End of the track.

One of many great things about the Overland Track is that it covers an appreciable part of the map of Tasmania – there’s a real sense of moving over the countryside. That sense of motion is intensified by the fact that the terrain keeps shifting along the track – from mountain walks, to high scrub-land, to rain forest – every day brings a variety.

Every day also brings a variety of weather. In the course of six days we had everything from rain and freezing winds to boiling sun. Even though walking in the cold and wet wasn’t a highlight at the time, it’s good to look back on with a sense of achievement. It also meant we saw the walk in many of its different guises – the boys even saw snow on one of the mountaintops.

The first day our group set out there was the usual uncertainty about who was with who, how fast people would walk, would we get on. The steep first day’s climb and the cold, rainy weather exacerbated the uncertainty. But by half-way through the second day things were settling down to a routine. The front group was Declan, Callum, Monty and me. Declan and Callum had the advantage of youth; Monty of years of tramping about in the British army. His army tales made for an entertaining backdrop to the walking, although he did tend to get testy if there was too much stopping and starting to look at things.

Monty and I found ourselves getting on particularly well after a ridiculous episode on the third day when Callum and Declan set out early with Nathan, one of the guides, to climb Mount Doris. Even though Monty and I set out a good twenty minutes later we had caught them within half an hour. This was not a good thing – our lack of judgment left us exhausted but laughing at ourselves.

That same day we fought off a plague of leeches at a rest stop. The little wrigglers managed to attack from all sides and make their way under gaiters and clothing. That was the only times we really had issues with the wildlife. In contrast we did se several snakes a couple of pademelons and, perhaps, some young wombats.

Jennifer was next in line roughly aligned with Elaine from South Australia unless she hung back with her friend Cath who was the general back-marker. In between were a Queensland couple and Les and Georgie, a father and daughter from Hobart. Even though Les was seventy, he and Georgie were the only two to join Callum and Declan in climbing Mount Ossa, Tasmania’s highest mountain, on the fourth day.

The huts were fabulous – hot showers at the end of a day’s walk may be the definition of luxury. The food was varied and even had some fresh bits, and benefitted hugely from not having to be carried in on our backs. We had fresh bread every day which was a real treat. Oh and I can report that cheese, biscuits and a glass of wine is a pretty damn fine way to end a day’s walk in the wilderness.

We were each carrying about 10kg in our packs, which was probably two-thirds to half of what we’d have been carrying if we did the walk independently. Even that, it must be said, was something of a strain on those of us with dodgy knees. There was a fair bit of sighing and stretching in the huts of an evening and some serious strapping going on most mornings.

The boys climbed two mountains (parents wimped out due to feet and knees); we swam in mountain lakes and rivers (one of which was freezing, the other delightful); explored an abandoned copper mine; walked over all sorts of terrain; and met some fascinating people.

Six fabulous days.