The walk: This guidebook covers the Overland Track in Tasmania’s spectacular Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, located within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The 82-kilometre route from Cradle Valley to Lake St Clair is described in daily stages, along with optional side trips to the area’s many extra delights which include peaks, waterfalls and a hidden valley.

The Overland Track is walked by about 9,000 people every year, almost a quarter of whom come from overseas. Lonely Planet lists this walk as one of their top ten in the world, guaranteeing it an assured place on every bushwalker’s bucket lists.

 

The publisher: Cicerone Press is a well-established UK based guidebook publisher who produce over 350 international guidebooks for walking, trekking, climbing, mountaineering and cycling. Most of their guidebooks cover the UK and Europe, and Hiking the Overland Track is Cicerone’s first Australian guidebook.

Cicerone is an unusual business name that is derived from the Italian language, which means “a guide who shows and explains the antiquities of a place to strangers”. Well played.

 

The author: Warwick Sprawson is a Melbourne based writer. As well as regular contributions to Great Walks, Wild and Australian Geographic, he has been published in numerous literary magazines.

Warwick has authored an earlier version of an Overland Track guidebook with another publisher, which explains the clarity, detail and authority he brings to this edition.

 

Overview: the book is logically laid out in 3 broad areas:

  1. Introduction and Planning: This covers the area’s distinctive geology and its aboriginal and European history. It has handy safety information and route-summary tables, as well as several vignettes of very interesting historical characters. The important practicalities of getting there, when to go, what you need, and how much it all costs are all found here. Useful information on the booking system and how the huts operate is also covered. Everything you need to know before you go is included.
  2. Day by day guide to the route: This is based on seven sections, one per day, based on the most common hut to hut sequence. Each section has a map and elevation profile. The evolving scenery, landscape and vegetation are vividly described as you transition through it. Margin notes and inset text boxes provide specific site-based insights, which makes what might be a mundane read always interesting.
  3. Plants and Animal Guide: This is a delightful highlight and is complete with a quality photograph of each specimen, and a description of the relevant identifying features. The Flora section details 47 of the species found in the park and describes their specific size, flowers, foliage, fruit and bark. You will become an instant expert with this information. The Animal guide describes 35 of the fascinating mammals, birds and snakes you are likely to come across on this trip (in the very, very unlikely event you are bitten by a snake, quickly flip to page 68 for the correct and up to date treatment advice).

The Maps: The book has 18 colour maps including an overview map. The daily route maps are strip format at a 1:50,000 scale with 40-metre contour intervals. This is an appropriate scale for this application. Rivers, creeks, lakes, huts and peaks are labelled. Mapping data is sourced from OpenStreetMap (OSM) with NASA relief data. Strangely the maps have no gridlines, nor are there any elevations for the contour lines. Gridlines are handy to quickly estimate distances. I found these omissions disconcerting as it makes them look like picture images, rather than real maps.

 

The Pictures: A whopping 141 high-quality colour pictures are well placed throughout the book to provide an engaging, easy to ready style. The scenery shots all have suitable captions. The book has a pleasing design with a good balance of text, pictures and tables. A sample of the book is available here.

 

Physical dimensions: The book has 204 pages and is 116mm x 171mm and 10mm thick, which is an ideal pocket size. It weighs 230 grams and is printed on FSC Mix paper – a combination of virgin fibre from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests, and of recycled fibres.

Support: This is a 2020 first edition, and all guidebooks eventually become out of date. Fortunately, Cicerone offer a registration service for you to be notified by email when the book receives an update or correction, which is a nice proactive touch. Not that you need it to walk the route, but Cicerone have also said they offer the route as a GPX download for mobile devices or GPS, however at the time of writing this is not available yet.

What I Like

  • Accurate and accessible content in a logical layout. Generously illustrated with excellent photographs. Compact format.
  • Good local advice clearly informed by on-track experience (one example is how the cheeky currawongs can open packs, and the steps to take to keep your Snickers bars safe).
  • The ubiquitous Suggested Equipment List is sensible, without being patronising.

What I Don’t Like

  • Some plants referred to in the Route Guide are not listed in the Plant Guide appendix.
  • No gridlines on maps. Contour index lines don’t have elevations.
  • For the uber pedants, there is a spelling error on page 66 and a syntax error on page 67.

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Hiking the Overland Track by Warwick Sprawson is available online from Booktopia.

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Disclaimer: Cicerone Press has provided a copy of the book for review and another two copies for the giveaway. The Booktopia link above is an affiliate link. None of this has any influence on the opinions presented in this review.
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