The Overland Track

Let’s do the Overland he said (with a certificate in outdoor education & minimal experience in snow adventuring.)

Great idea she responded (having not been on an overnight hike since high school, a long time ago).

And so on Wednesday the 27th of September 2017, after one of Tasmania’s coldest winters and during a freezing spring, we started our Overland journey.

The Overland track runs from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clare in Tasmania. It is a 65km walk, with multiple day hikes. There are huts along the way, camping is encouraged where possible. The highest point is 1250m at the plateau between Marion’s lookout and Kitchen hut. The lowest point is at the Forth River crossing at 720m. During the peak hiking season (October 1 to May 31) walkers must travel North to South, however outside of peak season hikers can walk the track whichever way their Gortex boots fancy.

On arrival at the visitor center at Cradle Mountain, we were told in no uncertain terms that A. we were ill equipped for the weather, B. too late to complete the planned day 1 walk to Waterfall valley and C. without an emergency response beacon we were asking for trouble. We were shown a picture of Kitchen hut, which was practically inaccessible due to the amount of snow blocking the entrances.

So, we swiftly shoved an emergency beacon into our already overfilled bags, changed the night one hut plan from Waterfall to Scott Killvert and held hands while whispering ‘crazy cats.’ We have excellent thermal and ski gear and had enough food to last approximately 47 days and feed 6. We also (thankfully) had no understanding of what we were up against, shrugging our shoulders in TYPICAL tourist fashion “how hard CAN it be?”

An hour later, and practically vertical on a rock face with a cliff behind and no view to be seen thanks to the very dark and rain filled clouds with our heavy packs nearly turning us upside down and inside out and I declared my first “I’m not designed for this, not at all. My back isn’t designed for this bag, my feet aren’t designed to be soggy and my fear of any form of danger or injury is really not that useful. Richie, (in an almost rehearsed response…) assured me we could turn back at ANY point, and that it would be fine if we needed to. But that I was quite capable of this and that it would be OK. (Between us we have the stubbornness of a rhinoceros, and turning back was never an option).

Arriving at Scott Killvert hut was a warm welcome, it was incredibly dark with only an hour of sunlight left, but the coal heater had been transformed to a wood fire and we gobbled soup while relishing our sensible ‘dry clothes.’ The sign at the door identified importance hut etiquette ‘the last to arrive are as welcome as the first.’ And just before sunset, the gorgeous group of 6 Irish arrived; they had trekked around the lake (as opposed to up and over and vertical) in mud and snow but still came in laughing, like they did each time we found them.

We snoozed among the top snorers in Australia that night, giggling at the absurdity of 25 grown adults who have never met all lined up as if a dedicated day care nap post the most exhausting bed time story of all.

A hike up a steep incline (1100m at the summit) on day 2 and we found ourselves being blown over by snow and ice filled winds that stung our cheeks and buckled our knees.

I let Richie know I didn’t think his snow experience was up to this, and that he should have listened to my hourly pre trip weather forecasting. I felt an inner fury at my inability to cope, and questioned my toughness. Richie clearly and calmly (while turning his awful shade of anxiety) stated we should probably turn back the way we came, where we knew that whilst there was thigh deep powder snow, there was also shelter and a path that would lead us back to the hut.

Just as it came to crunch time, the Irish stumbled up the snow banks, and we all joined forces to find the path together. The friends we had known for approximately 22 hours turned back often to make sure we were still with them, and offered precious commodities of nuts and chocolate.

Throughout the next five days, we hiked through a snow filled rain forest whilst waiting for Aslan and Mr Tumnus to appear, adored incredible and ancient trees. Marveled at cold clear streams. Cried at the challenge, and swore at wet socks and heavy packs. Occasionally we would get a glimpse of mountains surrounding us, and would feel protected by their enormity. The famous button grass was a snowfield, but we would walk all day without seeing a soul and it was magic. We laughed together, and forgot the woes of the world as we focused on arriving safely and keeping it together whilst staying together.

Each night, we would scramble into the hut to find our people. Slowly but surely we found our army along the way; and with the weather entirely unappealing to sleeping outdoors in tents, we would sit and share soup stories and games of cards with people who quickly felt very important, very precious and very true.

Our little tribe at the end of the trip included two 12 year old kids. These absolute heroes talked us through the map each night and morning, identifying areas that would be challenging and the highest and lowest climbs for the day. Playing cheat was a giggle feast (their poker faces beautifully innocent).

These raw and new friendships, where there were no phones, no computers, no brands, no cars, no houses, no news, no trump, no terrorism, no guns, no nonsense.

Extra water was boiled for tea, and teabags were shared when supplies were running low. Lives were talked about, and dreams discovered. There was a kindness and a friendliness that equaled the expansive forests and curious wallabies of the beautiful Tasmanian wilderness.

Our last morning was full of ‘congratulations, good luck and thank you’. We all beamed with pride, not of ourselves – but of one another. The suns had cleared to fully expose the mountains surrounding us their true enormity only becoming clear.

In a time where the world is tough, where people are fragile and where we live so very quickly this walk reminded me of the beauty of humanity, of the potential we have and how the environment brings out the best of this in us. How life really is simple, but that our extra additions complicate it. How the silence of snow allows for a still and clear head and how being in the real forest is far more therapeutic than any forest Apple has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Good Bones

Today, I found beauty in this poem. In a world that currently feels as though the beauty must be hunted for.

