Great Southern Land Or Team Loco on the Overland Track – Tasmania, Sept 2005

SITUATION:

Being newly single again in 2005, a group of my mates decided we would do the ultimate boys trip and brave the wilds of Tasmania.

Well, eight months of planning and training have finally paid off.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all and sundry for advice, gossip, declarations of insanity and well wishes. Thanks in particular to Peter Marshall and his team at Crossfire, Caligula, Welby and untold others.

Oh, and the “Team Loco” moniker, I hear you ask??

We arrived at it after receiving the standard reply from dozens of young ladies on our intentions to walk the track in September (snow season): “You’re crazy!!”

Our reply was always: “Just crazy enough. We go forth to be a manly man, amongst manly men, doing manly things. I’ll probably end up burning my bum hair off…”

 

TEAM COMPOSITION:

Originally, we had started with the presumption that Ben, Peggy and I would be doing the Overland Track. Then
Scotty heard about our plans and was brought on board. This was preferred due to the benefits of having a full four man team for emergency, rationing and communal kit purposes.

In a cruel twist of fate, Peggy had to pull the pin on the project due to work commitments. T’was a tragedy and a hard blow for us and him to know we were one man down.

But preparations continued apace. Advice was sought on necessary equipment, numerous visits to the outdoor shops, calls to Peter Marshall and his great team at Crossfire. Cold hard cash was finally plonked down for necessary kit. Travel details planned, booked and confirmed.

SOP’s, “actions-on” and a lot of soul-searching through possible emergency situations was discussed in great length and detail.

 

EXECUTION:

Prelim moves: First order of travel was to fly via Virgin Blue from Brisbane to Melbourne. We liked the cheap airfares, but will say that service from Virgin staff was “interesting” to say the least. I’m still not sure quite what our young male cabin steward was thinking when he announced to the whole damn plane that he was “So emotional!!”. Hmmmn, yeah righto.

A couple of screaming kids later, we arrived in old Melbourne towne.

A quick tram ride and a hot feed at Peggy’s place revived us. Beer and a few bald faced lies started flowing, with recriminations, accusations and bulldust being flung at random. 22F was almost complete for the first time in years. Then it was onwards to board the Spirit of Tasmania for the next step in our grand adventure.

A very uneventful boat ride led to Team Loco bussing its way to Cradle Mountain National Park where we seemed to bump into every weirdo on the whole damn island. Ranging from drug smoking hippies, drug smoking psycho’s and drug smoking local hicks.
But at least we got to sample the home baked sausage rolls in a remote country town bakery – the highlight of any road trip.

 

The Main Event

At long last, the bus trip ended, and Team Loco was deposited at Dove Lake, gear strapped on, starting to feel a little bit cold, looking up at the yarma’s facing us and wondered just what we’d gotten ourselves into.

From here, I shall break up the walk into day-by-day descriptions:

 

Day 1 (Saturday, 3 Sept 05): Dove Lake to Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut.

Possibly the most exciting day of the walk. A slightly unconventional first leg of the Overland Track we’re told, but we chose it because it was slightly off the beaten track, and one of the shortest legs distance-wise, certainly not height-wise. While the day’s walk was short (approx 6 klicks) the height climbed was over 1000m on the first mountain we hit. The lack of altitude training showed, but the amount of physical preparation we’d done shone through.

We knew the first day would hurt, regardless of which leg chose, so we thought to go the hardest leg first up while fresh and to accelerate acclimatisation to the area. It worked; we were all lamenting the loss of our youth while climbing that damn yarma. The views once we hit the peak were stunning. In fact the whole first day was spent in gob-smacked incredulity looking at every new view that came from the next corner of the track.

 

 

 

Reaching Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut was an eye opener.
We’d been told the huts were “rough”, so we had visions of a three-sided tin shed. What greeted us was simply a 5-star Taj Mahal. A double story, A-frame hut, with stainless steel benches for cooking, tank water, tables, chairs and a damn good coal fired stove. Bloody luxury for three ex-military adventurers!

