I left the windows of the hut open so I could hear the sound of the Roaring Lion River just below the hut overnight. The windows all have fly screens to keep the sandflies out, but shortly after I arrived, a few squirts from a full can of fly spray were employed to create a carpet of sandflies on the table.
And, of course, all the live ones go home once darkness falls.
Plenty of darkness at this time of year. It’s difficult to discern anything much through the gloom at 6 am, and even at 7 am in the forest.
The first light really showed up the complete gorgeousness of the Beautiful River valley that was directly visible from the windows of the hut. The much bigger Roaring Lion River sneaks in from the side.
8 30 am by the time I left, but this time I had a good idea about the route, and knew I could get back to Karamea Bend Hut without concern about darkness. Some nervousness about the river crossings remained.
I decided to forgo the swim option on that last crossing point, and clambered through the forest instead. This proved more of an exercise than originally envisaged, particularly when I found myself under a limestone bluff overhang, with damp sloping limestone as foot and handholds, and a short unnerving section where any tree roots ran out, leaving nothing to grasp, and full trust was required in my boots. Just don’t look down.
Fortunately, I have a considerable stride and reach, but I ended up thinking that swimming was an easier option in the circumstances.
In the second spot where it was a choice of either bluff or get wet, I decided to cross the river rather than have a more vigorous climb, knowing there were unseen bluffs of some verticality on the other side that needed to be avoided.
While the pebbles on the river bottom were discernible once again, unfortunately my choice of trajectory was not as lucky as yesterday, and rather than nipple height water, I was swimming with my heavy boots once again.
That encouraged movement once on the bank, as while the water temperature was acceptable, once out it felt much colder.
I avoided another river crossing where I had encountered a long stretch of awkward rocks to hop over, and instead stayed on the true right where the rocks were smaller. This was where I had bounded through the forest on the other side the day before.
Man, due to the continual shade, the rocks might have been smaller, but they were very much more greasy. Oh, for some more easy forest walking.
My return up the river had just 14 river crossings, getting easier and shallower, with that pebble bottom as the day progressed.
I sat in the sun for a while once all the hard stuff was done, on the pebbles, and contemplated the world and existence, and generally thought I was a lucky guy to be able to be doing this.
One of my mates had expressed incredulity when I had announced I was heading back into the hills once again, and queried my motivation.
My response was a self-evident, Why not?
I’ve had a fascination with New Zealand’s hills and forests, although tussock not so much, since I was an early teenager, and went on many weekend tramps in the hills behind Nelson. Well, before I discovered girls. I had camped directly on the concrete floor of Third House in my sleeping bag a few times as a 14-year-old, before progressing to the more hospitable accommodation of the old Rocks Hut. Okay, the kapok mattresses were somewhat lumpy, and supported on a chain wire base. Long weekends were to Roebuck Hut, and Easter, aged 16, a few of us went up to Mount Fell Hut, which seemed a major adventure at the time. I remember wandering along the ridge before getting to Mt Fell with strong winds whipping clouds up the cliffs and straight into our sides, the gusts almost blowing us over.
I didn’t much enjoy camping at Marahau with the school cadets, but once up at Matakitaki Lodge, I was in my element
Simplicity of life seems to be my thing. Eating modest food, staying in adequate and sometimes excellent accommodation.
Not much need for anticipation, as I’m not wanting to be elsewhere, and these days not often in a hurry.
I guess I’m still a kid at heart, enjoying learning about my own bit of the world.
Some days have their thrills, like this Karamea River experience, but most of the time I don’t even need that.
Just enough to know that I am here, and I am still breathing.
No one had been to Karamea Bend Hut, and I wasn’t needing to share once again for the fourth successive night.
The mental task of walking on those slippery boulders must’ve taken its toll, as I slipped into my sleeping bag before 7 pm.
Water had in fact penetrated my pack somewhat, but my patching of the obvious holes in my two pack liners had done its thing. My sleeping bag was mostly dry and its warmth was less an effort than lighting a fire in this volumetric barn.
Karamea Bend Hut is an anomaly. A 10-person hut would suffice, but for some reason it contains 22 mattresses, and you could almost play tennis in the living/kitchen area.
I trust someday it will be filled more often, because the Karamea — Leslie Track is one of Nelson’s best tramping for people with some experience.