Heading to the West Coast | January/February 2020

After some time in recuperation from my Waingaro/Anatoki circuit, and with the weather forecast looking great I decided to finally revisit two small huts of my youth: Burn Creek and Nardoo, accessed from the Matakitaki River valley.

I visited both in my last year at school, and now, decades later, it was time for a revisitation. Not simply to get back in touch with my schooldays, although there was that, but also to document the last two huts in Nelson Lakes National Park for this website.


And yeah, it had a few days of pure arm wrestle. No wonder it had taken me so long.

Then, time for an actual track or two.

One was keeping the summer’s old gold mining theme, a rip around the Kirwans Track loop near Reefton.

Then, unfinished business, a cruise up to the last hut on the new Great Walk: the Paparoa Track. Still not fully open due to the major slip, but I could walk 16 km up the incline to check out the Punakaiki end.

Overall, mostly decent weather.

And plenty of energy expenditure.

No wonder I can’t get any of my friends to tramp with me.

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Matakitaki Day 1 | Downie Hut

Getting ready to rinse my feet. Deeper than it looked.  | Matakitaki River, Nelson Lakes National Park

Despite the Matakitaki River being as low as it gets due to the lack of rain, I was quite surprised by the amplified depth where I chose to cross, and, wondered about my judgment in not packing away all my electronic gear.

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Matakitaki Day 2 | Burn Creek gold miners campsite

The bluffs I am about to climb around on the way to Burn Creek Hut.  | Burn Creek, Nelson Lakes National Park

When I say “track”, this is being exceedingly generous.

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Matakitaki Day 3 | Burn Creek Hut

Not too many go via the dramatic south branch of Burn Creek.  | Burn Creek, Nelson Lakes National Park

Strange to be back in the hut I last visited when I was 16.

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Matakitaki Day 4 | Burn Creek Hut

Two red deer spotted from my bunk at Burn Creek Hut.  | Burn Creek, Nelson Lakes National Park

Last night, just on dusk, I watched as four deer cruised past the hut, although on the other side of the river.

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Matakitaki Day 5 | Nardoo Hut

The long ridge at the Nardoo Basin looking to Point 1916 from Emily Peaks.  | Nardoo Basin, Nelson Lakes National Park

Then I videoed a short speech of me promising myself only to walk on marked DOC tracks henceforth.

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Matakitaki Day 6 | Murchison

Nardoo Creek with the Ella Range in the distance, from near Nardoo Hut.  | Nardoo Creek, Nelson Lakes National Park

Last hour and a half was a tough trudge on a hard road in the hot sun, in my sloshing boots.

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Kirwans Track, Day 1 | Kirwans Hut

Massive red beech trees on the way to Kirwans Hut. | Kirwans Track, Victoria Range

From the hut site the big Inangahua River valley could be seen, but an Australian bushfire haze obscured much of the view of the Paparoa Range in the distance.

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Kirwans Track, Day 2 | Montgomerie Hut

Goblin forest, silver beech trees covered in moss near Kirwans Hut. | Kirwans Track, Victoria Range

Down the hill was the mine stamping battery that had been renovated at some stage, that was used to smash up the gold-containing quartz.

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Kirwans Track, Day 3 | Greymouth

The track has been washed out by recent floods. Waitahu River near Montgomerie Hut. | Kirwans Track, Victoria Range

I realised there’s something to be said for walking on a great formed track, that has a mostly reasonable gradient.

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Punakaiki, Day 1 | Pororari hut

Gorgeous Pororari River Gorge near Punakaiki. | Paparoa Great Walk, West Coast

It seemed right to finish off my summer’s tramping efforts by revisiting the other end of the Paparoa Track from where it started about two months before.

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Punakaiki, Day 2 | on to Westport

Forest and new track near Pororari Hut. | Paparoa Great Walk, West Coast

Back to civilisation. Back to reality.