Australia

How I survived 90 KM

Overland Track

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This is part two of the blog about the Overland Track in Tasmania, the island under Australia for those who don’t know where Tasmania is. The Overland Track is a route that takes you five to six days to walk and because you have no shops in between – it’s a nature reserve – you take everything with you on your back. That makes the trip even harder, but also more violent. The more sweat and tears, the more I like the hike.

Tasmania is in the south of Australia

Tom & Quinten

I am hiking with Tom and Quinten. Quinten from France has been my travel buddy in Australia for some time now and he had already agreed to hike with Tom, his Australian friend with an English accent.

They know each other from Space Kamp in America when they were both in high school. They had been sent there by their school. A couple once started it. In which they bring children from all over the world to Houston (US) to get acquainted with space. The camp still exists today and so every year children go to Houston to learn about NASA and space. A nice project. In any case, it has given Quinten and Tom a friendship that still exists today.

Tom, Quinten and me

Hobart and the MONA

Quinten and I had gone to Tasmania a few days earlier to see Hobart and the MONA museum. This is – really – one of the most special and funniest museum I have ever been, but more about that in another blog.

The start of the Overland

From Hobart we went to Launceston where we were picked up the next day by taxi and where I met Tom and Quinten saw his friend again. We drove more than an hour to get to the starting point.

Famke Janssen in Goldeneye

Famke Janssen

We report at the desk when we reach the starting point. We had registered in advance and were very lucky that a few places fell out so we could still join.

Tom had put us on the waiting list a few months earlier. When he was working a few weeks ago they called him and he had to give us up quickly. Tom only didn’t know my name and therefore gave up Famke Janssen – the only Dutch name he could think of. At the counter he was waiting for this discovery, but unfortunately, the woman at the counter did not ask for our names and so the joke went over here.

The backpack

After a short break we really start. We take our bags on our backs. My backpack weighs about 15 kilos, Quinten’s weighs about 17 and Tom 20. This is no science, so I can sit next to it, but then you have an idea.

The bag is so heavy because of the food, the tent, the sleeping bag and a mat. You also need to bring a burner to cook your food and of course water. Because without water you won’t get anywhere. Although we also have tablets to purify the water at the huts.

Cabins/huts at the Overland Track

Every so many kilometres there is a hut where you can rest, make food and there are a number of sleeping places. However, everyone also needs to bring a tent, because there is not enough space for everyone to sleep in the beds in the hut. However, we are lucky and can sleep in the hut every day. Personally I like that better. It is dry and less cold than in a tent. You don’t have to pitch your tent and take it down again.

Route of the Overland

Our route is from hut to hut. That’s a must, because you can’t camp somewhere in the middle of the park. This also means that our route depends on it. The huts are quite far apart and usually there is a four to five hour walk between the huts. There are also side paths that you can follow if you want to be more of nature. We want to do a few side paths, but generally stick to the route.

Sarcasm

Before we start Quinten Tom warns me that I don’t understand much of sarcasm. I’ll honestly admit that I’m not always the fastest to realise it, but it’s not as bad as he sketches it – I hope. He has lived in England for ten years. The land of sarcasm.

Waterdrops on moss

Day 1

Anyway, we’re going to start. Day one is not that bad. We already have lunch to two hours walk when lunch is time. Quinten and I eat fresh, but Tom is right from day 1 on the freeze-dried food.

We walk through a drizzle to the first hut. Within five hours we are there. We meet the ranger who has a room near the hut and he says there are still places. Yes! We are happy, because no one wants to pitch the tent now it rains so much. When we are inside it starts to rain even harder.

The hut is fine. The toilet is separate and inside the hut it is cozy. Everyone is cooking food and chatting with each other. The people we meet there, a son with his old father, two couples and a mother with her two daughters, we meet again everywhere. You can only walk one way, so you all walk in one direction.

Leeches on the Overland track

Tom says he has his whole medical kit with him, he’s a doctor, so we don’t have to worry. We also bought a ‘button’. If something goes wrong we can pull the lever and they come to our aid as soon as possible. Walking when the weather is very bad and with the helicopter when the weather permits.

