The Overland Track is probably the best known multi-day bushwalk (as the Australians refer to hiking/trekking/tramping) in the country. It winds its way over 78.5km across Tasmania’s central plateau, through Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. This park (and indeed the whole western part of Tasmania) encompasses some of the most rugged and unexplored wilderness on the entire continent.
Most people walk the track from north to south, however I’d decided to do it in the opposite direction, since this would have me finishing my walk near Devonport, the location of the ferry docks that I’d be using for my trip back to the mainland.
This being the case, the track started at Lake St. Clair and would finish near Cradle Mountain. (You can find a map of the park here though it doesn’t show the hut locations so it won’t be too too easy to follow along on.)
The Overland Track has a bit of a reputation… Its weather is known to change very quickly, especially in the unsheltered high altitude areas, and snowstorms can occur at any time of year, even in January or February, the heart of summer. The track is also reputed to be spectacularly muddy (though much of the worst mud had supposedly been boardwalked over) and the walking, while not heavily sloped, is often made difficult by tree roots and rocks on the track. On the positive side, there are huts at regular intervals along the way, very similar to those I’d already experienced in New Zealand.
The first step in starting my walk was to get to Lake St. Clair. As with the trip to Port Arthur, it was too much trouble to get outside of Hobart where it would be possible to hitchhike, so I hopped on the bus.
As it turned out, there were only three other passengers, an Irishman headed past the lake, and two Israelis, one male and one female, who were also planning on walking the track. I learned that their names were Ruthie and Yuvall, and that they too had just met on the bus.
We arrived at Lake St. Clair just before 17:00, too late to start walking, so we went into the cafe to register for the campsite there. THe lady who ran the place was supremely friendly, and even introduced us to the orphaned wallaby and pademelon (an even smaller member of the kangaroo family) joeys that she was taking care of.
Before heading off to bed, Yuvall, Ruthie and I took a walk along the shore of Lake St. Clair. Its rocky, forested shoreline, and the cool mountain wind reminded me of a northern Ontario lake. A.Y. Jackson, anyone?
I’d been debating whether to take the ferry or walk to the end of the lake. The ferry would save 16km of walking and considerable time, but by the end of the evening, I’d enjoyed the company of the Israelis enough that I decided I’d be happier following their lead and walking the whole way.
The next morning early riser Ruthie was the first out on the track, followed by Yuvall, with me a distant third. Before departing I had to attempt to lighten my pack by mailing some items home (the day before in Hobart had been a Sunday, so it wasn’t possible to do it then. With its 16kg intial mass, a 2.1kg tent, 8.5kg of food and 2kg of water, it weighed in at a whopping 28.5 kilos. And this was WITHOUT the package I hoped to send home. While there was no post office in the village at Lake St. Clair, there was one in nearby Derwent Bridge, and the lady running the cafe offered to take my package up there and send it off if I’d give her the address. Not only that, but she’d planned on paying for it out of their petty cash, although eventually she agreed to take $5 from me.
With this, and a few inquiries about weather and track conditions at the ranger station done, it was time to start walking. The first part of the track followed near the shore of the lake, although the water itself was only occaisionally visible. Most of the view was of myrtle trees and other Australian vegetation. Within a couple of hours I’d caught up with Yuvall, and we walked together until we both caught up with Ruthie. The three of us stopped for lunch at Echo Point, site of the first hut on the trail, and one of the few spots that actually provided a nice view of the lake. During lunch we had a nice chat with two volunteers from Friends of the Heysen Trail (a 1200km long walking track in South Australia) who encouraged me to do some walking there, and to look them up while I was in Adelaide.
Not long after lunch, Yuvall and I charged off ahead of Ruthie, who was still struggling with her pack a bit. Though she was planning on walking the trail in five days compared to our six, we’d planned on many more side-trips, and so wanted to get a good chunk of walking over with on day 1.
As we approached the end of the lake, the forest thinned and we found ourselves walking along a boardwalk through large tufts of buttongrass as we approached the first regularly used hut on the track, the Narcissus.
