Rather than ambling the well-trod four or five-day Travers-Sabine loop this trip was the full 14 day spin of the national park perimeter.
That means for 11 of the days I saw, umm, no one else. Lucky I was happy just mooching around remote places on his lonesome.
The itinerary, sort of pre-planned: starting in downtown St Arnaud to D’Urville Hut, the route basically moved west, hopping over into the Mataki valley, all the way up to Bobs Hut, ie, just a day and a half from the Lewis Pass, then returning via David Saddle in the fog, Moss Pass, the clearest freshwater in the universe at Blue Lake, Travers Saddle in the snow, to St Arnaud.
The Nelson Lakes might have been well populated as I set out, due to an Anzac Day long weekend, but once in the more remote parts, ie, by Day 3, people seemed to find other places they would rather be for those next 11 days.
So if you want to get away from fellow trampers, have the decent huts to yourself at night, the upper Mataki and D’Urville valleys provide plenty of personal space, those long autumn nights give bulk time for introspection. For some reason not so many venture over to Bobs Hut or the East Mataki. The tracks and huts are well maintained, passing through decently scenic territory, just not often used.
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Nelson Lakes Big Circuit | man, all that time on your lonesome
A 14-day solo tramp could well be the full meditation on loneliness, setting out to the more remote sectors of Nelson Lakes National Park, knowing the full unlikelihood of encountering too many others in the travels at this time of the season, ie, mid-autumn.
The reality is, for those of the more solitary disposition, it’s entirely regenerative to spend time free from the demands of the modern world, well, any demands whatsoever.
There’s a plan, of a sort, enough preparations, but the itinerary is fluid, changeable to suit the circumstances, like the weather, or, just changing your mind.
In any case, there’s a swag of somewhat mechanical operations required when you leave the conveniences of civilisation. There’s the actual walking done during the day, five hours of walking time is a reasonable day in the office, and that’s generally sufficient effort for your average middle-aged bloke to hump a humungous load on their shoulders, at least for the first days, and then with a long sequence of day on day walking. Once the load dissipates somewhat, the food ballast at a low ebb, well, those last two days, then, fully accustomed to the walking thing, it’s no big deal to race on out.
So walking, what else?
Then, generally, before darkness overtakes, some firewood collection, there’s generally forest around with some standing big timber to reconnoitre and gather. There will be no doubt be times when any excess is appreciated by those for whom the conditions are more employment inclement. Historically staring into the burning wood as being the television of the times, endless fascination for those of a more reflective disposition.
Those with more literary aspirations might bung down the thoughts of the day before tiredness overcomes the body completely. I try to crank out four hundred or so words each evening while still somewhat frisky.
There is food preparation and scoffing, for some the speedier the better, austerity assists there, with the bonus of making you more appreciative of fine dining back in the big city.
With darkness crashing in early, they might be long autumn nights but physical exhaustion soon overtakes the mind, and some horizontality is required, snoring not long away.
You might think that even for your average introvert there is time to feel lonely but believe me, the reality is there’s just none. Particularly if you can shut down your mind to some degree, avoiding anticipation, ie, thoughts of the future, or dragging up memories, similarly for the past. Instead, just concentrate on the here and right now, what’s happening this instant, those sharp gusts of wind up the valley, the creaking of the bunk, the warm glow of the limbs, the slow rhythm of breathing, the strong beat of heart.
Away from the blur and hustle of modern life, these are the aspects of life that fundamentally matter, we need an occasional reminder, this is why these long trips are of consequence.