This was also another opportunity to converse with the locals. A young (Hobart) lass and her German boyfriend turned up to share the hut with us. After some tragically catastrophic conversational starters, Team Loco gave up any attempts to treat these people as normal human beings. In fact, we got a little paranoid of these two “odd” mutes…

 

Day 2 (Sunday, 4 Sept 05): Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut to Windermere Hut

A slightly longer day at 10 kilometres. The climb out from Scott Kilvert up to Benson Peak was a heart breaker.
Noticeable was the amazing changes in vegetation and elevation in such short times and distances.

 

 

 

 

Day 3 (Monday, 5 Sept 05) Windermere Hut to New Pelion
Hut

The longest day’s walk we had at about 14 kilometres. We just kept being amazed by the change from artic tundra to sub-temperate rainforest. In these rain forest type areas, we were constantly expecting the faery-folk to buzz out telling us to p*ss off out of their enchanted forest.

 

 

Day 4 (Tuesday, 6 Sept 05) New Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut

Some of the best views of the trip were to be seen from the balcony of New Pelion Hut, looking north back towards where we had walked previously. Lunch was spent at the Pelion Gap between Mount Ossa and Mt Pelion East. Truly spectacular setting, but was cut short by the rising southerly winds that cut through clothing causing discomfort quite quickly.

 

Day 5 (Wednesday, 7 Sept 05) Kia Ora to Windy Ridge

Highlight of the days walk was the stop at D’Alton and Fergusson Falls. For Queenslanders in the middle of a drought, watching so much running water was magical. Unfortunately, photo opportunities were severely limited due to overcast conditions and impending bad weather conditions.

 

 

 

Along the way, the team across one of the “private” huts, where rich, decadent, lazy buggers could walk the track with only a daypack and spend a comfortable night on a proper bed, with hot water (solar), electrical lights, flush toilets and an air-mobile gourmet chef to prepare dinner for them (flies in every day). We didn’t see the bloody point. All that cost, for very little overall satisfaction of having conquered and achieved something worthwhile. Or so my outlook suggests.

 

Day 6 (Thursday, 8 Sept 05) Windy Ridge to Narcissus

The night spent at Windy Ridge was probably the best for social interactions. The coal fired stove was cranked up to reflect a nice Queensland spring day, despite the howling wind outside. Conversation with fellow travellers was both candid and hilarious, with many great stories, friendly inter-state ribbing and the usual whoppers being told. The walk to Narcissus Point was a bit more sombre affair for us as we realised it would be our last day out. From Narcissus Point, we caught the ferry out to Lake St Clair Visitor Centre and thence, onwards to civilisation, fine food, good booze and bad women.

 

 

 

It should be noted that the Overland Track is largely composed of timber duck boards. Some points simply being composed of track markers or a single gang plank to cross. Most of the track is covered in 4-6 inches of water or mud. In fact some places, stepping off the duck board would have resulted in becoming lost in the “Bog of Eternal Stench”. Conditions reminded us of old regimental stories from the Western Front during the First Great Hate.

According to the locals encountered travelling with us, Team Loco was blessed with some of the best weather in the last decade. Daily temperatures hovered around 10 -12 degrees centigrade, quite comfortable for walking. These temperatures dropped to 0 or below at night. It snowed only once, for about 30 mins on Day 1. The rest of the time ranged from bright sunlight to drizzle to pelting rain, all in the space of a couple of hours.
Typical mountain weather!!

 

Post Walk Movements

It must be noted that the walk was a very spiritual and soul-cleansing experience for us. A lot of bitter cynicism was swept out from the dark, dank corners of our hearts. Just being with good mates in the scrub with a lot of light hearted banter (read abuse, name calling, insubordination and inter-corps rivalry) and some serious boy bonding as we talked of our lives (military, civvy job and failed romances) for the previous ten years and then moved onto our hopes and dreams for the next ten years.

This is why it was so refreshing for us to hit Hobart for two days where we could shuck the sensitive, SNAG-ish persona’s we had worn on the track and get back into a different kind of spiritualism. The sort encouraged by the over consumption of Black Label Bundaberg rum, and the presence of fine young local lasses.

It was discovered by Team Loco, after an exhaustive series of trials that the female local population of Hobart, more specifically the demographic in the 18 to 35 year old range, seems to be very responsive to 3 healthy, wholesome, drunken Queensland lads. Hunting was of very high quality, and profitable. Bag limits were easily achieved.

