Where has the time gone?
We only have a few weeks left in our amazing six-month adventure traveling the world. Both Glenn and I are sad that our trip is coming to an end…but also excited to return to the comforts of home.
We spent this past week backpacking the Overland Track in Tasmania.
(You know…Tasmania. The sizable landmass off the southern tip of Australia that was the answer to a test question in your 6th grade geography class? Don’t worry, I had to look it up too when my friend and co-worker Steve suggested we add it to our travel itinerary.)
The Overland Track is one of Australia’s most famous great walks.
The hike is 40 miles long (~60 miles if you add in optional daily side trips, as I did), winds through the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and includes some of the most stunning and unique landscapes on the planet.
The hike took six days to complete and I spent anywhere from 6 to 8 hours hiking each day. Many of those hours I was either walking alone on the trail or in that quiet meditative state one often finds when hiking behind a friend in silence…matching their footfalls and drifting off into a daydream.
This was often my view on the hike…walking silently behind Glenn for mile after mile after mile.
Although we still have a few adventures planned for the coming weeks, I couldn’t help but feel the impending end to this exciting chapter of our lives. The movie reel of the highlights of our travels kept playing itself over and over in my head — places we’ve traveled; people we’ve met; things we’ve eaten; extreme landscapes we’ve seen; physical challenges we’ve conquered; hair-raising adventures we’ve survived; wildlife we’ve encountered; weather we’ve experienced; and natural disasters we’ve narrowly escaped.
Over and over again I relived our travels in my mind…trying to make sense of it all.
What do all of these experiences mean? How have they changed me? How have they changed my relationship with Glenn? What comes next?
I haven’t sorted it all out yet – but I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on this blog after I’ve processed things once I return home. In the meantime, I met some great people and saw some amazing sights while hiking Tasmania’s Overland Track…
We were with a group of 8 additional hikers (all women, except for Glenn and the two guides). We booked our trip through Tasmanian Expeditions which provided the camping and backpacking gear. They also took care of transportation, food and other logistics. Our guides were Brenton and Wes. They were great!
In addition to keeping us all organized and motivated on the trail, Brenton kept us well fed. He was an outstanding cook. I was amazed at the meals he could conjure out of simple ingredients. Here he chats with our fellow hiker, Helen, while making a delicious curry/noodle/mushroom dish.
Wes, our other guide, is truly one of a kind. His love of the natural world was infectious and he was a fountain of knowledge – geology, biology, history…even quantum physics. Wes is renowned for packing food and supplies for hiking groups far into the Tasmanian wilderness (carrying packs weighing well over 100 pounds and traversing 750-1,000+ miles of trails each year). Weeks prior he had done such food drops, by foot, at strategic points along the trail for our Overland Track hike as well as for other groups. He was also a fabulous campsite desert maker – including this chocolate ripple cake with handmade whipped cream.
Most of the hikers in our group were from Australia, with a few women from China and one Canadian (by way of Scotland). It was a great group full of encouraging words on the trail during the day and lots of laughs around camp in the evening.
The first day of our journey was quite grueling. Although it was only ~80 degrees (F), the intensity of the Tasmanian sun is epic (thinner ozone layer, I’m guessing). It often felt like my skin was burning, even under my clothes.
Melieta hiking past Crater Lake – erroneously named, as these mountains are not volcanic.
Yajun (front) and Haoyue (rear) take a break during the climb to Marion’s Lookout. Visiting from Shanghai they had never gone backpacking or camping before this trip. Their friend Vivien, whom they were visiting in Melbourne, had never done something like this either…so all three of them were all on a grand adventure together.
Making our way past the iconic Cradle Mountain.
Our hiking group taking a well deserved break on the back side of Cradle Mountain. I wish I could put into words what the sun felt like at this point in the hike…it was burning, bright and hot. We were reminded by those that frequent this track (guides, park rangers, etc.) that the sun was a special treat compared to the rains that often plague hikers. In fact, this same area was experiencing a blizzard just weeks before. I tried to keep this in mind as I repeatedly wiped sweat from my brow.
As many of you know, Glenn really has no sense of direction. Here he leads Melieta and Elke off into a boulder pile instead of along the nearby, easily accessible trail…bless his heart. Always an adventure with Glenn. Barn Bluff waits to greet us on the horizon.
Finally beginning our descent into Waterfall Valley where we will camp the first night.
The group relaxes into camp as dinner is prepared (thanks Brenton!). We survived the first tough day!
I encountered my first wild wallaby while camping in Waterfall Valley.
I decided to join a few others from our hiking group on a climb up Barn Bluff the following morning. It was such a beautiful sentinel overlooking our camping site in Waterfall Valley that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a closer look.
The view of Barn Bluff above our campsite in Waterfall Valley. It seemed to be whispering “come climb me!”
Taking a break while scrambling over the boulders on the climb to the Barn Bluff summit. (Wes, Bente, Vivien and Helen)
Just one foot in front of the other and eventually we made it to the top. (Vivien, Helen, Wes and Bente)
A little selfie from the Barn Bluff summit. While I was doing this Glenn and several others from our hiking group were relaxing on the beach of Lake Will down behind me. A great way to escape the heat. You can see how my freckles are loving the intense Tasmania sun…hat and 50 SPF sunscreen be damned!
One last look up at beautiful Barn Bluff as we made our way back down.
Although hiking the trail was hot and sweaty work, the scenery more than made up for it. Here Elke and Roz blaze the trail. One of my favorite photos because it really captures the beauty of the Overland Track.
