Hiking the Overland Track – Day 6: Windy Ridge to Narcissus

Last day of the walk. I approached it with nothing but dread and grim determination. Which felt wrong. The climbs were over. This was supposed to be the easy bit – 9km of “gradual easy descent to Narcissus hut through eucalypt forest and across buttongrass plains”. But even jamming my feet into my still damp boots hurt. Nonetheless, I had set off early, before the others, to give myself additional time to gimp to the finish line to catch our ferry back to the visitors centre.

Then the painkillers that John shoved into my hand back at the hut kicked in. And magically, the throbbing pain ebbed. I felt like I was flying across the mud and tree roots now. Thoughts of the pilgrim faded, and I started to pay attention to the sounds of the forest again. The crunch of the odd pademelon grazing its way in the underbrush. The cries of the wattlebird and screeches of the currawong. The rustle of leaves in the wind, and the gurgling creek along the trail. I caught up with two different pairs of hikers, our trail companions from the first day, chatted with them for a bit, then left them behind in my bid to keep up my pace before the magic died. It was glorious. The dolerite columns of the Acropolis, the star peak of the Du Cane Range, loomed to my right the whole time, half shrouded in clouds.

That last kilometer felt bittersweet. The painkillers were starting to wear off by then, but I felt with more pills, I could easily go on for another day. That said, the promise of a cold, sweaty beer and hot showers was enticing. Very enticing.

Where the trail ends – Overland Track



The ferry - a sight for sore eyes
The ferry – a sight for sore eyes

Now that the pain of the blisters have faded and I hold the antidote to my knee troubles, the entire trail seemed a blast. Our hiking companions – my brother, sister-in-law, and John – were the best anyone could have: fantastic company, so helpful and supportive throughout.

I can’t believe we didn’t attempt a self-sufficient multi-day hike sooner. Our appetite has been whet: new trekking bucket list. But first up, Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest point, at the end of the month!

Walk Notes:

Distance: 9km
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Gradual, easy decent to Narcissus through eucalypt forest and across buttongrass plains.
Track Surface: Almost entirely natural surface through the forest (gravel/tree root base), with duckboard over the buttongrass plains.
Warning: If you are catching the ferry back to Cynthia Bay, re-confirm your booking using the ferry radio in Narcissus Hut.

Whether you’re finishing your walk at Narcissus, or continuing on foot to Cynthia Bay, either way, there’s no more uphill! It’s a gentle walk down the glacier’s path to Narcissus Hut beside Lake St Clair. Relax and enjoy your final hours of walking.

Aside from pockets of wet forest beside creeks, you’ll be walking in an environment most Australians are more familiar with – amongst tall eucalypts and fragrant heath shrubs, surrounded by birdsong and scurrying skinks, and perhaps even an occasional snake on warmer days.

About halfway to Narcissus, is the track junction to Pine Valley Hut. The hut is a popular spot for Tasmanian bushwalkers who journey up from Lake St Clair and use it as a base to explore the Du Cane Range.

As you near Narcissus River, the dolerite columns of Mount Olympus form a dramatic backdrop to the golden glow of buttongrass moorland. The comfortable duckboard track, which protects the boggy peat soils, is a welcome change, allowing you to stroll along, savouring the view, instead of constantly watching your feet. Crossing the Narcissus River is exciting – it’s the only suspension bridge on the Overland Track.

A little further on, you’ll find the small and rustic Narcissus Hut on the banks of the Narcissus River. If you intend to catch the ferry down Lake St Clair, confirm your ferry booking using the hut radio. And a little further on again, is the jetty where the ferry will collect you – and where you can FINALLY take off your pack and your boots and celebrate your remarkable achievement!

On arrival at Cynthia Bay, remember to sign out/de-register your walk and write some reflections in the walkers’ journal of your extraordinary journey on one of the world’s most famous long-distance walks in the heart of Tasmania’s magnificent world heritage area.

Hiking the Overland Track – Day 5: Kia Ora to Windy Ridge

I was hobbling. Fresh blisters were now forming on the inner sides of both my heels, joining the blisters that had engulfed my big toe and two pinkie toes. My pace had slowed to a crawl, and stopping for breaks meant painful restarts, so I just grimly plowed on.

The tale of the pilgrim who walked the Overland Track was foremost on my mind, as I gingerly placed one foot in front of the other, trying not to steal glances at my watch. The hut wardens at our first campsite, Waterfall Valley Hut, had told us about him, this religious dude in robes, walking the track barefoot, leaving bloody footprints along the way. Did he see God, we wondered. Well, he must have been saying Jesus! with every other step he took, we joked.

