Mum and Dad are dead. The kids have flown the coup. Christmas just doesn’t seem to hold any meaning any more. So we decided to give it a miss and hike the overland track instead. The track traverses some of the wildest country in Tasmania. Winding its way from Cradle Mountain to Lake St.Clair, an 8 day hike. Listed in the 10 greatest hikes in-the-world, and wouldn’t you know it, hiking aficionados from every corner of the globe staying up till way after sundown to compare the very latest hiking gear. All at sea without their lap tops, unable to buy anything at all for a whole week. Occasionally some dick head would turn on their ipod so we would chuck it in the creek and say, “you’re next”.
Half our entourage were young and unfit and the other half old and arthritic so we were perfectly matched, yet the young ‘uns had no trouble bounding up every mountain within cooee despite their puppy fat. I don’t like to boast but I did do the entire hike in bare feet. I had boots in my pack in case it snowed.(my feet are very sensitive to the snow) but they weighed a bloody kilo. Approaching a particularly steep incline I looked up to the cloudless sky then chucked them in the bush and strode onward and upward with added vigour. Each evening as the weary travellers bemoaned their sodden boots and administered to their ever-growing blisters my heart filled with the sweetest shadenfrued.
The trail is so designed to fill all but the most intrepid hiker with dred. On the very first day the bus drops us at the foot of a vertiginous incline, with our path making its way directly up the face and disappearing into the clouds above, bleached bones glinting in the morning sun, of those who lacked the fortitude to reach the top. But once you have ascended to the abode of the gods, heaven awaits you. Meadows of soft green moss traversed by crystal clear mountain streams. Strange plants from Gondwana Land eek out a precarious existence like they have done for millions of years.
Then suddenly we drop down into a shady glade; dark, dank, primordial, antediluvian. Spooky. All moss and lichen and slime and fungi. An enchanted forest inhabited by ethereal wraiths like Golem and Spegal.
Christmas night we spent at Pelion hut, looking over a button grass plain to yet another craggy peak silhouetted by the setting sun. As we choofed on a fat reefer and watched the darkness fall, wishing to be spared a white Christmas, unbeknownst to us, the possums and the crows and the wombats, working in unison, had extracted and devoured our special Christmas treats, and left us bereft.
Word had spread up and down the track of secret huts especially for the rich, where they quaffed fine wine flown in by chopper and scoffed squab carried in by nubile young women. As luck would have it, when the wind wafted our way we could just pick up the faintest sounds of distant merriment; the chortle of laughter, the tinkle of glasses.
A raiding party was quickly assembled. With blackened faces and sharpened staves we set off in the moonlight, keeping to the shadows. Peeking through the windows our gobs were well and truly smacked by the decadent scene before our very eyes. A mahogany table set with silver. Four pieces each, I kid you not. Afghani rugs, leather sofas with cushions and little poofs. Original oil paintings of babbling brooks and the like, but alas only crumbs and bones left on the plates.
Just as we sat bemoaning our ill luck a particularly fat and juicy specimen emerged to take the night air and suck on his big fat Cuban cigar.
One lunge in the darkness dispatched with him with out so much as a whimper.
No one went hungry that Christmas night in Pelion hut. We drifted off to sleep licking our lips and picking our teeth, listening to the Devils gnoring on the bones.
But I don’t suppose our neighbours slept so well.
Ben Laycock 2012
Note to paul anstey and other grumpy and spelling obsessed readers: please read this with a slight sense of humour. Thanks