We just don’t have one thing: salt. And you need salt when you have a leech on you. This is not known, but that’s how I learn something. When we are in the cabin for less than ten minutes Tom discovers a leech on his arm. Two men immediately get their medical kit: with the salt. The salt passes over the leech and it shrinks ten seconds after the salt has sprinkled on him. It may be pathetic for the leech, but it’s the only way to get rid of it.

Leech Overland Track
The leech on Tom’s arm

Day 2

Day two of the Overland track feels more familiar and we start early, around eight o’clock. Nature is beautiful, but the weather is not much different than day 1, a drizzle rain with occasional sunshine. When the sun is there, then it is really warm. We often stop to put on or take off a coat. We stop more often than most other runners, because we take a lot of pictures. Anyway, we wonder why the rest of us hardly take any pictures. It is so beautiful on the route. That occasionally reminds me of Scotland, but with much more variety.

We decide to skip a cabin this day and therefore walk nine and a half hours to arrive at our sleeping cabin. We are broken! And to make the day complete Tom has a leech again.

Day 3,4 & 5

Day three is quieter and we take our time. The weather is getting better now and we have more sun. We also don’t skip a cabin. The day before it was cut in.

Day four and five are not much different. Walking. Walking. And walking. It is just a hike. Tom has a leech about every day and only from day four do Quinten and I switch to freeze-dried food. Then you have to, because which vegetables keep well in a sweaty backpack for four days?

Mount Ossa

On day four we also decide to climb Mount Ossa. I find it terrible if I am very honest, but I don’t say that. The men chew me up to just keep going. The start is fine, but then soon it gets colder and there is more rain. It is no longer a path and we are not hiking either. No, we climb the mountain. We climb over the rocks and have to look for places where we can put our feet down. Quinten loves it and goes like a spear. Tom follows in his footsteps and I plow after him. I find it super heavy. I won’t be used to climbing as a Dutchman – I suspect.

When we meet two medical students who go back halfway, I doubt for a moment if I’ll go back, but Tom and Quinten joked me with jokes about feminists – that always works – and I go on. And I’m super happy I did it, I climbed the highest point in Australia (that’s not Mount Ossa) and in Tasmania. That’s right, but I’m on my bucketlist.

Falling trees

On day five we take it easy and swim near a waterfall, beautiful! It is also the day I realize that hiking is not without danger. When we just leave in the morning we hear a loud sound and a tree doesn’t fall far behind us. We can’t see it, but I realize that if we had walked there and ended up under the tree we wouldn’t get rid of it alive.

Day 6

On day six we say goodbye to many nice people we met and there are many. Nice families and groups of friends who all have a lot of fun hiking. Everyone is a trained hiker and some even walk the Overland track for the umpteenth time.

But most people take the ferry to the other side to go to the water. They walk five days, but you can also around it what you fifty euros for the ferry saves, and that we decide to do. We are going for another day.

It will only be a tough day for Quinten. He gets terrible pain in his ankle and calf. Now Tom’s medical kit comes in handy and ‘drunk’ of the painkillers Quinten reaches the finish line of the Overland Track.

Overland track

Finish

It feels unreal when we walk the last twenty minutes of the track. Two Chinese girls are walking towards us under an umbrella with make up. They look at me in horror. I walk without make up, with clothes I’ve been wearing for days and completely soaked towards the visitor center which is the end of the Overland track.

At the visitor center we meet a lot of people we met during the week. We take a good – much too expensive – lunch and wait for the bus that takes us back to the civilized world.

The Overland Track, I did it!

The Overland track, I would recommend it to anyone who walks more often, different, no, do the short hikes you can do in Tasmania. At the airport I meet a Dutch couple who have downloaded the Tasmania hike app and all short hikes of two to three hours (60 pieces) have run in two weeks. Nice with the car from hike to hike. So it can be, but I am super, super, super proud that we have walked the Overland. And it’s a pity we didn’t see a platypus or a Tasmanian devil, but well, you can’t have everything.

Oh and my humor, which is not so bad yet according to Tom.

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