Murchison isn’t far from Nelson, but staying there gives a bit more time for daylight hours in late autumn.

I loaded five nights of food supplies aboard to give me options when I made it to Belltown Manunui. Kākāpo Hut seemed a possibility now a track has been recently marked.

The morning was more of an effort than I envisaged. A hut up Lyell River was the objective, but I didn’t get to the drop from the Old Ghost Road until after 11 am, and then the unmaintained track down to the Alpine Stamping Battery had switchbacks aplenty. Big ones. But as I approached the river, the track became overgrown with fallen trees hiding the route. So it took an hour to go down and find a dilapidated hut. Trying the direct route couldn’t be worse, so on the way back, I followed the ridge up behind the hut until I hit the track 20 minutes later. Actually, it was easy to go up, but it might be a different proposition finding the way down.

Then it was a race for the Wangapeka Track car park.

So I left with my pack on my back around 4 30 pm, knowing it would get dark around 6 pm, and the sign said three hours.

Some time in the dark didn’t concern me as I carried a powerful head torch.

Walking on what used to be a sheep farm track is reasonably easy, but the area is well-treed with regenerating forest these days. Kamahi mostly.

Except losing the track in the last of the river flats encouraged the use of my head torch, and there have been changes going around a bluff, with some vigorous climbing required and then dropping in a hurry. Stainless steel chains have been installed to assist.

Eventually, 3½ hours later, I made it to the new Belltown Manunui Hut. It was occupied by three preschool kids and three adults.

I’d given up on the idea Kākāpo Hut by the time I made it to shelter, after almost 2 hours of walking in the dark.

But I would need a very early start the next day if that was my preferred option.

If I changed my thoughts after a good night’s sleep.

Day 2 | Kākāpo River camp →