Having to back up one of my main days of energy expenditure with a second immediately was a tough ask.

That climbing and those bogs from yesterday were exchanged for just slogging down the gravel road. And starting with a 200+ m climb up to Borland Saddle.

The major positives: rain and even drizzle stayed away, although at times it looked like it was snowing on the higher altitudes, and the road surface was super smooth. Chunky gravel is tough underfoot.

A negative was the lack of water close at hand, which resulted in me having my two standard rounds of coffee, essential, but no porridge. Instead, I picked out a couple of muesli bars, but as usual, failed to scoff them.

My first steps were a struggle, feeling sore, but eventually, I fell into a reasonable rhythm. The zigzag climb offered some truly remarkable views of the multiple unnamed mountain ranges on the other side of the Grebe River. They looked magical, with the sharp peaks and snow covering. Cloud wisps added more mysterious allure.

Snow remained on the road where trees provided all-day shade.

A sign at the summit of Borland Saddle, 990 m, told the story of a 12,000 year ago earthquake that displaced 27 km³ of rock from Green Lake, all the way around to the Borland Bivvy. 8 km of landslide, the largest documented slide in the world. That was clearly an enormous shake, but it was aided by the instability of the glacial rubble.

Pointing the other direction, eastwards, various high points, including Mount Burns, 1645 m, dropped vertically towards the tight valley floor.

Five hours of plodding, with increasing lack of enthusiasm. I’d imagined I could get a ride with one of the daytrippers out on a visit to the West Arm of Lake Manapouri, but few cars were transiting the road. Actually none.

On my long walk I had a few thoughts about the area.

I actually had limited anticipation for what I might find around Monowai. Maybe I thought it would be something like the South Coast Track. At least the vegetation was quite similar: Southland beech and crown fern, although up higher that understory was often dominated by club moss.

What was very different was the major elevation variations, which required much more effort.

On the plus side, there was little muck to avoid. The track was often just magnificent. The limited views could be superb, such as at Green Lake, and Lake Monowai, as well as out in the open tussock near Borland Bivvy.

So, some big days. It really helps to be able to grind away on climbs for long periods.

If you can cope with that, and meeting very few others, it’s just about perfect Southland tramping.

Just near the lodge, I discovered the reason for the lack of cars: a huge gate was locked, closing off the road completely.

Borland Lodge is a sort of mountain outdoor base camp. In a fit of inspiration, I spoke to the manager and dropped my still heavy pack for the last two hours on the DOC track over to the Monowai Campsite car park.

This track skirted a major swamp and climbed a short hill. Some swamp avoidance techniques were required initially, and the 60 m hill climb was just painful on my weary limbs. The other side that I anticipated was going to be more swamp-like turned out to be a perfect tramping surface.

After that, it was crunchy gravel for the last kilometre.

A large four-wheel-drive ute with three nasty-looking dogs on the back cruised past.

At the campsite, I was reunited with my car, and my wet clothes were exchanged for dry. I collected a few sandflies and had motorised transportation back around to pick up my pack.

My full loop was complete.

Just then had to make my way to civilisation for a long hot shower, where I found my suntan quickly disappeared.

← Day 6 | Borland Bivvy