Who would willingly seek out such pain? Was the pain worth it for him in the end? And yet, here I was too, grimacing every time I put my foot down on a tree root. Fun was 5km ago, the side trip down to Hartnett Falls where we freshened up in the brisk waters. Now the heat and the mud were wearing me down.

Our fellow hikers chilling out on the viewing platform at Bert Nichols Hut, waiting for the sunset over the Acropolis
Our fellow hikers chilling out on the viewing platform at Bert Nichols Hut, waiting for the sunset over the Acropolis


Sun sets over the Acropolis
Sun sets over the Acropolis

Walk notes:

Distance: 9.6km
Time: 3.5-4.5 hours
Terrain: Undulating, with gradual ascent and descent over Du Cane Gap. Mainly rainforest walking.
Track Surface: Almost entirely natural surface (with tree root, gravel, rock or mud base), with some small amounts of cordwood and duckboard.
Warning: If visiting the falls, parts of the track are slippery and pass very close to the cliff edge.

Today is rainforest and waterfall day. Initially the track passes through buttongrass, but soon you’ll be immersed in rainforest as you skirt the lower slopes of Castle Crag. Below you, unseen from the main track, the Mersey River crashes through chasms and plunges over cliffs.

About an hour into the walk, you’ll break out of the forest into a small clearing, where you’ll find Du Cane Hut, built in 1910 by Paddy Hartnett, a snarer, miner and bushman. You’re welcome to take a look inside, but its overnight use is only permitted in emergencies.

A little further on, you’ll come to the track junction marking the first side trip down to see D’Alton and Fergusson Falls – the latter named after Ranger “Fergy” – the first ranger in the south end of the park. Hartnett Falls – the tallest of the three – is a little further on, off another track junction. You can leave your pack at the track junctions to explore the falls. They’re all well worth a visit.

Back on the main track, you’ll swing west and begin a gradual climb to Du Cane Gap – the saddle between the Traveller Range and the Du Cane Range. When you cross over the gap and start a steep descent, you’ll be entering the bowl-like cirque of the Du Cane Range, sculpted by glaciers thousands of years ago.

Once the canopy starts to open out and eucalypts begin to appear, you’re close to camp: Windy Ridge and Bert Nichols Hut – a stunning location almost totally encircled by the spectacular Du Cane Range

Hiking the Overland Track – Day 4: Pelion to Kia Ora

The rains finally abated. I stole out of my tent to the helipad and watched the clouds dance over the imposing dolerite face of Mount Oakleigh while a thin layer of fog clung around its base.

Sunrise on the helipad at New Pelion Hut - Overland Track (photo credit: Jeff F)
Sunrise on the helipad at New Pelion Hut – Overland Track (photo credit: Jeff F)

The camp was not yet stirring. I took the opportunity to stretch out. It still amazed me how my brother had so astutely diagnosed and corrected the knee problems that have been plaguing me for the past ten years. IT band muscles are too tight, he’d said, then proceeded to press his thumb, painfully, into the side of my thigh. It had left a bruise, but by the next day, my knees were no longer sore! After that, I conscientiously kept massaging my thighs every chance I could. Yipee – no more knee pains!

A few people now joined me on the helipad, and we watched in companionable silence as the sun rays caught onto the lip of Mount Oakleigh, bathing its tips in a brilliant orange glow. It was going to be a good day.


Indeed, looking back, Day 4 of the track was our favorite day. For when we finally burst out of the eucalyptus forest into the plateau, Pelion Gap, the clouds had mostly blown off, revealing the stunning Pelion Range before us. We decided to tackle Mount Pelion East (1,433m), instead of the more imposing Mount Ossa (1,617m), primarily because we were still feeling a bit tired from the long hike yesterday. We could not all be Lea, nicknamed the Machine, a German medical student who had come on the trail alone. She had boundless energy, having sprinted through the 17km trail the day before and then summited Mount Oakleigh before dusk (even though no view was to be had given the rain). Today, she smashed Mount Ossa before we were even halfway up Mount Pelion East, then decided to summit Mount Pelion East as well.

Just as well. The views from Mount Pelion East was stupendous. Although we had to trudge through probably the muddiest section of the Overland Track first. I got stuck. Like knee deep stuck. And couldn’t extricate myself out. It took my brother to physically haul me out of the bog – while Jeff stood by laughing and taking pictures. Thanks.

