Well, make that gloomy and windswept.

It ain’t warm this morning but some coal in the firebox and turning down the O 2 supply last night means there’s still some minor heat emanating.

From Salisbury Lodge it’s still a hike to the Flora carpark, the end of the trail, 3.5 or 4 hours, first over the blustery Tablelands tussock, then, into the pigmy beech forest that can only have that cliche applied to its description: magical. The track is well cut, there’s plenty of foot traffic up here in the warmer months, like a dozen a day, the Lodge gets high summer usage. It’s an even trajectory through an uneven terrain, no major climbs of any steepness, well groomed would be the most appropriate description.

There’s a few quirky shelters to inspect, a legacy of the days when “resourceful” and “ingenuity” were a part of the NZ character, back before “world’s best practice” and “liability” became the modus operandi of the prevailing bureaucracy.

Growler is simply a pragmatic roof with a bench beneath, not much compared to the, let’s face it, goofy, Lower Gridiron Shelter, a timber sleeping platform, perch, nest, high up a ladder almost under an overhanging rock face which provides some sort of inadequate shelter, or Upper Gridiron Hut, a hut which like Splugeon Shelter from yesterday has only three built walls of solidity, in Splugeon’s case the fourth is an openable semi-transparent plastic sheet, in Upper Gridiron’s case the back wall is, umm, a rock on a 45º angle, seemingly hand chiselled by some novice sculptor who has still to get the art of fine finishing of her material totally sorted, manic chisel marks are still in evidence, and there’s a handsome and comfy sofa, yes, furniture also in residence, hanging on chains, all well sheltered by said geological feature, although those with some experience with earthquakes might prefer other accommodations.

Eventually there’s the smoky Siamese twin hut, Flora, with mirror image floor plan each with an open fireplace, separated by the extensive woodpile, how come Karamea Bend is the only hut that misses out in that regard, people don’t warm to a hut which is damp and on the coolish side internally.

From there you pop over Flora Saddle to the Flora carpark, three cars in evidence today, it’s Sunday and people are doing day walks up here, 900 m, despite the still inclement weather, but there’s only one way to get to Nelson currently and that is to continue on foot, down that steep slope. Despite everything my slightly troublesome right knee is holding up, not much weight on my back now with that food supply exhausted, and I march on down.

Something seems strange to the old bushtracker in me, there are occasional footprints over the car tracks in the dirt, I catch up to four daywalkers who left their cars at the bottom of the Graham Valley Road, the road is officially closed due to a massive slip which has still not been fully cleared or stabilised.

Good day to be riding a bike, I say to the first humans I’ve seen since my 20 minute conversation with Sonja a few days ago at the Upper Karamea swing bridge, the slope on this road from 900 m down to almost sea level is considerable.

You know if a car came along I’d just lie down in front of it, I’ve just about had enough, they could call an ambulance, or not, I don’t care.

Fortunately a few kilometres trudge later they prefer to stop before I prostrate myself and offer me a lift to Motueka, then, warming to my low kilowatt charisma, insist on me eating a delicious meat pie as we celebrate our efforts with a well earned scoffout, before dropping me off at the front door of my Nelson accommodations.


I’ve given up wondering how I’m going to negotiate the last section, the getting back to civilisation, muddy and well flavoured, well for that matter any section of a tramping experience, somehow it all seems to work out.

No trouble at all.

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