Good Bones. Maggie Smith.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine.

In a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways. a thousand deliciously ill advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least 50% terrible and that’s a conservative estimate. Though I keep this from my children.

For every birth, there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged sunk in a lake.

Life is short, and the world is at least half terrible. And for every kind stranger, there is one who would break you.

Though I keep this from my children.

I am trying to sell them the world.

Any decent realtor walking through a real shit hole, chirps on about good bones. This place could be beautiful right?

You could make this place beautiful.

 

Cinque Rimpianti

Today I heard a tale from a palliative care nurse that intrigued and surprised me.

I spend a lot of my working life with people staring down the sometimes terrifying sometimes peaceful barrel of death. It’s most certainly not the easiest topic of choice, and one that makes people uncomfortable. It’s the one thing that links us all, but I understand people not wanting to sit around and discuss it. I most certainly don’t.

Bronnie Ware is a palliative care nurse from Sydney who found a common link of regrets in her patients. Her famous blog post is all over the internet, and she now writes books and speaks inspirational talk. (I’m probably one of the very last to find her). When I first heard her tale, I thought that the regrets would be along the lines of ‘hug the ones you love’ ‘tell the ones you love’ but instead it was true reminder of the person who you must be the most true and love filled to, yourself.

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

It’s made me feel that little deep pit of death uncomfortable writing this. But I think these regrets should be acknowledged and respected and a reminder of what a lucky lucky treat every new day is.

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Soup

The pumpkin soup I made for dinner was really delicious. And just like the one that I used to dream of as a little girl on a mountain that felt that winter chill.

1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 leek, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 3 cups chicken stock, 1kg peeled pumpkin, 300ml thickened cream.

It really was so very straight forward and I’m sure not worthy of a blog, but simply sauteing the vegetables then adding the stock and pumpkin and blitzing when soft and adding the cream very last but oh so important minute.

I also added caramelized red onions, which I hadn’t done before but were so stupidly easy. Brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, water and red onion in a small non stick saucepan for as long as they take (it took mine about half an hour). I literally did not touch them. I should have been making these delicious little babies for my whole entire life but at least I have the rest of my whole entire life to make them now.

I also made a bruschetta (pronounced with a K people a K) which I made up but had peeled zucchini which I just pan fried for about a minute, capers, mint, truffle oil, lemon rind and buffalo mozarella. For the first time ever I did the bread on a griddle pan and it made a real difference and if I shut my eyes I was in Italy which was a very nice place to be and a place I would actually quite like to be on this cold winters night.

 

Tasty (or not so) Tuesday

I’ve decided for the blog of 31, when my brain can’t find words I’ll keep a food diary. Because I love food. And eating. And Masterchef. (And also because it keeps getting to this time of day and I haven’t written anything and I get a bit panicked because I need to start a banking of blog posts.)

Two slices bread with fresh tomato and Vegemite. Luke warm tea (in order to skull while having 2.3 minutes to get ready for work). Short black coffee.

Soy latte. Boiled egg with salt salt pepper pepper.

Wrap. Slaw, ham, mayo. Delicious but small, too small.

Savoys and cheese. (Can ya tell I work in a hospital?).

Toast with slaw. Soda stream bubbles.

Pumpkin soup with caramelized onion. Zucchini, mint and buffalo mozzarella bruschetta. (No shit, and I made it all from scratch).

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir. Black chocolate with almonds.

 

Second, not first. 

I’ve decided to change something this winter.

I’ve been very very lucky to grow up in a family where we have big wild winter skiing adventures. We have spent many days together skiing the Australian slopes, and being in the mountains is where I find true peace and clear mountain air clarity.

However, as I’ve been gifted with the “fear” gene my skiing days have also been consumed with “this is so icy you’ll break your neck for sure” “did you see that guy flying past? Totally out of control. Could do some serious damage” “WHO on earth do these maniacs THINK they are?!?” Which in turn has meant my skiing is not as quick nor as smooth as my family. And for nearly 25 years I realise (and yes disclaimer: this is a total first world problem) that I’ve been largely focusing on that.

So what my new 31 year old blogging self is going to do this winter is enjoy being second, enjoy being a slow skier and not wonder wonder wonder when I’m going to be fast – when I’m going to be skilled – when I’ll stop wondering if it’s time for hot chips and lemonade yet. And instead I’m going to be the slow skier who takes in long deep breaths of cold cold air and sees those around her as nice holiday pals rather than dementors with an intent to destroy me and my legs. Because I don’t mind if I don’t come first, as long as my family are there with hot chips and lemonade by the time I eventually get to the bottom.
O.

Eloise

This weekend, a new baby cousin named Eloise was born.

She’s the sweetest little cherub, with perfect pale eyebrows and the teeniest of squished up hands. My beautiful cousin Alex, is the most tender, gentle and loving new mama.

Eloise has reminded me (in only the way babies can) about what is important, and how the best things really are the simplest (like the smell of a newborns head). She is going to be such a loved little person and I’m so excited for the big beautiful future ahead of her.

In a world that’s sometimes tough and sometimes hard to see the good and the beauty (I’m looking at you Trump) little Eloise arrivals make everything seem just wonderful.