Today’s plan was to get away early and walk from Meston Hut to Junction Lake Hut , across the Never Never to Hartnett Falls and then join the Overland Track and head north to Kia Ora Hut. The area marked in red on the map is the route we took in the “Never Never”
We had stopped early the day before and spent the night at Meston Hut so time was of the essence as it was to be a long day, particularly as this was unexplored territory for all of our party. The track from Meston to Junction Lake was not very clear and we discovered that we had missed a turn and had to moss, bog and bush bash the last kilometre or so to Junction Lake Hut. Even though Colin had carefully plotted our route on our GPS’s (we had two between the 5 of us) it was still a bit tricky navigating and the terrain occassionally difficult. We (well I was anyway) were glad to reach Junction Lake Hut.
From Junction Lake Hut we worked our way around the Lake to the west and headed to the Never Never. According to Chapman, we then had to follow the Mersey River and find a log to cross the river before McCoy Falls. This meant that we did a LOT of bush and tea tree bashing along the river trying to find a suitable log. Combined with several open areas of mossy, boggy, wet areas, the walking was interesting and varied. The track WAS marked here for about the first one or two km and then the markers seemed to disappear, other than an occasional tape tied to a tree.The problem with these tapes is that they were intermittent and you just could not trust them……
On the Never Never ,crossing yet another section of boggy ground. Lots of ground water, holes and spagnum moss. The Mersey River is to the right of picture.
The only log we could find that was suitable for us to use to cross the Mersey River. Colin, with his ice axe, was able to make the top of the log less like an ice skating rink (with curves) and more like just a very slippery log. We all struggled a bit to hold our footing but got across without incident (or drowning)
The GPS point for the river crossing tree is S41 55.264 E146 08.980 (all care , no responsibility my friends).Next time we go through the Never Never, we will keep well north of the Mersey River i.e. to the right of the valley, closer to Convent Hill. This looked looked a LOT DRYER and with less dense tea tree. We will then use the GPS waypoint to cut straight across to the log (hopefully it will still be there) and save about 1-2 hours of bushbashing and very wet feet!
Once across the Mersey River it was a simple matter of following the river downstream , past McCoy Falls to Hartnett Falls. Well, unfortunately, it was not THAT simple a matter. The tracks here vary from wonderful (see picture below) to non existant or basically animal pads that go UNDER the tea tree. Bush bashing was at the fore again and we finally made the Hartnett Falls track.
Some really nice track along the Mersey River heading towards Hartnet Falls. None of us stopped in the tea tree to record the fun we were having digitally!
At this point I discoved my much loved and very necessary Gortex hiking raincoat was missing from the back of my pack (where I had tucked it between the compression straps) . I was not just pissed off about losing my very expensive jacket AND my waterprooof mittens, safely zipped in its pockets. I was REALLY pissed off about having to backtrack through the mud and very thick tea tree to find it! I was also very cross with myself as I am not usually in the habit of tying gear all over my pack FOR THIS VERY REASON.
Colin (my hero) and I set off , using the Track Back function on our GPS’s, and within 20 minutes had found the jacket, undamaged, just swinging in a tree. Thank you to the GPS gods. We set off back to Hartnett Falls and ,following a quick look, headed up the track to the falls / Overland Track junction to catch the others who had gone ahead.
The rest of the day was a sprint to Kia Ora Hut, with a quick rest at Du Cain Hut. We walked the last 30 minutes or so as darkness started to descend on the Overland Track. We were thankful that we had been in the area before and were happy to press on , headlights dimly showing us the way. Clare, Sue and I were VERY happy to reach Kia Ora Hut about 6pm and catch up with Colin and Gary, who had arrived some time before. Surprisingly, there were about 12 others in and around the hut that night. About 6 or 8 were heading south after doing the Overland from Cradle Mountain and two other would be heading in our direction, to Pelion Hut the next day.
Sue and I set up the tent in the rain as we decided to enjoy a snoring and humidity free night. A great meal was enjoyed followed by a very early night , as we had been walking for around 10 hours that day and sleep was a really high priority