View from Pelion Gap - Overland Track (photo credit: Jeff F)
View from halfway up Pelion East – Overland Track (photo credit: Jeff F)

We had to clamber over large broken boulders to reach the pillars, where we abandoned our trekking poles and relied on good old fashion scrambling to traverse the very last section to the summit. But so worth it.

Walk notes:

Distance: 8.6km
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Gradual ascent through wet forest to Pelion Gap, followed by a gradual descent across buttongrass plains and through eucalypt forest to Kia Ora.
Track Surface: The climb to Pelion Gap is mainly on a natural surface (tree roots, muddy, rocky). The descent to Kia Ora includes muddy sections with some planking, cordwood and duckboard.
Warning: Pelion Gap is an extremely exposed plateau. In wet, snowy or windy weather, layer up with your water/windproof clothing before emerging out of the rainforest onto the plateau. Eat/drink in the shelter of the forest too.

Today is mountain day. You’ll start your walk at the same altitude as you finish, with Pelion Hut and Kia Ora Hut both at 850m in elevation. In between, however, you’ll climb almost 300m to Pelion Gap – and more if you choose to summit one of the peaks.

Start by ascending steadily through rainforest, at first following beside Douglas Creek. After a few hours, you’ll emerge from the forest onto Pelion Gap – the exposed alpine plateau between Mt Pelion East and Mt Ossa. If fine weather and time allows, you may choose to attempt to summit Tasmania’s highest mountain (Mt Ossa-1617m) or the slightly lower Mt Pelion East. Good views can also be had by climbing to the saddle between Mt Doris and Mt Ossa.

Leave your pack at the junction and carry a day pack with waterproof jacket, food, water, first aid kit, torch, map, compass, etc. Injury and death have occurred in the Tasmanian mountains. Don’t risk your safety, or that of your group. No matter how close to the summit you might be, it’s better to turn around if the weather closes in, rather than risk your party’s safety. The gradual descent from Pelion Gap to Kia Ora Hut through beautiful Pinestone Valley with views to your left of Cathedral Mountain, is a favourite part of the track for many.

After arriving at Kia Ora, you’ll find the delightful Kia Ora Creek just beyond the hut.

Hiking the Overland Track – Day 2: Waterfall Valley to Lake Windemere

The winds and rain assailed us for most of the night, dying down only at daybreak. When I no longer heard the rustling of the winds and only the call of birds, I poked my head out of my tent, to stare right into the face of a calmly grazing pademelon. It paid me little heed, turning its behind at me when I ventured out.

It was still somewhat drizzly, so we took our time getting ready, making coffee and muesli in the hut. After all, it was a short hike that day; no sense in rushing out in the damp weather.

At 1030am, we finally pushed off from camp. It had stopped raining, but a thick fog obscured the top of Barn Bluff; no point attempting to summit. We passed the short optional side trip to Lake Will, but still the fog refused to lift, so we continued on. Ah well. There is a certain beauty at least in walking in the thick mist.

Happily, so happily, the clouds began to break just as we approached Lake Windemere. Against all hope, we watched the mist lift off, and the boys took the opportunity to take a brisk dip in the waters.

We were all of an accord: the Lake Windemere campsite is simply the most picturesque of all campgrounds we’ve been to. I mean, look at that view of Barn Bluff. We were quite content to set up camp on one of the many wooden platforms, and lie back to soak in the sun, warm up over a cup of hot tea, and enjoy the view.

Overland Track - Lake Windemere Campsite (photo by Jingyi Tan)
Overland Track – Lake Windemere Campsite (photo by Jingyi Tan)


Hello the last day of 2016. If not for the bottle of Silver Patrón John had lovingly lugged along on the trail, and which we were eagerly looking forward to tasting, I think honestly that 2016 might just have slipped us by. Already, we were having trouble remembering what day of the week it was. That felt pretty liberating actually. We were cut off from the rest of the world, and our concerns were restricted to just the immediate: filling our tummies with hot food, battling away the mosquitoes and sandflies, keeping warm and dry.

In any case, our tent neighbors were prepared. A group of eight friends from Sydney, they soon drew us in for games of cards, and then as the sun dipped below the horizon, some sparklers fun. Happy new year; it was at least new years already in Fiji anyway.

Happy new year from the Overland Track
Happy new year from the Overland Track

Walk notes:

– Distance: 7.8km
– Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
– Terrain: Undulating over the buttongrass plains, heathlands, alpine lakes and tarns.
– Track Surface: Natural surface (rock, gravel), planking, duckboard and cordwood.
– Warning: A short section of the walk, between Lake Will and Lake Windermere,
is very exposed. In wet, windy or snowy weather, wear wind and waterproof clothing.
Eat and drink regularly to maintain salt and sugar levels.

