I just showered and gorged on vegetables for the first time in a week and IT FELT AMAZING.
Instead of being kind to my body and giving it those things it craves on a near-daily basis, I put it through hell these past 6 days while hiking the Overland Track.
Honestly, this 16-day jaunt in Tasmania has been the most loosely (read: non) planned trip I’ve ever embarked on. It’s very unlike me not to thoroughly research all my options and efficiently plan out my days, at least to some extent. I guess I figure I’m in Australia for a whole year with no real time crunch – and maybe part of me really wants to free bird this whole thing and see what happens.
So this is how my Overland Track (non-)planning went down:
- Purchased a permit online and chose a start date shortly after our Tassie roadtrip would end
- Decided on a 6 day trek, as that seems to be the norm
- Booked bus tickets to/from trail in advance
- Briefly glanced at the recommended gear list and confirmed I already had most of it
- Got really cold one night on the roadtrip and bought a warmer jacket to take with me on the trek
That’s it. I didn’t look at a map, didn’t plan a route, didn’t look into the trek at all. All I knew was that the Overland Track is considered one of the best hikes in the world, and is not meant to be all that strenuous. Good enough, right?
It didn’t matter how much I planned or didn’t plan. I knew I was going to make it through the hike, and I did. Those 6 days felt like much, much longer than that, and they taught me one key fact about my hiking style:
I really love open air, mountainous (or coastal) landscapes…
… and I really don’t love the forest.
I had some inkling that this was my preference, but I never realized how binary it was until I immersed myself in the other side. I’d never hiked extensively through the woods before – and you know what, it must have been because I had no interest in doing so. My previous big hikes all entailed big skies and dramatic views, from Waimanu Valley in Hawaii to the Everest Base Camp Trek, to most recently the Laugavegur Trek in Iceland.
I need to see the sky when I’m walking: it both orients and soothes me. I love chasing the horizon, admiring the clouds above, feeling the sun warm my skin.
What a little research may have taught me sooner is that the Overland Track runs mostly through forest. A few bits of it pass through open air moors and around mountains, though: in fact, there are several options for summitting along the trail. I was all amped to climb Mount Ossa, Tassie’s highest mountain, but it was raining with low visibility when I reached the trailhead so my fellow hikers and I passed on it. With the exception of the clear view of Cradle Mountain I enjoyed on the first day, most every other mountain I passed looked fogged over like this:
So with no mountains to climb, I spent most of the 6 days beneath the trees in semi-darkness. I had no idea how far I had gone or how close I was to the next landmark until I hit it. Minutes felt like hours in the woods. It was disorienting to say the least!
On the third day we got smacked with nonstop rain. I was trudging through the dark forest, or never-ending mud maze as I dubbed it midway through, and hadn’t seen any trail markers in over an hour. It sure looked like I was on the trail, and I hadn’t seen any turnoffs, but after two days of ALWAYS having at least one trail marker in sight, I started to worry. Turning around and revisiting all the puddles and tree roots I had oh-so-carefully sidestepped so as to minimize foot pain and slippage was about the last thing I wanted to do, but continuing down what could have been a path in the wrong direction would have been even worse.
I turned around, trudged back for about 20 minutes, then sheepishly ran into some fellow hikers who reassured me that we were going the right way. WHEW.
Really, though, how miserable does this look? There were some parts of the trail that were just one giant vat of mud. There was no getting around it without going ankle-deep in the stuff.
I’d relax for a few seconds upon sight of the occasional boardwalk through the forest. FINALLY, a moment where my mind wouldn’t have to calculate the best way around roots, a puddle, or a giant mud clump. That shit gets exasperating real fast, let me tell you. The best (worst) though, is when a pretty little boardwalk like this brings you straight to a massive mud puddle lined with tree roots – it’s like, what’s the point?
I’m glad I did the Overland Track, though. I actually didn’t hate it, despite all the ranting I just did. It had some beautiful moments, which I’ll be highlighting in future posts. And I saw these cute critters every single day – I’d assumed they were wallabies, but they’re called pademelons:
Lesson learned? I don’t like hiking through the woods or playing in mud. I think I’ll stick to mountain climbs and coastal walks for future treks!
On that note: the Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula is due to open this November. Any takers? :)