We met some fellow walkers there who had just returned from the Pine Valley side-trail, which I’d been considering doing, and a chat with them convinced me that this was a good choice. After waiting a bit longer in hopes that Ruthie would show up so we could say a temporary goodbye (she didn’t) Yuvall and I continued on down the track.
As we walked through more marshy buttongrass covered areas, I was startled quite out of my wits by a wallaby standing in the middle of the trail as we turned ’round a corner. My surprise was partly due to the fact that I’d been looking at where I was putting my feet, and partly because we’d seen no other wildlife since leaving Lake St. Clair (not quite true… We did also see two tiger snakes, one on the Lakeside part of the walk, and one on the boardwalk through the buttongrass.)
A bit more walking took us to the intersection of the Overland with the Pine Valley Track. While Yuvall had been considering heading on down the main trail, he eventually decided to accompany me to the Pine Valley Hut.
While the walk to the hut was very pretty, passing through myrtle-dominated temperate rain forest (this reminded me a lot of many New Zealand forests, not least because the Australian myrtle is obviously closely related to NZs beeches) the hike seemed interminable. This was partly due to a lot of tricky sections of trail that pased over and through tree roots, partly because we were constantly rounding corners that looked like they would end with the hut, and partly because we’d already walked over 21km wearing heavy packs, and fatigue was starting to take its toll.
Eventually we did arrive at the hut, and to our surprise, found it quite full. As it turned out, all of the occupants had simply walked in from the ferry dock at the Nrcissus hut, and had been spending a day or two enjoying the (we were pleased to hear) spectacular day walks in the area.
After a quick supper Yuvall and I wasted little time getting to our wonderfully restful and well deserved sleep.
The next morning was gloomy, and while it wasn’t actually raining there were low clouds all about and it looked as though it could start any minute. For this reason Yuvall and I decided to forgo the walk up a nearby mountain called the Acropolis (many of the natural feaures in this area received names from Greek mythology) and take an undoubtedly easier and safer walk to a plateau area called The Labyrinth. While it may have been easier than climbing the mountain, the walk up was anything but simple, as it was very steep in parts, and even spent a couple of minutes ascending up a small waterfall.
Even in this damp misty weather, however, we both agreed that the first sight of the labyrinth as we climbed over a ridge was spectacular. The large area is a flattish area of solid rock dotted with stunted trees and occaisional ponds and lakes pooled in the rocky base. All things considered I probably would have preferred to have done this walk in sunny weather, but The Labyrinth was another of those places that didn’t suffer much from being seen with the clouds swiriling about.
After a short walk up to a lookout over the area, Yuvall and I headed back up over the ridge then down the far side again to the Pine Valley Hut, taking a short side trip to enjoy the lovely Cephissus Falls.
At the hut, we had a leisurely lunch and drying out session before moving on. During the walk back it had begun drizzling, and during lunch the intensity increased so once lunch was done we walked out into a good solid rain.
If the previous day’s walk had been difficult, this (in keeping with the Greek Mythological theme) felt like one of the labours of Hercules. The tree roots had got still more slippery and the pools of mud and water enlarged. When we arrived back at the intersection with the Overland Track itself, a gradual climb up to the ridge was added to the mix.
Despite the that it was a mere 10km in total to the Windy Ridge hut, my planned destination, this actually felt like the hardest day of walking on the entire track. The end of the rain as we got nearer to the hut didn’t help, because it just left me feeling hot and weaty under my waterproof gear, and when I stopped to change out of it, the rain started again.
It was with great relief that I finally arrived at the hut, a few minutes after Yuvall. The sight that greeted me was a familiar one (from my day of torrential rain and flooding on the Heaphy in NZ,) clothes hanging from every available location near or above the coal stove, and people enjoying the warmth and dryness of their surroundings. I managed to find a few less than prime drying spots, but as others’ posessions dried out and they took them down my locations improved and almost everything did end up drying overnight.
