(Australian Associated Press)
There is an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minneapolis which is so quiet, you can here your own heartbeat and your stomach gurgle.
The walls are made up of patterned tiles of wedges, each specifically designed to absorb sound, and the floor is netted with mesh to isolate it from the movements of the outside world.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest anyone can bear the quiet is 45 minutes.
In Tasmania, in the midst of winter and at the height of Cradle Mountain, the deafening silence makes me think of the ‘no echo’ chamber. We’ve been out trudging through the snow for more than three hours and are yet to feel the heavy burden of silence described by those who have braved the chamber.
Lake St Clair National Park is home to the mountain – known for its ancient pine forests, waterfalls, valleys and wildlife. In July though, the Overland Track is covered in thick, white sheets of snow.
Our boots fall victim to it. We sink lower and lower each step, dragged down by the weight of our packs which are stuffed with thermals, snacks, water and a trusty old film camera (remember those?)
We give in to the battle of trying to not to sink and instead turn our focus to the sea of white. I look behind me and see nothing but our footsteps imprinted in the snow. I look forward and shout my name. I wait for an echo in reply, but instead my voice falls silent, suffocated by clouds of snow.
We are beyond mobile reception and have left the everyday behind.
I can feel my heart pounding underneath the layers of thermals held in by my oversized snow jacket. We are alone out here, surrounded by a white carpet – a perfume of cooling mist lifting from its surface.
It’s another world and while my body is frozen from head to toe – my palms are sweaty.
Probably a good thing we signed in at the start of the hike, I think to myself.
The six-kilometre track, which in summer would probably take two or so hours to complete, lures us into a long haul adventure with its tricks.
The track starts with a welcoming wooden pathway surrounded by warm red-brown-coloured lakes and golden-leaved-trees. You giggle past the “Wombat Poo” sign and smile at the eagle-eye views of the lakes at the base of the mountain as you climb higher. The air is fresh but it doesn’t yet burn your lungs and the ground is damp, but there is a clear and sturdy path.
It’s only once you climb the steel rope up a small but sharp vertical path that the temperature subtly drops and so too the number of tourists, turning back to the elegant lakes.
I was shocked by the instant change. Within a metre, my feet went from sliding on the muddy, wet ground to squashing clumps of snow. There is a beauty to the simplicity of this hike.
The silence is certainly one. The fact that we get to see it all again on the return back is another.
* The writer travelled at her own expense.