almost did reach the summit but the views from up there were kind of white! It was cloudy. We retreated a little disappointed but then nature had a surprise for us. It cleared up and we saw a beautiful rainbow in the horizon.

Views of the valley from near the summit of Mount Oakley

Scott explained to me on the way back down that there was yet another reason for his unique desire to fall into slush. He wanted a free mud bath to feel rejuvenated.

We sighted a wild kangaroo on the way back (Scott corrected me and said it was called a wallaby).

Wallaby (not sure of the difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo)

Pelion hut was a newer hut in comparison and had about three rooms filled with bunk beds. Brad, Hannah and the South Korean couple arrived much later than we did. Brad and Hannah strategically switched their beds after they were sure of where the Korean 747 was parked. A Dutch couple, Gert and Caroline, took their place instead in the “danger” room.

The next day morning as Brad and Hannah saw the Dutch couple, Gert looked them in the eye and exclaimed “You rascals, you knew, didn’t you!” Brad and Hannah played dumb. Gert continued, “the whole bed and poles were vibrating!”

By then, the word of the South Korean couple and their snoring talent had spread!

I made the mistake of leaving my shoes outside overnight to try and get them to dry. It was a big mistake. When I woke up in the morning, we were back to winter + cold weather and my shoes were frozen! It took an extraordinary amount of work just to put them on as we were preparing to leave for the next hut – the Kia Ora hut.

December 4th, 2011
Pictures are here.

The destination for the day was Kia Ora hut. There was also an exciting side trip for the day. It was to summit Mt. Ossa. The track to Kia Ora hut was stunning, most parts of it felt like I was going through an unspoilt tropical rainforest. The only issue was with my feet as they were still frozen from leaving my shoes out in the open the previous night. There was also some fresh snow on the track.

On the way to Kia Ora – snow on the track

Rainforests

I reached the turnoff to Mount Ossa about an hour later. I left my heavy rucksack there and tried running uphill for a little while to “unfreeze” my foot and palm.

Turnoff to Mt. Ossa

Mt. Ossa

As I was climbing, there was heaps of snow and it got much, much colder. I could see Scott and Cyril below and I waited for them. Scott decided to retreat after a certain point as he thought it was too risky to continue in the snow. Cyril and I tried climbing to the summit. There was one exceptionally difficult part on the way to the summit. It was a steep vertical section and the only way to climb that seemed to be to stretch all four limbs to the maximum possible extent.

The snow covered boulders which acted like footholds were very slippery. Cyril, being much taller than I was had less problems. I struggled to get up that vertical section but eventually succeeded. Then a sense of fear overcame me. My right hand was also a little frozen and I did not have full control over my frozen right foot.

Cyril and I were the only ones at the top and the weather seemed as unpredictable as ever. My biggest fear was that the palm of my right hand and the bottom of my right foot would go numb from the snow and the worst part was that I still had to go down that awful vertical section!

On the way to the summit

I decided to stop there and Cyril didn’t want to continue on his own. So, we took a few pictures, barely 300m from the real summit and turned back.

View from the summit of Mt. Ossa (almost)

That hard vertical section we faced while going up felt even harder on the way down. Later, we were told by Mitzy and a few others who had made it to the top that there was a different way around that difficult section.

Anyway, I felt increasingly relieved and much safer as we started heading downwards. My frozen right hand and right foot were finally warming up once again. I was thinking to myself that Mt. Ossa was only 1600m high. I was imagining what the guys summiting Everest must be going through!

Upon reaching Kia Ora hut, we needed some much needed heat in the hut and Frederick, our residential hut heater expert from Sweden tried to start a fire.

Frederick trying the coal furnace

Possum

The evening was spent playing charades in the hut. By this time, we all knew each other and we all certainly knew about the South Korean couple and their snoring talent! So, as they arrived, a lot of us suddenly wanted to “experience camping in the wild” and started pitching tents!

December 5th, 2011
Pictures are here

This was supposed to be a big day. A lot of us wanted to skip a hut called Bert Nichols Hut and hike all the way to Narcissus hut which was the final hut on the Overland Track for us. We had 21km to cover.