Before hanging our things to dry and putting on some new clothes, Yuvall and I had discussed whether to continue on, as it was only 15:00 or so, but I was adamant that I was NOT walking any further that day. I’m not sure whether it was his first choice, or if he just enjoyed walking with me as a partner, but eventually he decided to stop at Windy Ridge as well. In a pattern that would repeat itself daily over the track, I had shared my trail snack foods with Yuvall thoughout the day, and he in turn provided me with a bit of warmth in my evening meal, which I wouldn’t otherwise have had since I hadn’t brought a fuel stove.
While the hut was relatively full for the evening, Yuvall and I were the only two going north. This meant that we got to interrogate the whole population of the hut about the track conditions to come. People generally warned us about the mud and climbing to come, but one fellow in particular, a friendly (if a bit brash) Alskan with a long pony tail, seemed to delight in telling horror stories about the track and side trips. Eventually we concluded that we probably had to take his advice with a grain of salt, but it couldn’t help but have an effect.
The highlight of the night (and indeed, of any of our nights spent in the huts) came when a woman who worked for a private tour company walked in. One of our hut-mates had helped her out with some work on the nearby private hut, and as a gesture of thanks, she brought over a food package ifor us all that included such wonders as shortbread, brie cheese and a tasty (if peculiarly Australian) treat of chocolate covered licorice.
Condtions the next morning were rather better, when Yuvall and I headed out onto the track at about 9:00. After more walking through Myrtle forest not disimilar to what we’d experienced in the Pine Valley, our first stop was to make a quick side trip to a series of nearby waterfalls.
I’d been expecting pretty little cascades, but these falls went beyond that and turned out to be thundering torrents, perhaps 20m high and 10m wide. Two of the three didn’t allow for great views (but were impressive nonetheless) but the final one we visited had a little climb down onto some rocks below the main side-trail where we could see the full majesty of the river tumbling over the rocks above us.
Despite the fact that they involved walking over hilly, less than ideally maintained tracks, the side trips actually felt like rest stops, since we were able to put our packs down at the trail intersection and have a bit of walking without that extra 2X kilos weighing us down.
After we’d enjoyed the short trips to the falls, we re-hoisted our packs and carried on up the trail to the Du Cane gap. At the high point of the gap we found the Du Cane hut. Constructed by one of the early bushwalkers in the area, Paddy Hartnett in the early ’30s, the hut is now only used as an emergency shelter. Surrounding the hut was a clear area of alpine meadow that, in places, looked as though it was actually a maintained and manicured garden. Also, the sky was beginning to clear by this point, so we got occaisional glimpses of the cliffs and mountains stretching on upwards from the gap.
After a rest at the Du Cane hut, Yuvall and I headed on down the gap through more rainforest to the next hut, the Kia Ora. We sat here to enjoy lunch and ponder our next move. It was still early in the day, and we could easlily make it to the next hut (the Pelion,) but we weren’t so certain if we could get up Mount Ossa, a side trip on the way, in the available time. After considering all our options, including staying at Kia Ora, going to Pelion then backtracking the next day for Mt. Ossa, or trying to squeeze in the side trip that day.
Eventually we decided to head up to the base Pelion Gap, where the side trail started, and, if we arrived by 16:00 or so, to try the ascent that day. We covered the 5km of trail and 300m of climbing fairly quickly, despite the fact that we regularly felt compelled to stop and admire the secenery that the ever-clearer day was presenting to us. The rugged cliffs and mountains surrounding the Pelion Gap were perhaps the prettiest things on the entire track.
As we walked it appeared that everything was coinspiring to ensure that we did climb Mt. Ossa that day. We arrived at the trail intersection at 15:40, and as we’d been walking the last wisps of mist had disappeared from the top of Mt. Ossa (its top is often smothered in cloud, and had been for the entire day up to this point.)
So after a bit of rearrangement to fill up a daypack with food, water, a first aid kit, some rope and warm clothing, off we went. This may sound like a lot of packing for a mere 500m climb up what is, in truth, not a huge mountain, but we’d been warned about Ossa by others on the trail. At 1617m, Ossa is the highest point in Tasmania, and is even more prone to shifts in weather than the rest of the track. In addition, the (reportedly steep) trail up was still snow covered in places, so caution was called for.
