Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is, one might
say, the jewel in the Tasmanian National Parks crown.
People come to Tasmania just to come to this park.
What's the difference between Cradle Mountain and
Lake St. Clair?
It's the same difference as Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Cincinnati and Cleveland are both in the state of Ohio, just
on opposite sides of the state. Cradle Mountain
comprises the northern entrance of the national park, Lake
St. Clair the south.
The Cradle Mountain area features its own range of
challenging hikes, and I did 'em all, from the Dove Lake
Loop Walk to the Cradle Mountain Summit to the Crater Lake
Circuit. Nights got chilly and one night, it
rained. I realized that the waterproof tent I
purchased on eBay Australia for AUD 20 was only waterproof
up to the first two hours.
Mountain experiences (l t r): Doug alongside
Dove Lake, Doug at Marions Lookout, Doug above Dove
I slept in a tent at the main campground, quite crowded, for what I recall was AUD 15/night. This
might not seem like much, but at the time, I had recently arrived from
Southeast Asia. For slightly more than that (based on exchange
rates then), I could have my own air-con room, bed, and bathroom in
Bangkok. I remember first arriving how much I missed being
in Asia. I was in my "I'd love to get the hell out of
Australia" phase, which lasted my first four months there.
It didn't help that the the skies were overcast and the indoor cooking
facilities, while nice, were stretched to the hilt with families and
groups. I look back on it all fondly now, but I didn't feel that
way when it was happening. The February temperatures outside
were extremely chilly, not what a foreign visitor would think of as late
Australian summer weather. In fact, the temperatures in the
Central Highlands area of Tasmania were, more or less, what you'd expect
temperatures to be in the northern hemisphere that time of year.
I had planned to do the famous
Overland Track. This is a 65 km trail, taking 5-6 days,
that takes the walker through a variety of Tasmanian ecosystems, to
waterfalls, up mountains. Some die-hard hikers dream more about
completing the Overland than of sleeping with a fashion model. I'd
already pre-booked it and paid the AUD 100 fee. I remember the
night before, anticipating in my tent at the campground, thinking about
the 6 exciting days which awaited me.
I should've thought things through a bit better. I was thinking
that this trek would be much like the treks I did in Nepal iback n
1995-96. There, you need only pack warm gear and a sleeping bag.
Accommodation and food were taken care of. While good boots are an
asset for hiking in Nepal, they're not required. The sherpas don't
Well, it's different in Tasmania, and I'm not talking about the lack of
sherpas. I knew there were free huts one could stay in along the
way, but I discovered at the last second that these were all first come,
first served, and with it being peak hiking season, I was told by "those
in the know" that there was chance I could arrive and not find room in
the huts. This, by the way, was greatly exaggerated, I found out
much later. In late February, it would've been easy securing
a bed in a hut. Everyone is encouraged to trot about with a
tent on his person. With a tent, you then need a mat, heaters for
the tent, generators for the heater, and so on.
remember, quite comically now, trying to stuff a two-burner Primus stove
along with a 2 kg gas cylinder into my knapsack, and it just wouldn't
fit. This was the camping gear I'd purchased in Melbourne to make
me self sufficient on the road. Self sufficiency on the
road, let me tell you, isn't the same as self sufficiency on the trail.
The two-burner stove, even a three-burner, with the accompanying
cylinder was perfect for thousand kilometer drives in Oz.
For a 65 km hike, you need a pocket stove. Why hadn't
I thought of that? Indeed, I realized the morning I
was packing up to start the Overland Track, how inadequately
I was packed for such a trip and the rest of Tasmania.
My sleeping bag, borrowed off a friend, was fine for a
temperate eve. It was woefully under-insulated for the
cold evening temperatures of Tasmania. I had a
flashlight. That's fine for walking around your house
in the dark. It's not the best appliance for being
able to setup a tent in the dark.
So what happened in the end? Nothing.
Well, not exactly nothing. I cancelled the trek and
managed to get a refund on my Overland Track fee. I
spent the next few days doing every hike in sight in the
Cradle Mountain area by day and bonding with Australians in
such spiritual ways I don't think would have been possible
on the Overland. For example, a lady and her husband
at the Cradle Mountain campground segued from spotting a
Tasmanian Devil to trying to convert me to Christianity.
My Overland insufficiencies were a cue to what I needed to
purchase to crank my Australian trip up to the next level.
Within a month, I got the headlight, the thermal sleeping
bag, the pocket stove, the lantern, and shone as a living
example to others how a man travels through Oz in style and