During the quiet time of year for a seasonal walking business, when everyone else is having beachy fun in the Yuraygir sun, what better thing to do than head to Tasmania? And walk?
It has taken nearly 50 years for me to get there at least, but this January, we finally landed on this fascinating island. Loaded with backpacks full of dehydrated food, sleeping gear and all manner of walking kit, my family and I declared ourselves almost ready to take on the famous Overland Track.
The psychological preparation was perhaps the hardest part, largely because while we are all fit and well, our eleven year old son was understandably a little morose at the prospect of lugging one third of his body weight around a snakey, childless place for 6 days of his precious school holiday break. Before leaving, none of his peers could see the value in the idea either, and he reasoned that he would be exhausting himself for little gain, only to be eating from very unpromising looking sachets and zip lock bags. For a budding gourmet junior chef, this all made little sense.
So apart from us trying to sell this walk to him on the basis of abstract ideas such as ‘scenery’ and ‘achievement’, it was decided early on that outright bribery might be a sensible tactic. If he achieved this walk without ‘complaint’ – a term we kept vaguely defined – he would be awarded the princely sum of $100, to be spent as he wished (within reason) upon our return to civilisation. While all three of us knew this regime was certain to break numerous cultural mores and be thoroughly at odds with best practice parenting advice, we agreed to it, and prepared ourselves. Or we thought we had!
I for one panicked when I first put on what I thought were my now well worn in walking boots, realising that they really were too small. I then found myself the night before the walk in a Launceston outdoor shop with 10 minutes until closing time, frantically trying on and buying a larger, altogether different pair of boots. (This turned out to have been a very wise move that saved me from doing a lot of my own feet related complaining).
With that out of the way, we made our way to the busy Cradle Mountain region, squeezing in an afternoon of walking before the Overland track proper. We were amazed at the moors, the wonderful button grass plains with wombats hustling about, and the magnificent and refreshing Dove Lake, all with the awesome Cradle Mountain behind it. We went to bed early in readiness for the journey ahead, hoping we were up to it.
Doubtless, many have written more eloquently than I could about the many qualities of the country through which the Overland Track travels. Suffice it say that it really was a superb way for this little family to spend six days, far from modernity, sharing the track with a variety of other appreciative human souls. Our food held us up (with great planning by Gina), the streams and creeks quenched our thirsts along the way, the raging bushfires stayed downwind of us, and the fauna and flora were gracious in accepting our presence in this mighty landscape, even the Tiger Snakes. Outrageously cool lakes cleansed our bodies daily, our sleeping bags were just warm enough, our feet did not blister or ache (too much), and the scenery really was amazing, even for a tweenager.
While we did have to cough up the $100, our son grew in a many ways through this experience. We assumed he would not even consider another walk next year, but he was happy to discuss the sorts of conditions that might apply in future – without mention of money! He genuinely was proud to have achieved this distance and engaged with the relative remoteness of the central tablelands. He had been self-sufficient, enjoyed meeting other people and felt strong and well. That really is an achievement! And he was so uncomplaining that I could not help but jackpot his hush money by $20.
This was a great and memorable family experience with highs and lows, but highly recommended if you want to try to grow your children into strong, proud, independent nature-oriented people. I’ll leave it to the reader to work out the role and significance of certain external motivations in this context. ;)>