Day 5: Four Ways to Waterfall Valley Hut
29.04km; 7:53hrs ; 1370m ascent
…continued from part 1/4…
…An hour later and we were ready to hit the road again, this time with Em’s brother and sister in law. They kept us company and entertained us in cold, wet blustery conditions until just past Marian’s Lookout, when they had to scoot back down to make the last shuttle bus from Dove Lake. Todd gave Em two rolls and some snakes to keep us going, which was super sweet and made for a tasty dinner alongside a lentil pie from Em’s mum! What luxury!!
I was surprised at how many people were still on the track – thinking we’d set off pretty late especially as we were walking from the visitors centre. We passed a few groups and worried about one older woman walking alone. We were glad to see her at the hut later that evening.
When we arrived we went to set up the tent, only to find we’d made a crucial mistake. We’d been using Em’s double tent but it had leaked a bit in the rain so thought we’d use mine, which we had set aside for this very kind of thing. But in a mix of lending people gear, the single tent I had set aside for Charlotte on our third leg got mixed up with the double . Oops! We were either going to get super snuggly or use the hut for our Overland track experience!
The volunteer warden there noticed something about us, and even though we weren’t in the mood to have light hearted chatter with the new discovery on our hands, we obviously tried hard enough, and soon she was offering for us to stay in the old trappers hut. Our ears pricked up! Hell yes! We could avoid people (and Covid, as no one was wearing masks!) and still have space. That sorted the night ahead of us. We could probably juggle the rest until our final night on the road near the King William range.
Except… Em has one of the best brothers in the world. A message from her In-reach got to him and he was good enough to change his plans to bring the double tent to us at New Pelion the next day (it was in Em’s van that he was driving). Phew, minor catastrophe sorted. We knew we’d be close this trip and wouldn’t be hiding much from one another, but we both prefer a little more space than that to sleep! We had a much more relaxed evening, delicious dinner (as described), did some stretches on the hut floor and fell asleep feeling super grateful for all the generous people out there.
Day 6: Waterfall Valley Hut to New Pelion Hut
22.83km; 5:54hrs; 607m ascent
Chatter from a solo currawong, the nearby waterfall and the wind in the trees drew me from my sleep as dawn arrived. A hint of colour at the bottom of the thick cloud heralded a finer day ahead as we said hello to the wallabies on our way from the hut to the track. It had been a lovely stay there, which couldn’t have had better timing for us!
We motored along, our shoulders feeling the weight of our food restock. We each had a few niggles we were nursing, but our bodies were holding up pretty well considering our average day length of 21 or so kilometres. The walking was good, the boardwalk made for easy going and we had a tent mission driving us on!
Sadly, trying to get to New Pelion by 2pm to meet Todd and Elyse and grab our double tent meant bypassing two side trips, one to see some old indigenous artefacts and another to see a cave. They would have to wait to another time. We made it, but Todd and Elyse had left the tent and headed for the summit of Ossa, which we were super happy to hear (we’d already messed their holiday plans around a lot!). We pitched it, went for a wash in the river and spent the afternoon eating, playing cards and relaxing.
It was a good one for Em to be into camp early, as it was the one day of our trip where we were in the same spot at the same time as her partner’s guiding trip, so she got to say hello and have a chat, a hug and a kiss. These sound like small things, but being away from special people for a few weeks feels like a lifetime and the little things are cherished all the more. In the evening we both chatted with their group a bit and polished off the last two pieces of their lemon and passionfruit cheesecake, for which we were most grateful!
Day 7: New Pelion Hut to Bert Nichols Hut
18.6km; 5:50hrs (with a LONG break); 615m ascent
We decided we could treat ourselves to a later start and lengthy breaks for this ‘shorter’ day. It didn’t get off to a good start with possums disturbing us throughout the night, one getting stuck in my pack cover and not wanting to leave, necessitating a midnight trip with our packs to the hut to remove all temptation. We still got visits, but at least no more tangled possums requiring manual handling for successful removal.
We still had our late start, though not much of a sleep in. I did a great job of spilling my boiled breakfast water on the inside of my knee, which didn’t impress me but at least I had a few days for it to heal before we hit scrub. No reception at Pelion Gap didn’t help, there was a message I wanted to send, but it was fair enough, the wilderness should be a little wild. Em wasn’t fairing any better, having just said goodbye to Ben for the next three weeks. I wasn’t sure if it was better to have had the chance to say hello, and then to have to say goodbye again, or just not to…although I know what I’d have chosen if choosing was an option.
A teary moment and a big hug later and off we went, entertaining thoughts of a burger at the Hungry Wombat in a few days time. We passed by magnificent mountains… Ossa, Cathedral, Hyperion.. then into forest. Kia Ora came sooner than expected and we took our longest rest ever, taking advantage of the reception there to send our messages, eat snacks, patch a shoe hole and generally cheer up. We eventually dragged ourselves away and set off on the next section to Bert Nichols Hut aka Windy Ridge. It’s generally a little less impressive with a relative lack of mountain views and it was just as well, we were pretty busy chattering and planning away.
In this fashion we made it to Bert Nichols Hut by mid afternoon and once again settled into washing ourselves, snacking and listening to Harry Potter! We even had a stretch on the abrasive helipad, chatted to another paramedic we knew there and settled in for an early night again. I lay awake for a long time listening to the wind in the trees above, thinking about things and people, and trying not to bump my hot knee or wake Em with my fidgeting.
Day 8: Bert Nichols Hut to Fergie’s Paddock
28.05km, 7:45hrs, 453m ascent
We woke to early birds traipsing past the tent, presumably on their way to the ferry, and packed efficiently under light misty drizzle that never really threatened to wet us. As we readied ourselves sun shone through a small hole in the clouds right onto the Du Cane range, it was a pretty moment and bode well for a day of good weather. Then we were off, marching along the track, another less exciting section in my book.
Within a few hours we were at Narcissus Hut, but we kept on walking, planning on seeing how well Em’s tender ankle would take us. Shortly before Echo Point we came across a group of 7 or 8 older ladies who were part of a north west women’s walking group and were spending the day walking from Narcissus to Lake St Clair, having walked the Rufus circuit the day before. They let us past, but as we walked off ahead both of us were thinking the same thing and we decided we’d quite like to walk with them for a bit. They seemed like lovely people and we wanted to get to know them a bit. We stopped at a creek and waited for them, then asked permission. They were more than happy to have us along, so we walked with them to Echo Point hut and sat with them as they pulled out rather delicious and fresh looking lunches compared to our nuts and dried fruit snacks.
We ended up scooting ahead after lunch, keen to get a proper meal at the Lake St Clair Lodge restaurant, but unsure what time they were open to (their website wasn’t helpful and they didn’t answer our multiple phone calls either). We got there before 4pm and figured it was dinner time. The pizza and burger we shared weren’t exactly the tastiest we’d had, but they were very good for our hungry tummies! The two pieces of cake we took back to our tent to enjoy with another evening session of Harry Potter were better though 😉, especially as they came after our evening swim in the lake.
Day 9: Fergie’s Paddock to the Lyell Highway, Derwent Bridge (aka rest day)
6.66km, 1:28 hrs, 20m ascent
The currawongs led the morning song, with all the others joining in for the chorus. I lay there as Em slept, enjoying the music. Today had been the day we planned on walking up and over Rufus to stay at the Gingerbread hut, but the weather was forecast to be averagely wet (an improvement on earlier in the week) and the idea of a burger at the Hungry Wombat and a rest day before our next leg got the better of us.
And so we planned to laze around, go for another swim, then walk the short distance to the Hungry Wombat, where we would drink coffee while we waited for two special people. Ben was due through with the group he was guiding and Em was very keen to see him one last time. Tim was also driving up to see us – something he’d kept well under wraps until I asked too many questions the night before!
But Tim still planned a surprise and shortly after 7 as we were lying in the tent thinking about a swim a ‘wake up slackers’ rang out. We still had our morning as planned, but with extra company! We pigged out on the best burgers ever while we watched our first (and only!) two wedgies for the trip soar overhead. Then we whiled away the afternoon by eating (all of Tim’s) snacks and playing games, then snooker as we waited for a slightly disappointing meal at the Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel (expensive, small, busy and nothing special). In short, if you’re in the area and hungry, the Hungry Wombat is best pick for food.
Day 10: Lyell Highway to Harback’s Road
12.98km; 2:54hrs; 122m ascent
Another lazy start saw us eat egg and bacon rolls at the Hungry Wombat, stock up on real food for the rest of the day, then walk an easy day to Harback’s Road, where we’d spend the night and meet Em’s mum the following morning for our second food drop as well as Charlotte, who was joining us for our next leg. Tim drove ahead then walked back to meet us. He also charged devices and left us with a whole heap of water, so we could camp in a rather lovely spot that had views of the King William Range and Slatters Peak across the button grass plain, rather than beside the stagnant smelly river I’d expected to be full of nice flowing water.
We bode him farewell (some people have to work), sorted our tent and spent the afternoon relaxing with the bumble bees, Em’s over-catering on snacks and more Harry Potter. One line, something akin to ‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities’ that struck a note with me and I scribbled it down to ponder a bit more on at some later time. I think it struck a note because it’s one of the things I love about Em and one of the things the trip would highlight. She is often unsure if she can do something (like scrub bashing, navigating, walking for 4 weeks in the bush etc) but she always gives it a crack and usually ends up finding out she can. We took a break so I could pose in photos for Em, finished off the Chamber of Secrets and then played a close game of gin rummy until it was too cool to sit out any longer.
…to be continued in part 3/4!