Helen, Bente, Roz and Elke taking a break before continuing along the trail that snakes over the horizon.
Nothing compares to hiking through the golden spikes of the button grass plains. Barn Bluff (left) and Cradle Mountain (right) in the background mark where we’d been days before.
One of my favorite vistas from the entire trip. I just loved the shape of this tree with the craggy pinnacles of Mount Oakleigh in the distance.
Glenn looked pretty darn cute in his bushwalking attire – complete with snake-proof gaiters on his lower legs.
Every morning would start with getting your feet bandaged by Wes. It was a bonus to get a little extra one:one time with Wes to discuss any number of topics – from current events to alien abductions, and everything in between. Here Bente (left) and Helen (right) get patched up before hitting the trail.
This cute pademelon wallaby came to say hello. They are much smaller than the other types of wallabies we encountered on the trail and the little pademelon joeys (babies) were off the charts in terms of adorableness.
One of the things I loved most about the Overland Track was the constantly changing scenery. You’d hike past one mountain only to find new mountains waiting to be discovered in the distance. Here we got our first glimpse of Mount Pelion West (right), with Mount Ossa in the distance (left).
In camp I learned the fine art of the “Tim Tam Slam.” Tim Tams are sandwich cookies (or biscuits, as they say here) with frosting filling that are dipped in chocolate. It seems that every Australian can school you in the proper way to do a Tim Tam Slam….based on hours of exhaustive childhood research. (They also wax poetic about how to properly drink Milo, a malty chocolate powder similar to hot chocolate mix). In this case I was instructed to bite two opposing corners off the Tim Tam and then suck my hot tea through the cookie like a straw. You have to be quick because the tea turns the inside of the cookie into a warm gooey yummy mess and if you don’t get it into your mouth soon after it starts melting it will be a sticky pile in your lap. I may have to do more research to confirm this is the proper technique. Practice makes perfect!
A great view of the clouds reflected in the little lake below Mt. Pelion West.
Our hiking group enjoying the view at a lookout point along the trail.
I loved the look of the brightly colored backpacks working their way through the golds and greens of the landscape.
What a handsome crew! (Glenn, Melieta, Roz, Elke, Helen, Bente and Brenton).
Mount Pelion West
The Pelion Plains was my favorite campsite in terms of the view. Here a group of friends enjoy a meal together as the sun dips lower on the horizon creating a beautiful golden hue. Barn Bluff, the top of Cradle Mountain and Mount Oakleigh (left to right) in the background.
A few of us left early one morning to tackle the summit of Mt. Ossa, Tasmania’s tallest mountain. Others in our group, including Glenn, went off to explore a nearby underground mine. My legs were tired after several days of hiking but I’m glad I decided to give the climb to Mt. Ossa’s summit a try, as the views were spectacular.
Brenton (top), Bente and Vivien working their way up Mount Ossa.
The nubby peak of Mount Pelion East behind me. Are we at the top yet?
A snow skink watches as we near the summit. They have beautiful golden spots that shimmer in the sun.
Green cushion plants marked our arrival at the summit of Mt. Ossa. You must tread lightly because these plants will die if you step on them.
It seemed like you could see most of Tasmania from here. Well worth the climb!
This little pond, although captivating, seemed out of place atop the summit.
Mt. Ossa…We made it! (Bente, Vivien, Brenton and me)
Even though our first few days on the trail were really hot, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Coming down Mt. Ossa we got this eerie view of the rain moving through the valleys where we had hiked and camped days before. (Barn Bluff, left; Cradle Mountain, center rear; Mount Oakleigh, right.)
The Overland Track is packed full of such beautiful and varied colors and textures. I never got tired of these views.
Taking a break in a towering Gondwanaland rainforest.
Wombat poop. Riddle me this…how does something square come out of a round hole? I was fascinated by wombat poop and my fellow hikers were on constant alert to point out good specimens for me to photograph. 😉
Our hiking crew soaking in the view at D’Alton Falls.
Me telling Glenn to stop making silly faces in our photo at Fergusson Falls. If I had a dollar for every time…
I loved the silhouettes of the trees against the Du Cane Range the morning of our last day of hiking.
Nearing the end of the trail we took a few minutes to reflect on where we had been and how far we had walked…and to eat some gummy worms to get us to the finish!
Vivien had never really been hiking, backpacking or camping before this trip. By the end she was setting up a tent like a pro and chewing up the miles of trail with a huge grin on her face.
Haoyue and Yajun also conquered the trail, blisters and all. They will have quite a story to tell when they get home to China.
Our motley crew at the end of the trail. We smelled worse than we looked – a sure sign of a great backpacking trip.
Waiting for the ferry…to carry us across Lake St. Clair…to meet our bus…to take us to the Hungry Wombat restaurant…to get a huge burger!
Brenton enjoying one last Wes story on the ferry ride at the end of the trail.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to backpack the Overland Track.
I got to walk through some of the most unique and spectacular scenery in the world with an outstanding group of people. I also got time to silently reflect on the past six-months of world travel. We have been going so hard, for so long, that I was beginning to fear some of my memories were slipping away.
Spending the time to relive our adventures and journeys in my mind as I plodded along the trail was an absolute gift. As a result, I am feeling more settled with the idea of heading home and rejoining my work-a-day life once again.
But…not too soon. There are a few more places to see and adventures to be had before we board the plane to home. Stay tuned!