Having just spent 11 days one March wandering through the track, I thought our members may be interested in my impressions.
My reason for going was to have a look so I could plan a return photo shoot next year and photograph what I saw on this trip.
The most over-riding impression was the beauty of the place. I remember laughing as I walked past Artists Pool. A cold rain falling, snow on the ground, Cradle Mountain covered in cloud and melting snow. It was outstanding, too good to be true. I found it ironic that the two places I found most appealing were at the beginning, the Cradle Mountain area and towards the end, the Pine Valley/Labyrinth area. Remarkable landform and vegetation.
The track itself was in fairly good condition. The muddiest and most poorly maintained section was between Pelion Plains and Pelion Gap. The rangers commented that because the work on the track had made walking quicker, the side tracks to the peaks and other places were now in poor condition.
The people on the track were great. One night, in particular at Pine Valley telling stories and dirty jokes it was a great feeling of friendship and good fun that all experienced. It was interesting to observe the pattern of track gossip that developed.
Who was on the track? A party from the Ulladulla NPA, a surprising number of other solo walkers, a number of Germans and English trekkers, a party from the Hobart Bushwalking Club, a girls school from Sydney, two ARMY groups, lots of groups of two and a few Tasmanians. The ARMY people upset a lot of people on the track and the NPWS will be writing to them. I remember coming back from the Labyrinth and saying to the Ulladulla people, "Please tell me I saw an apparition, please tell me I did not see the school girls!". They just laughed.
The Hobart walkers said that they have 1000 members yet only about 70 are active and that the average age is 65. I suspect that they do not have a large number of overnight walks on their programme.
It amazed me how unprepared people were in regard to the gear they carried, which tended to be not enough, and their food, which tended to be too much. At one location I mooched packet cheesecake, which had been chilled in the stream. A ranger told me about two blokes who did the track with four cans of baked beans and plastic bags for rain coats, with subsequent reports of theft wherever they went.
The fact that the track is so well defined greatly reduces the risk to any experienced,
sensible solo walker. I enjoyed walking by myself and people were never too far away if
something went wrong.
I had three people ask me if I was a Tasmanian. Im not sure if this was a compliment and I wonder why they thought I was one. Was it because I tended to speak in monosyllables, I was a bit anti-social, I stunk or got the shits with people staying up late in huts playing cards or taking their clothes off and having massages done?
Huts I dont like but are the only choice in some locations and the responsible environmental choice in other locations. I lost my billy tongs and pack towel at Waterfall Valley and left my wallet behind at Scott-Kilvert hut. Thinking some-one stole it at Waterfall Valley I spent the night scheming as to who did it and gave a poor Canadian a hard time about it in the morning. A quick trip back to Scott-Kilvert secured the lost items it would seem that I am wise by name only. Thank God for honest bushwalkers.
Regrettably, I formed the impression that there is a need to control numbers on the track. During the day I would occasionally come across people walking from the other direction or I would over-take a slow moving party. It was at night that this situation changes. It would be conservative to say that there are at least 30 people at each hut, either in the hut or camping outside. During summer there were 700 people on the track at a given time. The NPWS is so concerned about this that behind every toilet door, besides the "No Peeing in the Compost Toilet" sign is a detailed article on track over use. (These toilets, because of their size and height often gave good views of the surrounding area)
This may not sound like many people but the effect is full huts and tent sites that are mud pits when it rains.
In regard to rain the pattern for my stay was snow, rain, sunny, rain, sunny and rain. This would change every two to four days as a new weather front was followed by a high-pressure system.
My route was Lake Dove, Hansons Peak, Scott-Kilvert Hut for two nights, Waterfall Valley Hut, back to Scott-Kilvert, then onto Lake Winderemere camping, New Pelion camping, Du Cane camping, Windy Ridge Hut, Pine Valley Hut for two nights, Narcissus Bay then the walk out via Lake St Clair. During that time, the peaks when they became accessible were covered in cloud. The Lake St Clair section I completed in four hours 25 minutes, including lunch. Not bad for a 40-year-old, I thought. It was sunny from Waterfall Valley to the Pelion Plains and in Pine Valley and the rest of the time it was cloudy, rained or snowed. My favourite spots were, the Twisted Lakes/Artists Pool area below Cradle Mountain, Lake Windemere, the primeval forest below Pelion Gap and forest above Windy Ridge, Pine Valley and The Labyrinth and The Acropolis and the forests along Lake St Clair. These places will be my emphasis for photography on my next trip.
Wilderness Photography has its own form of purgatory. For two days I would walk over to a different window at Scott-Kilvert hut and look at the bitingly cold wind and rain push around the trees with Cradle Mountain blanketed in cloud. A feeling of frustration sitting on my chest as I looked out the window. Occasionally I would venture out, stand at a location, my tripod mounted camera covered by a plastic bag with sleet hitting me in the back, waiting for a break in the weather. Patience exhausted, I would move on and look back to see the momentary break in weather occur.
Then there was The Labyrinth, were I stood for 45 minutes waiting for the cloud to move off The Acropolis and then have two walkers enter the shot and stand there looking at me just as the cloud lifted. Not forgetting Narcissus Bay, were I rose before dawn on a cloud-less day and set up my gear, only to have the clouds move in from the north just as the sun rose.
Then there were the photo opportunities I chose to ignore because of perceived time pressure, the weather or tiredness and then regret not stopping.
Clearly the lesson learnt was: "If the opportunity presents itself, take it!"
Did I enjoy myself? Yes, so much so I nearly re-stocked and went back in.
What did I gain from the experience? From the 11 roles of slide film I did gain a few good shots. I lost three kilos in weight. I learnt a lot.
Over the past two years I have been increasing my knowledge of photography and building up a library of shots on the Budawangs, The Jagungal Wilderness and now The Overland Track. It was my initial intention back then to share with others the majesty of what we experience on our trips by publishing my work and giving slide shows to interested groups. I feel it is important that we impart to the armchair travelers and environmentalists an idea of what is in our remarkable bush and why it is so important.
As part of that process I hope by the end of the year to have an Internet home page set up so I can publish my work on the net. Who knows, I might even make some money out of it.
NOTE: This trip report is now a few years old.
Any text and images found on this web page are copyright © Geoff Wise, 1998 - 2009. All rights reserved.