Compared with the previous day’s big climb up to Marions Lookout and across the highest part of the Overland Track, the walk to Lake Windermere is relatively flat and leisurely – but still above 1000 metres in elevation.

In the first half hour you’ll walk through heathland and alpine gums as you skirt the rim of the spectacular Waterfall Valley cirque. After rain, you can hear several waterfalls far below. About an hour down the track you’ll reach the junction to Lake Will. This is a popular side trip, where many people choose to lunch on the lake’s shore, beneath the backdrop of Barn Bluff.

From Lake Will to Lake Windermere you’ll feel on top of the world as you travel high across the plateau. In clear weather there are expansive views to the east and west of the tarn-studded alpine moors. As you approach Lake Windermere, climb the small knoll for views down to the lake.

Windermere Hut is just beyond the lake, at the edge of a myrtle forest. Tent platforms are located either side of the hut, amongst gnarly snow peppermints and graceful pandanis, with Lake Windermere visible in the distance. Enjoy a refreshing mountain lake swim on arrival. No camping at the lake please.

Hiking the Overland Track – Day 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley

The anticipation was high as we strapped on our gaiters and hoisted our backpacks to pose for a group shot at the start of the Overland Track. When I had thought about it, 65km of trail walking over 6 days didn’t seem too bad. It just averaged 11km a day. How hard could it be, really?

At the start of the Overland Track

But when we physically lifted our backpacks for the first time, weighted down with all the food and gear we’d need over the coming days, the distance suddenly seemed more daunting. Quite a bit more daunting.

Oh well. One step at a time. They said the first day of the trek was the hardest, probably because we had the heaviest load and had to traverse the steepest section of the trail to Marions Lookout.

So we took it slow. Admired the increasingly expansive views of the landscape as we ascended, often being overtaken by day trippers with their teeny-tiny daypacks. But in the words of my three-year old niece, after we’d tackled Marions Lookout, “it’s not so bad”.

The weather started to close in though. Before long, we were shrouded in mist, and our world shrunk to a dreamy foggy sphere. Having done the trek 3 other times before, my brother described the supposedly fantastic scenery that surrounded us while we kept our eyes on the ground and trudged on.

At least it wasn’t raining. Well, not until we finally reached our campsite at Waterfall Valley in the late afternoon, and set up our tents. That night, it raged. We could hear the howl of winds in the mountains seconds before it swooped down into the valley and tore at the walls of our tents. The rains lashed ferociously against the flimsy fabric, as we buckled down into our sleeping bags before it got dark, crossing our fingers that the tents held up. Thankfully, the hut wardens walked by in between a lull, and advised my brother to move his tent, for they had pitched it in a low-lying area – when we emerged the next morning, that area had turned into a bog.

Walk notes:

Distance: 10.7 km
– Time: 4-6 hours
– Terrain: Gradual ascent to Crater Lake, followed by a very steep, short ascent
to Marions Lookout. Undulating across the alpine plains and a final gradual
descent to Waterfall Valley.
– Track Surface: Duckboard over the buttongrass plains, followed by mainly natural surface
– Warning: Most of the day’s walk is very exposed. In wet, windy or snowy weather,
wear wind and waterproof clothing. Eat and drink regularly to maintain salt
and sugar levels.

The first half hour of your journey on the Overland Track is on boardwalk, across the buttongrass moorland. The track soon rises and passes beside Crater Falls, then follows beside Crater Lake. Rest and replenish here before you tackle Marions Lookout (1250m) – the steepest section of the Overland Track.

For the next 5km you will enjoy sweeping views across the glacial landscape as you walk beside the base of Cradle Mountain, before steadily descending into spectacular Waterfall Valley to the huts and campsites. Once there, feel proud that you’ve just completed what many regard as the most difficult day – Day 1 of your Overland journey.

Wine Tasting Weekend in Launceston, Tasmania


Just spent a lovely weekend down in Launceston, Tasmania, where we had a blast visiting 8 different wineries and tasting up a storm. Some outstanding Pinots, Rieslings, and Chardonnays!

Because we were so focused on drinking wines, and because the forecast had spelled rain the entire weekend, we didn’t go out hiking, or do much of anything else really. But the drive to the vineyards was beautiful, and the sun broke through the clouds quite often, casting beautiful golden light onto the lush winter pastures.