After a bit of steep uphill walking, then a sidle around the smaller Mt. Doris we came to the spot where the climb of Ossa started in earnest. The Alskan fellow at Windy Ridge had said that when he reached this point he’d looked up and thought “that can’t really be the trail, can it?” but it was. The first portion of the climb takes pretty much the most direct route up the chimney of the mountain. No switchbacks, no sidling around to decrease the grade, this trail goes straight up. And the top 1/3 was covered in snow. Up we went.
If you look at this photo, you may just be able to make out the trail up the chimney as it progresses through the rocks in the centre of the photo, up the mountain and into the smaller right-hand arm of the patch of snow.
When we did eventually reach the first of the snow the going got even harder. I’m aware of how one often overestimates the grade of a climb while on the hill, but I don’t think it’s a terribly great exaggeration to say it was close to 45 degrees. I was very happy to have my walking stick as we progressed up the hill, kicking a foothold into the snow, taking a step up then View image.
After sidling round the mountain in another patch of snow, eventually we were back on solid ground, and even appeared to be near the summit. Not so. We climbed up over the boulder strewn ridge and saw that we still had a good lot more snow to climb through (though it wasn’t nearly as steep.) We pressed on through the snow, which got less and less steep as we climbed, untill we finally arrived at an un-sloped, though boulder and column-covered area of bare rock. A short walk and climb up a pillar from here and we were at the summit itself.
Not only were the views from the summit incredible in every direction, but the knowledge of being the highest thing for 500km or more was something unique in my experience.
As the we sat near the summit (sitting ON it would be tricky) the clouds started moving back in. Between this and the fact that we didn’t want to be walking to the next hut in the dark, we started back down the mountain. We’d been told by others that we should bring something with us to slide down the snow on our way back, but had taken this as a joke. It turned out to be no joke at all. As I dscovered after slipping on the descent of the first (not very steep) section of snow-covered hill, the easiest, most fun and probably even safest way to descend through the snowy patches was simply to slide down them.
Even with my rain pants on, I got plenty cold and wet as snow found its way down my boots and around my ankles, so I’m not sure how Yuvall managed it WITHOUT anything to slide on, but somehow or other he did. While standing on the summit may have been wonderful, the most memorable part of the trip up Ossa probably was the laughing, shouting and just general fun of toboganning down the slopes on the way back.
After we made it through the last of the snow, we hurried down, though not without stopping to admire the beautiful views of the mountains once more time. As Yuvall lamented the cold-wetness of his pants on the way down (and I inwardlylamented my cold feet) I told him not to worry, as he might regret it in an hour, he most certainly wouldn’t in a week.
After returining to our starting point at the Pelion Gap, we re-packed our bags, then set out at top speed and managed to arrive at the New Pelion Hut before dark. Although the sun may have gone below the mountains, it hadn’t even FULLY set yet.
The New Pelion Hut was really quite impressive. It was built in 2001, and has bunks for 60 guests. I also observed that its lacquered pine (and plywood) decor was nicer than that that of some hotels I’d stayed in.
At the Pelion Hut we met Ruthie once more, and were pleased to hear that she wasn’t straining quite as much with her pack. Our meeting was brief however, as we all went to sleep early, and she’d already departed by the time we woke the next day.
The following morning, Yuvall and I decided to head off on another side trip, this time up nearby Mount Oakleigh. The first part of the track was relatively flat, but was perhaps the soggiest, sloppiest, muddiest walk I’ve ever done. Thankfully I’d been warned and had decide to wear shorts and sandals for this side-trip in order to ensure that I had dry boots and pants for the serious walking to come in the afternoon.
Even once we started climbing up a bit into the forest, it remained muddy and wet. Once we started into the steep climbing the mud disappeared, but after we reached the top plateau it got a little wet again. On a positive note, I finally found a well-behaved specimen of a pretty red legged spider that I’d seen all through my walks in Tasmania that was willing to be photographed. The pleasantness of this was short lived, as soon afer, the narrow trail passed tightly between the spiny leaves of several types of alpine shrubs and left my legs rather scratched.
