Last night, I prepared my homemade dehy meal and slid into my sleeping bag at 9 pm. I had a couple of mouthfuls of dinner and quickly slipped off to sleep for nine hours. It’s tiring carrying a bit over 30 kg in my pack, even on nearly flat ground.

I had been wondering about stopping with only an hour to go to Downie Hut, but in the morning, it proved to be considerably more than an hour.

DOC has cut a new track to avoid a section where the old four-wheel drive track has been washed out, and the markers lead a long way up the hill to cross a very steep and deep ravine. After an hour, I hadn’t progressed far at all. If the Matakitaki River is low, it is certainly quicker to take the direct valley floor route, with a few river crossings starting just before you get to McKellar Stream.

Eventually, I staggered in to use the picnic table and wondered about the recently built toilet, designed for giants.

Crossing the Matakitaki River was straightforward, but it wouldn’t take much to up the safety assessment. The water was over my knees and flowing swiftly.

Burn Creek had plenty of fallen trees in it that required circumventing and numerous crossings due to bluffs and other obstacles but with a very much lesser volume.

I bashed up the increasingly chunky creek until, with a cascade of bus-sized rocks hindering easy access, I moved into the slightly easier forest and found an old NZFS track, at times, and followed it all the way to the side stream crossing, where I started climbing Jacobs Ladder.

New blue markers have been added to show the route, and the first 30 minutes up to the high point above the bluffs have been well cleared, I spent three hours on that little section. After that, it’s the at times sporadic blue markers, a few bits of orange flagging, and sometimes just the jungle. Just bash on until you see the next hint, which can be following a few cut twigs until Rough and Tumble Creek.

This time, I followed the track, mostly, rather than bashing up the creek and having a great time avoiding a small waterfall.

The newly marked track was sometimes rather vague, ie, nonexistent, but I kept smashing on and suddenly came across more markers.

The descent to the Burn Creek goldfield campsite was a mission, and I popped out to see blue markers just 10 m away, marking the start of the climb. This has subsequently been re-marked on an old deer trail, ie, a more obvious route.

It was 8 pm when I struggled into the most marvellous of campsites, putting my tent up in the near dark.

The Burn Creek goldfield is one of my favourite campsites, with the rush of the water a fine musical accompaniment to the experience. No chance of being disturbed.

My aging body was feeling the work, and it might be a slow start in the morning.

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