It was also found that staying in Backpacker accommodation is a similar experience to living in the lines “back in the day”.
That cheap spotted concrete in the showers, shitty hot water system, and fellow drunken reprobates in the common room, along with a large amount of manky bush gear in our room all helped us to feel we were at “Old Home Day”. The only difference we found was that some of our fellow guest’s didn’t take quite so well to us wandering the halls slightly inebriated and almost completely naked on our way to the ablution facilities for some strange, inexplicable reason.

After having exhausted our welcome in Hobart, a quick fighting withdrawal was conducted to the airport for extraction back to God’s own country.

 

ADMIN & LOG:

For the purposes of this trip, the team had decided to carry enough gear to be completely self sufficient for 7 days. That is, we had our own shelter, communications, medical and food for that period. We had arrived at this time frame to allow for any major or not so major emergencies that may have cropped up.

To this end, team communal equipment is outlined below:

– Tent, 3-man dome.

– MSR Internationale multi-fuel stove, with 2 fuel bottles and extra fuel as well (total approx 4L). We had heaps of fuel left
over despite being complete brew hounds (a bad habit picked up by working with cav).

– EPIRB

– Satellite phone

– UHF walkie talkies

– Trauma kit

– Hexamine tablets (although we were informed that use of these was illegal, we decided to carry them for emergency use only).

– GPS

– At least one compass per man. I carried two.

– Map, per man. An interesting aside is that every member of Team Loco had his map wrapped in a water proof case or plastic bag. CDF (ADF lingo for Common Dog F#ck or Common Sense) for military trained individuals. Very few other walkers encountered on the Track used this very basic technique, and suffered from their maps being destroyed by moisture.

All these items were split between the team to allow for fair weight distribution and redundancy in case a pack (or man) was lost. It must be noted that most of this equipment wasn’t used due to our lack of emergency situations and plenty of accommodation space in the huts along the route.

Among our personal kit was the some of the following:

– 2x DG-6 packs (1x green, 1x black). These packs really gathered some attention from other walkers, who mistakenly thought they were issued equipment. We made damn sure to mention that this is what SHOULD be on general issue. Our horror stories of modern kit used by the army raised some eyebrows among the civvy bushwalking crowd.

– 1x large ALICE pack modified to accept the DG-6 frame.

– Lamilite ECW sleeping bag.

– Cobra Bivvy bag

– Mountain Designs bivvy bag

– Thermarest ground mats

– Mountain Designs Goretex jackets (stratus and an older anorak style)

– Crossfire cold weather socks. Brilliant, high quality socks. I will be purchasing more.

– NATO thermals from Crossfire. Another really good, quality piece of gear. These were an absolute life saver for three northerners in such cold conditions.

– Boots ranged from Magnum Hitech’s, Danner Desert Acadia and steel capped work boots. All of us were suitably impressed with boot selection. Another interesting aside, other civvy hikers wearing fancy hiking boots were observed strapping their feet every morning. We had no such problems despite carrying heavier loads.

– Personal first aid kit with emergency space blanket.

Total load for most of the team was no more than 25kg.
Well, that was my pack, simply because I was carrying most of the tent. The other two were a bit lighter.

We all found the DG packs (or frame) to be excellent.
Comfort levels were such that we could feel all the old injuries, but couldn’t feel any new ones developing. A truly excellent piece of kit that we all
strongly feel should be on general issue.

Rationing was mostly commercially available “boil in a bag” type fare that had been purchased from Woollies etc. We tended to avoid the dedicated dehydrated hiking food because of high cost. We also trialled a “tuna steak” packaged in a vacuum sealed foil pouch. But found that the steak itself was so dry it tended to completely dry out the mouth, requiring higher water consumption.

Food stuffs that we particularly recommend are the dehydrated pasta and sauce combinations. Add boiling water, milk powder, place the bag in a pot of more boiling water and it’s cooked in about 5-10 minutes. I then added a tin of smoked oysters to produce a scrumptious and decadent meal.
As well as get some strange looks from my team mates when they realised what I was eating. You know after Day 3 field, you’re legally mine, right?? I’m not sure they knew I was joking after consuming a large tin of oysters though…

Acknowledgements:

Team Loco would like to thank the following for their
most gracious assistance:

Peter Marshall and the Crossfire team.

Caligula

Wellby

Does anyone have any questions, discussion points or raspberries??


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