To top it off, while the view from the top was nice enough, cloud had moved in as we’d climbed and covered most of the nicer features that could be seen from the summit. The trip down was perhaps even worse. I headed off ahead of Yuvall and before long realized that I couldn’t see the track. I spent a good twenty minutes wandering around the plateau before I finally spotted a cairn and re-joined the trail. At this point I was just anxious to get down the mountain and hurried down the track as quickly as I could. While nothing accutely unpleasant happened, I did start to notice an ache in my right knee as I headed down the hill, doubtless from the pounding it had taken on Mt. Ossa and the rush down the Pelion Gap to the hut the night before.
All seemed right when I made it back to the hut and enjoyed a relaxed lunch before getting back on the trail.
The first bit of walking was flat, but still difficult as we passed through the worst mud we experienced anywhere on the trail. In most spots it was still possible to get past it by stepping on rocks and roots, or just-submerged boards. Throughout this section (and the trail as a whole) my walking stick proved very useful for poking into the mud and seeing where the solid and shallow spots below were.
Another use for the stick was as an aid for my still aching knee. After having walked through the flat and downhill Frog Flats, it was actually a relief when we started on a long, long uphill, undoubtedly the longest climb on the whole track. As long as it was, the gentle uphill was actually very pleasant.
The top of the climb left us on a high moor filled with more buttongrass. The walking wasn’t difficult at this point, and was relatively flat, so my knee wasn’t causing any trouble, but on the down side, it had been growing steadily cloudier throughout the day.
The walk continued through the moor, with only a stop at a lookout over the valley we’d just climbed out of. It was pretty enough in the clouds, though I’m sure would have been much nicer if the whole of it were visible.
Upon arriving at the lookout, we knew there were only 5km left, but rain was threatening. With this in mind, Yuvall and I headed off as quickly as possible and despite a very steep (although short) climb we finished off those final 5km in just over three quarters of an hour, arriving at the Windermere hut just as a light rain started to fall.
At this point, Yuvall and I were done well over half the track, and so began to enjoy taking the other role in the nightly question and answer periods that went on in the huts: that of the experienced sages.
In addition to recounting our experiences on the track to that point, I also spent the eveining pondering the private tours that cover the track. Groups of 4-8 people pay $300 per person to walk the track on a guided tour, sleeping in private huts with all their food supplied for them (brought in by helicopter) and even such luxuries as wine provided for. The guests on these trips do need to carry packs, but they generally weigh only 6-8kg. Do these people miss out on something? Would I be right there alongside them if I had the money? Do the people on the trips look at the (much larger number of) independent walkers and feel diminished because they aren’t working as hard, or do they perhaps feel proud that they’re out in the wilderness with such “hardy specimens” as we at all?
While the guide may add to their expeirence with his or her knowledge, I think the hard work involved in the walk, and the rewarding feeling it brings can be almost as important as the walk itself. In addition, the ability to change itinerary as you walk the track, to walk short distances in miserable weather, to press on when you’re feeling energetic, to try a previously un-considered side-trip is another great benefit that they may miss out on. Despite all this, I think I have to be happy for them in the end. After all, even the desire for these types of experiences is rare amongst the “package tourist” crowd, much less the willingness to put in six days of good hard work to experience them.
By the next morning the previous night’s threatening rain had materialized and was pouring out of the sky. Thankfully the clouds were still relatively high, so there were nice views to be had as we headed out onto the trail, including the one of Lake Windermere that greeted us shortly after we stepped out of the hut.
While this days walking was unpleasant due to the rain, and Yuvall and I were both growing tired, it still didn’t feel nearly as bad as the wet walk we had on day two. Doubtless a part of this was the terrain: After a hard climb through a forest shortly after leaving the hut, the remainder of the days trip was relatively flat across still more buttongrass plains, only broken by occaisional dips down into small river valleys. Perhaps more than anywhere else, this section of buttongrass reminded my of the Gouland and McKay Downs on the Heaphy track in New Zealand.
