The final adventurous journey for the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award ordinarily involves a four days outing, with three nights spent under canvas. Well, because we are not fans of doing things the easy way at Covenant we tackle the Overland Track. For those unfamiliar with what is touted as Australia's premier multi-day hike it is 80km, involves ascending 1,200 metres and meanders through an area of Tasmanian wilderness where it rains on average 300 days a year. Oh, and it takes six nights and seven days! This year saw eight Gold candidates, accompanied by three intrepid staff, attempt the walk.
Upon flying into Launceston we stocked up on all the things you cannot take on Jetstar - cooking gas mainly. After having a little look about the town we settled into the Batman Fawlkner Inn, whose claim to fame seemed to be as the place where the founding fathers of the city of Melbourne met. After a night of sleep that was shortened considerably by the nightclub that raged below our rooms, we jumped on a bus to Cradle Mountain.
After collecting our passes and taking a team photo, we set off from Ronny Creek to ascend to Marion's Lookout and start our assault of the track. The weather was really clear, so most of the group were able to climb Cradle Mountain.
After summiting Cradle, we made camp in Waterfall Valley. At dusk we were introduced to the myriad of wildlife that calls the national park home. These ranged in size from the incessant mosquitoes to Pademelon (small Wallaby sized macropods) to the gigantic Tasmanian Possums - think the size of a small dog!
In the morning we had a little rain, however soon enough we were packed up and walking. Our next stop was at Lake Will. Here we saw a coal seam and another view of Barn Bluff - Tasmania's forth highest mountain. Our second overnight stop was at Lake Windermere.
Day three saw us walking from Windermere to Pelion - our longest day in terms of distance. Along the way we stopped at looked at the various tarns (mountain lake) and traversed countless plant communities.
Day four involved walking from Pelion to Kia Ora. Today the weather was also fine enough, for long enough to allow some of the group to climb Mt Ossa. This peak at 1,617m is the tallest in Tasmania and has the nickname "Heartbreak Hill" owing to its three false summits! The track from Mt Ossa into Kia Ora was a little muddy - so it was time to get out the gators and throw away any aversion to getting your feet dirty!
Our next day saw us combine two days of walking into one - owing to the weather. Originally we were to walk from Kia Ora to Windy Ridge. However, it was time for one of the famous "Mr Pain Route Marches" - named for Mr Pain's innate desire to get somewhere and to cajole the group to just keep walking!
Our march got us as far as Narcissus Hut, where we were exceptionally fortunate to be able to get a ferry back to Cynthia Bay almost immediately. The boat ride took us along Lake St Clair, which is famous for being Australia's deepest lake - 200 metres in parts!
Our last night tenting saw us camp at Cynthia Bay. This night was made memorable for the night that one of our intrepid walkers discovered that Tasmanian Possums (especially when carrying their young) do not like to be "high fived".
In the morning we boarded the bus back to Hobart, saying goodbye to the Overland Track.
Hobart was a fitting end to our Tasmanian odyssey. We visited MONA, saw a recreation of Mawson's Hut and celebrated the 17th birthday of Aidan O'Callaghan Official. In keeping with the desire to meet Covie people in unusual places, we managed to run into Mrs Humphrey and her husband at Salamanca.
Our final morning was an opportunity to visit the famous Salamanca Markets. We then boarded Jetstar and winged our way home to Sydney.
Thanks to Mrs Hunter, Mr Hill and Mr Pain for making it all happen. Congratulations to all the walkers on making it through!
Learn more about Duke of Edinburgh program at www.dukeofed.com.au and from past reports below.
Silver Duke of Ed Hikers welcomed by snowfall in Blue Mountains
Duke of Edinburgh Award hike for 55 students
Duke of Ed Hikes 2013
Duke of Ed Overland Track 2012
The Duke of Ed Challenge
Duke of Edinburgh Hike 2011
Gold Duke of Edinburgh to Cradle Mountain 2010
Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Royal National Park 2010
Duke of Ed an achievable experience
Duke of Edinburgh Blue Mountains Hike 2009
Silver and Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Hikes 2009
Duke Of Edinburgh 2008
Duke of Edinburgh Gold Hike December 2007
Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Hike 2007