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Proper planning prevents poor performance.

If there’s one thing I would ever get tattooed on my ass, it would be the Five P’s, unless I’m in gaol, in which case it will probably be a variation on Anxious Awareness Anticipates Anal Apocalypse or something depressing like that. Anyway, let me vent. As you know, I’m planning to walk the Overland Track (OLT) in June. I need to plan for it — little things like airfares, accommodation, permits, that sort of shit — but even though the www is replete with good advice on walking the track itself (thanks guys: left foot, right foot, left foot, wear a jumper — got it) it’s a bit skinny on the fundamentals of actually getting to the trackhead and then home from the other end.

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See, the OLT is in the middle of nowhere. To reach it, you could hire a car in Launceston for about $70 per day and drive 2 hours to the Cradle Mountain Information Centre, leave it in the carpark, then hike or catch the bus to the start of the track at Ronny Creek in Cradle Valley another 7km down the road. But how do you return from the OLT terminus at Lake St Clair to your $70 per day car? Assuming it’s still even there. There is no convenient state-operated bus service, so you are left with a private operator who charges us gullible mainlanders $300 for the 3 hour trip. Put into perspective, I can fly to Launceston from Sydney in less than 2 hours from $55 — but then I have a choice of 36 flights per day from 3 competing airlines, whereas in Tasmania the private operators have a cosy little monopoly going.

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Just planning to reach the trackhead has seen several iterations, and my current plan (F) is fly to Launceston and stay overnight in a hotel ($115) then catch the bus, the cheapest transport option ($55), which deposits me at the CMIC by midday. I’m absolutely not worried about the walking part of the OLT, and have given myself a leisurely 6 days to complete it; but even assuming I get terrible weather (which I’m kinda hoping for) I suspect the walk will prove far less challenging than the exfil to Hobart.  So far, I’ve been advised by TassieLink, the state bus company, that (a) they haven’t published their winter schedule yet, and (b), even if they had, they probably won’t have a bus from Lake St Clair to Hobart on the day I finish. Discouraging? Just a little.

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So I’m sending out emails to the private operators, and the lowest quote I’ve received so far (from those that even bothered to reply) is $280, with the trust-building qualifier that they may not actually be there to pick me up if any one of a multitude of mishaps (roadworks, trees over the road, bushfires, weather conditions, vehicle breakdowns, operator too tired/hungover) befall them on the day of my booking. They will take my money, because it has to be pre-paid, but collecting me is subject to ‘circumstances beyond their control’.  Now, that would mean an automatic no questions asked refund, you would think?  No — instead, a document that gives Facebook’s Terms & Conditions a run for its money accompanies the contract, which in summary recommends I “strongly consider travel insurance” unquote.

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So Plan F remains incomplete. I’ve heard that people sometimes leave it to chance, bumming a lift back to civilisation with other, better prepared hikers.  But I have a plane to catch, so a plan which effectively relies on the kindness of strangers or a 178km walk is actually no plan at all. I know it’s no fun to get hung up on the minutiae, but it’s gotta get done. Its got to the point that I’m beginning to suspect the logistics are kept purposefully fraught by Tasmania Parks & Wildlife in an effort to discourage out of season hikers. If you walk the OLT in the summer, you pay $200 to be part of a strict quota system, are subject to much more nannying by the rangers, and are less likely to be the subject of an expensive emergency extraction.

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For the sake of being difficult, I don’t care whether TP&W want people hiking the OLT in winter or not. I won’t be sling-shotting Spotted Pardalotes for sport or chasing Eastern Quolls through the sclerophyll forests with my Becker BK2 clenched between my teeth (blade outward, of course — I’m all about safety). If I do trample any poor Ammonite Snails, trust me, it won’t be on purpose, and the only fauna in any real danger from me will be the mosquitos and leeches looking to make me into a meal. If see a Tasmanian Tiger, I’ll take a photograph for my own memories if I can, but I’d never breathe a word of it to another living soul.