It was a spectacular morning on the tarn ledge overlooking some gnarly mountains.

No hurry, I only had to get down to Branch Bivvy, which wasn’t too far away, although it was a fairly severe altitude difference. Maybe even Bottom Misery Hut if I felt frisky.

Considering the proximity to Nelson Lakes National Park, this area on the other side of the Wairau River is surprisingly little visited. Of course, the lack of tracks will put many people off.

This was just magnificent, however. The early morning sunlight created shadows on the impressively steep mountain directly in front of me. There are times when you just wonder why you haven’t been to an area sooner, but I guess it’s better late than never.

There is such joy in camping at altitude on a windless night, cloudless also, with remarkable views in each direction. You don’t need permission. You can camp anywhere, and if you possess a backcountry pass you can stay in any of these huts for nothing additional.

In view of the lack of publicity, few other trampers even consider the area. I was so lucky to have it all to myself.

That’s one of the joys of tramping on your lonesome, you can dream up and modify your itinerary to suit the circumstances.

However, as it turned out, it was a bit of a morning.

The tussock was the usual, ie, quite hard to see the ground, or lack thereof. Easy to trip up in. I avoided the damp areas, and the stream, and instead took to the rocky parts and scree. Avoided the speargrass. Mostly.

That kinda worked.

I looked out for a DOC marker near the bushline, they usually have a huge orange triangle to direct you to the start of the track. Nothing apparent. I wasn’t even certain about the animal track I was on.

In the end, I swung quite a way on the true left rather than following the stream. That worked well for a while, the animal tracks stopped and started.

Then I followed an unmarked track down a ridgeline that looked appealing. That went on for a short stretch.

Then evaporated.

I kept descending. It became super steep, but there was plenty to hang onto. Somehow I went down the 5 m bluff while hanging onto vegetation. That’s the way to get down in a hurry.

A bee stung me on the middle of my left hand.

I thought about other things I could be doing on a Monday morning.

A clear path ducked around a bluff, and then stopped, so I was bush bashing again. I could hear the river reasonably close so I made for that, thinking a track would be either side.


Now on the true right, I just smashed my way down the last 150 m of elevation to the river flats.

Two deer ambled around not being able to smell me due to the wind direction. Eventually, they took off.

I certainly appreciated the open river flats. Easy-going, except they stopped quickly, and I was in the forest again.

Just followed various animal tracks down to the flat where the bivvy was, confronting the vegetation as was required.

Two more deer lay sunbathing on the grass in another large clearing not far from the bivvy, chewing cud. I took various photos without attempting to get too close. I sat for half an hour, getting cool in the shade due to due to having become quite wet in the stream, despite the mostly blue sky. I had to give up my observation post, and they ambled slowly off.

I thought I might as well stay inside for the first night on this trip. And experience a relaxing afternoon for a change.

The bivvy was quite tiny, I could barely stand up in it, and the bunk was too short to actually stretch out. I found I was the first occupant for six weeks, and it had been eight months since the lot before that.

I guess I could have gone on to Bottom Misery Hut, but there was no hurry. It was super windy by this stage, so I really picked my calm night on the tops.

Tomorrow is another day.

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