Nardoo Hut is at 1460 m, so the day offered a long steep drop to the valley floor, and then, from memory, plenty of river crossings.

The reasonable weather was persisting, although it was fully cloudy.

The setting is great to wake up to. The sheer cliffs all around, the tarns with the mirror surface, and the other direction straight up the basin to more mountains.

As time goes by, the going down part of tramping catches up first. Particularly very steep sections through tussock meant it was a slow descent, but once in the forest, it seemed much easier.

The short stretch above a gorge as the river made a sharp left-hand turn was surprising. A few deep, very steep channels had been gouged out of the track, but everything was possible—just those short, steep descents and climbs.

And a couple of places where windfall, red beech regeneration, and a general lack of track markings, well, it all slowed progress. These tracks are unlikely to be maintained much in the future.

In the middle of a lawyer entanglement and just after 12 noon, I seriously contemplated camping in the valley. After all there was still another 12 km or so to go just to get to the four-wheel-drive track. It was around 1 pm when I crossed the main river, Nardoo Creek, but by then at least I was down easier territory to negotiate. That’s if you consider rock hopping, drowned tree negotiation, and more than two dozen river crossings less challenging.

My deal: give myself two hours to see progress. If it were clear I couldn’t have hit the four-wheel-drive track by 5 pm, I would check into one of the lovely campsites on the true right little river terraces.

I could cope with another night in my little tent.

I’m not usually motivated by proximity to civilisation, but today, I certainly was. The sun had come out, the temperature was high, and the water in my boots wasn’t a big issue.

The valley immediately became wider and flatter after the bend, and if you ignore any thought of the track, I found I was progressing rapidly, although my route was more of a wiggle.

Eventually, I struggled up the last slow incline and was again gazing out at cows grazing below in the Matakitaki valley. Smoke haze from the Australian fires misted a fine view of the Ella Range. But that’s where I had managed to trudge my way to by that 5 pm cut-off.

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

Man, I was close to collapse. Two huge days in a row. This trip has severely hammered my poor body.

Maybe I should keep to DOC tracks in my future tramping expeditions, as I promised yesterday.

The best moment of today?

Spotting a chamois standing on a rocky crag. It didn’t muck around much looking at me. But it seemed like the only places it could have gone would have tested serious mountain climbers. I’ve learned I don’t fall into that category.

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