When I asked Laura if I could write a guest post for Canyons to Clouds, and she said yes, I thought I would write about a recent trip to Tasmania that was completely disorganized – probably the opposite of any other adventure you’ll read about on this blog.
I was in Australia for a work trip this December and decided to fly down to Tasmania for four days over Christmas once it ended. I reluctantly paid for a rental car (more than a little expensive) and drove out to the Lake Saint Clair area for a couple days of hiking. Luckily I’d had a bit of experience driving on the left already, and aside from consistently turning on my windshield wipers instead of my turn signal, I didn’t have any major incidents.
Lake Saint Clair is at the southern end of the Overland Track, a popular 6-day backpacking route on the island that starts 40 miles north at Cradle Mountain and was described to me as the best hike on the island. I would have loved to hike the Overland Track, but I didn’t leave 6 days – and, it’s popular enough that reservations are required in the summer.
So I showed up at Lake St. Clair two days before Christmas with a campground reservation and not much else. I quickly realized that a campground reservation was the one thing I shouldn’t have had. If you’re like me and don’t mind the absence of a sheltered cooking area, Lake St. Clair has free campsites near their lodge and you won’t have to set up your tent right on top of 10 other tents (even on Christmas day!!). I also quickly realized I’d forgotten a cook pot. A woman at a cafe near the park gave me a giant tin fruit can (only a little rusty near the rim) that I used to boil water in for the next couple days.
I quickly learned that the best part about Tasmania is all the animals coming out in the evening. The tiny wallabies that don’t exist on the mainland are especially cute – and used to people. I even walked to Platypus Bay, about a mile away from the campsite and stared through holes in wooden walls (constructed for tourists) for about 45 minutes hoping to see a Platypus. No luck – but I saw wallabies and a Pademelon, another very cute marsupial, on the way back.
The weather in Tasmania was rainy about half the time, but it was perfect during my hikes. My first hike was up Mount Rufus on Christmas Eve. It was beautiful, and I could see a ways back into the mountains toward the north.
The ranger at the Lake St. Clair visitor center who had told me about Mt. Rufus didn’t have any other suggestions for long hikes. Luckily, when I got back from the hike, a different ranger told me there were several free huts at the top of the lake, and I could hike further north from there. Since I only had the rest of that day and the next day to hike, I started off that afternoon from the lodge and got to the Narcissus hut well after dark, several hours and 16 not-so-short kilometers later.
There were a couple people in the hut when I got there. They said some platypuses had been playing in the river around dusk – I was pretty jealous after my experience staring in vain at “Platypus Bay” the night before. And every time an animal ran across the path in the dark, I stopped and stared at the spot where it was for 5 minutes trying to convince myself that it was a wombat and not another wallaby.
I got up at 5 am Christmas morning, texted Laura because I was so proud of myself for getting up, and boiled water for coffee and oatmeal in my giant tin fruit can. Important travel tip: Australian instant oatmeal is awful. I started the hike up to The Acropolis soon after, a 4,900-foot rocky outcropping to the north. The main reason I woke up so early was that I had no intention of hiking another 16 kilometers back at the end of the day – but the last ferry left Narcissus to go back to the lodge at 3 pm.
I made it back to the ferry, had a nice last night, and drove back to the airport the next day. The trip was beautiful, fun but poorly planned, and my legs got pretty cut up from all the sharp grass and bushes over there! Also, my hiking boots were basically brand new – do not walk 35 miles over 2 days in new shoes!!!
But after I returned my car at noon to avoid getting charged for an extra day, I realized that the worst part of my trip was sitting in the Hobart airport on Boxing Day with no WiFi and nothing to do but watch Cricket for 5 solid hours. HOW IS THAT A SPORT?