In addition to the flat terrain the knowledge that we had only a short walk that day also helped soothe my mind and body. Indeed, the walk proved to be even shorter than we’d though, finishing a scant two hours after starting. This left Yuvall and I at the Waterfall Valley Hut at 11:00 in the morning. Soon after we arrived the hut had emptied entirely of other walkers, so we had it all to ourselves. On another day we would have been tempted to carry on to the end of the track, but as we’d walked the clouds had lowered and the rain intensified, so there was no question at all of that. I spent the whole afternoon sitting by the gas heater reading as our clothes dried out, reading and listening to the rain on the roof as Yuvall slept away the day in his bunk.
In the late afternoon we were joined by a group of six very friendly Australians, apparently the only ones who had started the track from the north end that day. They were very happy to listen to our stories and advice about the walk, and also invited us to join their card games. We whiled away a blissful warm and dry evening in this fashion as the rain continued outside, even as I drifted off to sleep in my last night in a Tassie hut.
By the morning of my final day on the track, the rain had stopped. It was still cloudy out and visibility wasn’t spectacular, but it looked as though it would be a pleasant enough finish to the track.
Before leaving the hut, I tried to finish off the drying of my boots by hanging them up on the inside of the metal cage that surrounded the gas heater. While they did dry out a bit more, my main accomplishment was to melt a small portion of the midsole of my left boot. While I felt bad damaging one of my faithful trail companions, it wasn’t that bad, and I’d already admitted to myself that the boots were getting near the end of their life for entirely independent reasons.
With that little adventure behind me, Yuvall and I set out into the clouds for one final, short day of walking.
The morning started with the final tough bit of climbing as we headed up on to the most exposed portion of the trail, the Cradle Cirque. This area can get very unpleasant with rain or snow about, especially coupled with high winds, since the trail spends about 1.5km walking along a ridge top here. Thankfully there was no such unpleasantness as we traversed it and carried on towards the bulk of Cradle Mountain itself.
Although it did rain a little off and on throughout the morning, it wasn’t terribly unpleasant and while it did ruin what I’m sure would have been among the track’s most beautiful views, I still enjoyed the walk. Since most people start the trip from the north end, and few people like starting a walk in the rain, Yuvall and I had the privlege of seeing this part of the park in a state that few get to appreciate it in. The water flowed down pright white rocks of the track under our feet, and the clouds swirled around, giving us occaisional glimpses of the nearby hidden valleys and mountains.
The afternoon proved just as memorable. I’d given up on climbing Cradle Mountain that day, and had planned on coming back and doing it as a day walk the following one, so when we reached the trail intersection we took a quick look at the small section of the mountain’s base that was visible through the clouds and then carried on.
As we paused at the emergency shelter Kitchen Hut shortly afterwards, a couple just starting the trail informed us that the light cloud and drizzle of that day was supposed to turn into heavy rain the following one. Thus it appeared that today would probably be our only chance to climb up Cradle Mountain. With that we set our packs down in the hut and turned around to head up the mountain.
The trip up Cradle Mountain was perhaps the most difficult climbing of the entire walk, and there was no view to speak of. Nonetheless, it was a pleasureable walk. Scrambling, even climbing up the large boulders and rugged rock faces on the way up was a lot of fun, and even the bits of snow we had to walk through were enjoyable, as it occurred to me that back home in Canada my friends and family might well be experiencing something similar.
We did eventually reach the top, and with the lack of much to look at headed back down shortly thereafter. The walk down was (as is often the case) even harder than the climb up, and my knee was complaining again by the time we’d returned to our packs. Thankfully, despite the fact that almost all of the remaining trail was downhill it didn’t become too painful at any point.
At the hut, Yuvall and I strapped on our packs and continued to walk through the (now even heavier) cloud, meeting occaisional day walkers along the way. As we passed them I smiled broadly, filled with pride that we were almost done this, the only hike in the park that people referred to simply as “The Walk.”
