Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Overland Track

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track
- A man with a seven-inch (18 cm) penis may proudly compare his organ to the average man’s five to six inches (12-15 cm) but be intimidated when learning another wields an eight-inch (20 cm) rod.

Overland Track is an unearth a treasury of natural wonders on a short walk deep in prehistoric takayna/Tarkine rainforest to a fern-framed waterfall. Setting your GPS for Tasmania’s wild west opens up endless possibilities on foot, from easy forest ambles to challenging multi-day hikes deep into World Heritage wilderness. You can scale mountains with incomparable views into the south-west; feel the spray off plummeting waterfalls; dip your toes in toffee-coloured tarns trimmed with ancient pencil pines and swim in a river that was saved by a groundbreaking grassroots campaign that captured the imaginations of people worldwide. Overland Track.

Overland Track - photo 1

Overland Track is wide and the walking is easy; downhill through verdant forest.

Walk:

3.6km return

Time required:

1.5 hours

Best time:

Overcast day after rain (for best forest colours)

Grade:

Easy–moderate

Environment:

Cool temperate rainforest, waterfall, historic water race

Best map:

This one

Toilets:

None

Food:

None

Tips:

Stop, look, listen. Appreciate the forest rather than boot-camp march to and from the falls. Enjoy this track.

Overland Track - photo 2

Overland Track

For decades, only ‘greenies’ campaigning against logging, mining and for the protection of Aboriginal cultural sites in north-west Tasmania used the name takayna/Tarkine. Now, takayna/Tarkine appears on maps and in tourism brochures and advertisements although only a fraction of it is safe from the threat of mining and forestry. Save The Tarkine continues to work, with other conservation groups, towards the area’s protection as a World Heritage–listed national park.

Roughly defined by the Arthur and Pieman rivers north and south, and the Southern Ocean and Murchison Highway west and east, the takayna/Tarkine encompasses almost half a million hectares. It’s home to more than 60 species of rare, threatened and endangered fauna species and is one of the last places where the Tasmanian tiger was seen in the wild (and, some people believe, where the striped carnivore still hunts).

Overland Track - photo 3

Overland Track. Plants

The shadowy world of trees and ferns in which you find Philosopher Falls – and perhaps the elusive tiger! – is the popular image of the takayna/Tarkine but the world’s second largest tract of cool temperate rainforest, dating back to the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent, is one of its other many facets. Others include sand dunes and wild beaches (see West Point to Black Rocks), historic mining villages, free-flowing river systems and wind- and flame-sheared mountains (see Mt Donaldson to Corinna via the Savage River).

Philosopher Falls turnoff is on the B23 (Waratah Road), just short of the Arthur River bridge, about 10km south-west of Waratah, an hour’s drive southwest of Burnie via the B18 (Ridgley Highway). From the turnoff it’s 1km to a gravel turn-back loop, where Waratah–Wynyard Council signage directs you into a wall of forest and warns about snakes, possible tree falls, uneven ground, and steep walking. There’s a more uplifting information board a short track further in.

Overland Track - photo 4

Overland Track

The track is wide and the walking easy: downhill through verdant tree ferns, native pines, sassafras, and centuries-old myrtle beech trees wrapped in moss. In late summer, leatherwoods, the source of Tasmania’s own leatherwood honey, carpet the track with blousy white flowers with multiple purple-tipped stamens.

A short way into the walk, the track skirts a splendid tree covered in moss, several strands of its roots having been pulled from the ground and formed a small cave. Soon after you pass a toppled tree’s huge root ball (see point 1 on map). The hole it ripped in the forest floor is long-since darned with greenery, the toppled trunk spongy with moss and lichen and decorated with caramel-coloured fungi (fungi are the forest’s main agents of decay and nutrient recycling). Other trees have fallen too but many more stand tall, their roots buried in the moist soil and their crowns woven into a thick canopy.

Overland Track - photo 5

Overland Track

Fifteen minutes of zigzag track descent through rainforest ornamented with hard plate fungi and soft mushrooms, in brown, white and orange, brings you to a metal footbridge over the upper Arthur River, which runs clear beneath your feet and more than 150km west to the sea.

Philosopher Falls is named after local farmer, explorer and prospector James ‘Philosopher’ Smith, whose discovery of tin nearby in 1871 spawned Tasmania’s mining industry and saved its struggling economy. On the other side of the Arthur River, the walking track runs along a track (see point 2 on map) cut by hand in the 1920s to carry water to Magnet Mine, in the hills west of Waratah. Opened in 1894, this mine produced nearly 40,000 tonnes of lead and more than 200 tonnes of silver before its closure in 1940.

Overland Track - photo 6

Overland Track

A much flatter track of metre-wide compacted stone heads downstream from the bridge, beside and sometimes in the water race, between rock dripping with moss and lichen and a thickly greened slope dropping down to a hidden but burbling river. The track ducks under fallen trees and tangles of mossy branches and limbs and then suddenly you are in the open where a fallen tree has ripped opened the canopy; after the forest shadows you might feel spot-lit here on a sunny day.

Back under the canopy, you come upon an impressive staircase (the water race disappears into a tangle of fallen trees about 20m further on). Two hundred-plus timber-and-metal steps drop down the hillside to a viewing platform beside Philosopher Falls, a multi-tiered veil cascading between walls of greenery.

Overland Track - photo 7Overland Track

Watch the frothy falls. Inhale deeply the intoxicating smell of clean water and humusy forest. Feel the percussion of thumping, splashing water. Then return to your car.

“Top Walks in Tasmania”

Melanie Ball 

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