That night it rained and blew. I rested safe in my little tent under the tarp, a bit sodden from all the condensation but otherwise slept magnificently, waking once around midnight to take the obligatory caffeine-withdrawal-headache pain killers, and to pee through the doorway out into the darkness (and onto my gaiters). Pre-dawn, I breakfasted and made ready, then struck camp once I could see my hands infront of my face. What promised to be a windy and even wetter day settled to a breathless but only averagely wet day, and as my boots returned to the muddy track proper there was this sense of deja vu, as if I’d negotiated this exact terrain a hundred times before. Which I had.
Only 7.1km to walk today, and I expected to reach my next hut just in time for a nice, hot lunch. New Pelion Hut it’s called, a popular base for a number of hikes, which sleeps up to 36 people, on the edge of a wide space called Pelion Plain. Somebody had a fixation for the name ‘Pelion’ obviously, a mountain in Greece, but also a Spanish word for somebody who likes to argue. So I should feel right at home! Anyway, more forest, the same exciting mixture of myrtle and beech, with the OLT skirting the flank of Mt Pelion West for an hour or so, descending to Frog Flats, a smallish clearing where there wasn’t a frog to be seen nor heard. This was the lowest point of the entire OLT, at about 730m, and prone to significant flooding, but I swear there was more water coming down the track than there was at the bottom. So where did it all go? I don’t know — it’s a mystery — maybe the frogs intercepted it and stored it in gigantic underground reservoirs like the Fremen on Arrakis… That’s what I would have told a child under six, had I thought to bring one with me, but all of my kids are now adults and they would have spurned my sodden attempt at wit contemptuously.
Frog Flats yielded to more uphill walking through (surprise!) more myrtle and beech forests, at which point I had to stop and discretely return some of the water I had borrowed from Mother Nature back to whence it came, albeit of a slightly different colour and viscosity, more treacle due to dehydration than lemon-barley cordial. No real chance of exposing myself to other walkers unless they literally tripped over me, or spied me from afar with a bloody good pair of binoculars (it being a very cold morning). I do know that the Rangers prefer you do your business at the huts, and I’d seen centipedes the size of banana lounges raiding bird’s nests up in the trees (okay, so that’s a lie), thus I had no interest in toileting in the woods lest some savage arthropod nip me on the butt, or a sly (and, let’s face it, much more likely) leech attempt to demonstrate pharyngeal peristalsis on my willy, a la the scene from ‘Stand by Me‘ .
The silver lining to today’s cloud, however, was the short walk, and soon enough the woods opened up to eucalypts and away to my right was revealed a wide plain filled with silvery tarns and the vague outline of another lost mountain. A welcome signpost announced New Pelion Hut only ten-minutes away, and so I arrived with a spring in my step at midday to a Russian girl resting her legs while her friends summited Mt Oakleigh. She dived into her sleeping bag upon my arrival in an unmistakable display of international friendship, only emerging when she heard the familiar inflections of yet another Russian, a cocky young imbecile who was planning to hike the OLT in two days, stick his head in briefly to make sure his heroics weren’t passing unnoticed. I didn’t care, I had a huge bowl of vegetarian laksa to ingest, and left them to it.
That afternoon, while reading ‘South’ by Sir Ernest Henry Shackelton on the verandah, the Swiss couple, Canadian guys, and another squad of Russians arrived. But I’d already commandeered all the prime real estate on the drying rack over the heater, and despite the fact the Russians outnumbered the Finns eight to one, they’d met those odds before and learned their lesson. With that petty, yet oddly satisfying victory, thus ended Day Three on the Overland Track.