Even the weather seemed to feel some pride in, or at least sympathy for us. As we approacked Marion’s Lookout, the cloud ceiling lifted and patches of blue sky were even briefly visible. Not only did this present some beautiful views of the lakes in the valleys below, but it also revealed the Ronny Creek carpark even further below. This was to be our final destination, and just seeing it put a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
As we headed down the VERY steep and rocky trail, I found myself feeling very relieved at having walked the track from south to north, wondering if I could even have made it up these mountains on the first say of walking with a completely full pack. Despite the pain in my knee from the descent, we were soon past the worst of it, and spent the last hour or so of the walk on a pleasant boardwalked trail along beautiful Ronny Creek, admiring its many waterfalls.
While the Overland hadn’t been spectacular in the wildlife department, it did give us one pleasant surprise right near the end, in the form of the least timid wombat I’d yet met.
Just a few minutes after that encounter, Yuvall and I reached the car park. It had been a tough walk, probably the most difficult overall that I’ve ever done, (88.5km with a 20+kg pack on, plus an additional 20 some km of climbing mountains and ridges without the pack) but it had been worth it.
After we’d de-registered our walks, and posed for some photos by the sign-out booth, we hopped on the shuttle bus up to the Cradle Mountain village, eager to enjoy a hot shower, a good meal and a couple of beers.
Upon arriving at the information centre we went inside to find out how to reach the budget accomodation. After chatting with the friendly ranger at the counter for a bit, we were about to leave when, just on a whim, I enquired about the schedule of the bus to Devonport. Contrary to what I’d been told in Hobart, it apparently hadn’t started on the summer schedule yet and was only running three times a week. Furthermore, if I didn’t grab the one that departed in about ten minutes, I’d be spending three rainy days in the park, which while probably not too unpleasant, would make me late for my rendezvous with my friends in Melbourne. So much for a nice relaxing afternoon. Ah well… I could just as easily spend a couple of days resting in Devonport.
Yuvall and I quickly exchanged addresses and then jumped on our respective buses, mine to Devonport, his back to Hobart.
The drive up to Devonport was pleasant enough, made more entertaining by the constant banter between one of the pair of older ladies on the bus and the driver. They talked almost continuously about the crops or livestock on each piece of land we passed, until, two hours later we arrived at our destination.
A destination that I soon discovered wasn’t particularly enthralling. Indeed, I wasn’t keen at all on spending three days in this primarily industrial town. After a few quick inquiries, I discovered that there was actually space available on the ferry to Melbourne departing that night, although only in the slightly more expensive business class seats.
After a bit of thought I decided that so long as I could find a place to have a shower, I’d be on that boat (I didn’t imagine my fellow passengeres would be too enthralled at having me on there with them in my six days dirty socks, not having showered in just as long.)
After asking at a few hostels in town I finally found on that would let me use their facilities for a nominal charge, and after a joyful reunion with hot water, soap and clean dry clothing, I made my way across to the ferry terminal.
I had no trouble purchasing my ticket and even had a few hours to kill before the boat departed. This gave me enough time to find a nearby bottle shop and wood fired pizza restaurant. From the former I procured four bottles of James Squire Strong Ale, and from the latter the most wonderful pizza I’ve ever tasted (I’m sure the fact that it was my first non-trail food in six days and my first meal since breakfast had something to do with it, but I liked the pizza so much that I got a second to take on the boat with me.)
At last 7:30 came and I headed on board, checking in my backpack and heading up to my seat. I found it a little odd that a ticket on the ferry was significantly more expensive than a plane ticket across the Bass Strait, and even odder that it was so IN-expensive to take one’s car on the ferry once a passeneger ticket has been bought.
Nonetheless, I’d wanted to take the ferry simply for the experience of having done so. That said, it didn’t turn out to be much of an experience at all… After exploring the boat briefly (it seemed to be a cross between a cruise ship and a normal, less glamorous ferry boat) I quickly drifted off to sleep, only taking time to enjoy my pizza and two remaining beers (which I had to work very hard to open, given that I’d left my swiss army knife in my checked bag… Eventually I managed by using the coat hook on the inside of the lavatory door.)
I was amazed by how long and well I slept during the 10 hour journey, but before I knew it the boat had docked and I was back on the mainland, ready formy first day in Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne…