Tuesday, 19 January 2016
Side Trips: Old Pelion Hut & Douglas Creek
Day 3. The Long Day. Day 3 was the reason I had the kids do an 18k hilly day walk with me at Mt Rufus in December. Day 3 was what we'd trained for. Day 3 was what they'd fretted about. Day 3 was finally here..
We started at 1000m elevation but dropped down to the lowest point of the trail 700m at Forth River, at the half way point, before climbing back up to 830m. According to the guidebook, 37% of the overland track is covered in some form of boardwalk. Most of this can be found in the first half of the 80k trail - and I'd say a lot of was a featured in today's walk which made most of the going quite easy.
It's been so dry that when the trail was on so-called 'natural surfaces' it was completely dry anyway - in fact, aside from when Clare threw me into a bog, my shoes barely got damp all week - unheard of walking conditions really.
setting off across the boardwalks
A lookout, 4 km into the day
This stretch had some memories for Clare and I. In 1989 we left Windemere under clearing skies. So much so that Toby (1 of our party of 4), stopped to put on sunscreen about 10 minutes after we left. 'you'll catch up' we said as we marched on. However not too much later, for reasons we can't quite remember, the 3 of us somehow left the trail for a few minutes - I suspect it was to look at a view, but the details are hazy. Unfortunately Toby came past us at this exact moment, and not realising he was overtaking us, he then spent the rest of the day thinking he was behind us, while we were actually chasing him. Upon reaching the nominal end the hiking day - Pelion Hut, Toby didn't find us, so he went on and walked another day's worth of distance. We must have realised he had done this so we were forced to walk on too - passing through Pelion Gap under beautiful blue skies but with no option of stopping for the 3hr side trip up Ossa.
Finally at the end of some 25km, we found Toby sitting on the bridge at the Kia Ora camping site. He was probably eating a Mars bar, as much to my amusement, he had packed some 18 mars bars for the trip. Between the other 3 of us I don't think we packed more than 1 family sized block - which was of course a huge mistake. I don't remember if anyone was cross when we finally reunited, but I do remember being fairly tired and a bit disappointed about missing Mt Ossa. Toby was a nice guy, very easy going and a popular relaxed guy at school. He was also a talented artist. I didn't know him all that well but I liked him. When I returned from Norway I discovered that Toby had died in a motorcycle crash not long after we walked the OT. It seems very unfair that Toby hasn't been able to experience all the years we've been lucky enough to have since that time. In fact on this trip I've brought along actual hard evidence of the intervening years and adventures I've had - my husband and children, my experiences in Norway and my enduring friendship with Clare (bog tossing aside)... I'm very grateful.
It had been a long day already (12k to that point - walking at a pace of between 4k and 5k an hour). I wasn't walking near her as she started to flag but I've since heard that a combined distraction effort from Jon and Clare kept her moving until we caught sight of the Pelion Hut.
relief! almost there!
Pelion Hut was the flashiest of all the huts we encountered - it had a huge balcony for admiring the views of Mt Oakleigh, and the inside had separate bunk rooms which each slept 6. Luxury! It was still nicer to be outside though as the huts got dark inside quite early.
After putting our tents up at the group camping platform (from which we got booted off from later in the day when an actual booked 'group', of 3, came along). We relaxed for a few minutes then headed back down the track to the old pelion hut, where we could all have a well deserved swim. The water was freezing but it was still nice to get wet.
Our short-lived stay on the group camping site..the grass was nicer anyway.
That evening we cooked up one of my recent camping meal inventions - marakesh curry with cous cous, which was damm right delicious, then Jon and Bjorn gave each other back massages, much to the amusement of the kids.
After dinner we had our hot chocolate rations, then we brought out the specially packed Toby Eaton memorial mars bar. "To Toby", we said, as we each ate our share.