Preliminaries | Mt Richmond Forest Park, April 2013

There’s a bit to do in preparation for a 9 day tramp. Could, should, have compacted it all into one day but then again, might as well make the most of being here in my soon-to-be permanent domicile.

One joy of Nelson is that you can just start walking out your back door. Up The Brook and before long you are slogging up the firebreak onto the Dun Mountain Trail, an old decommissioned tram route, built in the 1860s to transport out copper ore in an unprofitable way for a few years, defunct since 1901.

It’s a 6 hour walk over to the Pelorus River, in the Mt Richmond Forest Park, the pristine green tinged water so clear the huge trout you can spot look as if they are levitating.

The plan is to join Te Araroa, the Long Pathway, the 3000 km trail that now leads from Cape Reinga to Bluff, from north to south points of the two islands and travels up the Pelorus River. I’m not intent on that full package this time around, just the Middy Creek Hut to St Arnaud section, about 110 km plus the 30 km from Nelson, over 9 days.

The 4.5 to 5 hour spacing of the huts is somewhat awkward at this time of year, at 41º S, ie, limited daylight hours, those times are actual walking hours so it’s a rush to jump a hut when sunrise is currently 7 01 am and sunset 5 51 pm, ie, ten hours. I might be able to travel somewhat faster with my size 47 Meindl boots but I expect to muck around taking photos and a goodly proportion of the walk is majorly exposed, up there at 1500 m, it’s possible to get into serious trouble staggering around in the dark.

But I’m better prepared than ever for my travels, a new GPS will locate me, with compass function for whiteout conditions, a headlight with powerful spotlight.

So, first up in my reacquaintance with the South Island is on what’s commonly known as the Alpine Route, ie, Nelson to St Arnaud and those 140 km of tree roots and windswept tops.

The weather forecast: bleak.


Might be the Little Adventure I’m looking for.

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Day -2 | Nelson: just faffing around for a couple of days

first views of the South Island for a while don't look too promising, weatherwise.

Pitch dark, rain hammering in, doesn’t look quite the auspicious start to renewing my career as a long term tramper.

Heavy rain has been predicted for much of the next week, looks as if that drought and the long summer are history, to be talked about for years to come, that Great Summer of 2013.

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Day 1 | Rocks Hut: back in the old stamping ground

near Rocks Hut in Mt Richmond Forest Park

So, my first day’s tramping for a year, pack with 9 nights supplies aboard, and just like the old days, all day drizzle except for the showers, my pack cover blew clean off at Windy Point.

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Day 2 | Browning Hut: via the direct route

Delamination of the boots. | Browning Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Wow, there’s a lot of water falling currently, at this rate I wouldn’t be able to cross the stream. This is flooding rain.

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Day 3 | Browning Hut: a rest day after 1.5 days tramping?

Browning Hut in Mt Richmond Forest Park

I hear that Richmond copped 144 mm in 12 hours yesterday, 104 mm of that in an hour, close to the heaviest rainfall on record for NZ.

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Day 4 | Back to The Bug, Nelson

swingbridge near Hacket Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Early on there’s a choice of routes, a high version that climbs to skirt around the top of a slip or the more adventurous low route involving a creek crossing, the level is actually pretty low and what the hell, I decide on getting the feet wet, but the initial slip is the easy part, around the corner there’s a jumble of fallen trees and clayey bog to negotiate, it’s a little wild, plenty of woody detritus wrapped in the remaining vegetation and four river crossings to enthusiastically rinse my footware.