On the way to Narcissus hut, we passed through three waterfalls.

Fergy Falls

The second waterfalls

And finally, the Harnett Falls which was the most beautiful.

Harnett waterfalls


Cyril, Frederick and I got lost on the way back from Harnett Waterfalls as we were trying to find our way back to the main Overland Track. We missed the trail we had originally taken. This resulted in one heck of a bushwhack. Cyril kept his ears tuned to the sound of the waterfalls and followed his nose to what he thought was the side track we had originally taken down to the falls. He was right but that little excursion took a toll on his leg muscles and left Frederick with some battle scars.

We reached Bert Nichols hut in the afternoon. It was the best hut we had seen on the Overland Track. It was a shame we were skipping this hut instead of one of the others. Hannah told me later that she had heard that the Park Authorities had spent AUD 1.4M renovating it!

Bert Nichols Hut

Inside the hut. It even had decorative items hanging from the roof

Important message for backpackers!

In the evening, we reached Narcissus hut which was probably the worst hut on the track. Bert Nichols hut, in comparison, was a world apart! On the way to the hut, there was a nice suspension bridge made of wooden planks. This bridge supported only one person at a time.

Suspension bridge

Narcissus Hut

Sophie, Mitzy, Cyril and Scott arrived a little later after I did and spoke about 1m long snakes they had just seen on the way! I was quite relieved that I hadn’t seen any!

We were all familiar with each other by the 5th day and exchanged contact information in order to keep in touch. We were soon going to part ways as four of us had to leave very early the next day morning for the final leg of the walk – the walk from to Cynthia Bay from Narcissus hut which was 17km long. The others on the group were going to take the ferry at 8.30am the next day.

The Group

The South Korean “Boeing 747″ snorer didn’t skip a hut like the rest of us did and spent the night at Bert Nichols hut. However, that, by no means, meant a snore-free night for the rest of us. That original snorer might not have been at Narcissus hut but he sure seemed to have passed on a legacy to many others! There was a snoring orchestra going on at Narcissus hut that night. I think everybody was tired from a long walk, bored from eating the same food everyday and smelly from wearing the same clothes!

Scott was also woken up in the middle of the night from indoor showers. Someone on the upper berth of his bunk bed seemed to have a leaking water bladder. Some three litres of leaking cold water was directly aimed at his sleeping bag!

December 6th, 2011
Pictures are here.

I woke up at about 4.30am and was ready by 5am. Scott, Cyril, Fred and I left then and had 17km of track to cover to reach our final destination on the Overland Track – Cynthia Bay from Narcissus hut. We walked through more tropical rainforests and plenty of slush. Glimpses of Lake St. Claire appeared beautifully on one side of the track. This section of the track was also beautiful but I had a feeling that we had seen it all already. The previous sections of the Overland Track had set the bar very high and these enchanted forests we were now seeing weren’t anything new. It took us close to four and a half hours to reach Cynthia Bay.

Narcissus hut to Cynthia Bay in Lake St. Claire

Fred was too tired to walk after a while!

Almost at Cynthia Bay

And finally at the Visitor Center at Cynthia Bay

That evening, it was time to get back to proper meals and a proper bed. I was relieved to know that I would be eating something other than oats or noodles for dinner!

December 8th, 9th 2011
In the comfort of my sister’s place back at Melbourne, I was enjoying man-made contraptions and delicious food. The bed was clean, I had sumptuous dinners and kept watching back to back movies on a large screen! Nature was sure beautiful over the past couple of days and, now, I had come to a conclusion that man can also make beautiful things like a PS3!

Summary
The Overland Track was a magnificent and surreal experience. I had never experienced summer, winter, spring and autumn, all in one long trek before. The transition from snow covered tracks and snow-capped mountains to blue lakes and green tropical rainforests was simply incredible! The company of people I met and stayed with in the huts was something that I will remember for a long time to come. This vacation gets an A+.


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