By Richard, 13 August 2007
Late February saw Quentin and I roll into the Matakitaki valley looking to check out the lesser visited parts of Nelson Lakes National Park.
We stayed the night at the Nelson College facility just up the road from Mt Ella station. It was locked but the big verandahs make for a good place to stay if you're down that way. There was a sophisticated system in place to deter bludgers from the scrub - they left the Zip on so every 10 minutes or so throughout the night it came to a boil. Maybe they can use the power bill as an example for third form economics or something?
A foggy, crisp morning saw us in among the hundreds of Mt Ella station dairy cows that clogged the access road on their way to milking. From the old Matakitaki base hut site we cut across the river and followed the farm roads (legal access) to the top of the ridge above Nardoo creek, we descended and then followed up the creek. A very pleasant wander and then a short steep climb had us up in the basin where Nardoo biv sits. Nardoo biv is a 9/10. At least. An immaculate stand up biv, in a sunny spot with a library. Because of the good time we were making an hour lunch break was decreed to regain breath. Quentin dozed while I enjoyed the Nardoo biv book.
"the hills round Murchison are tough. They make boys out of seasoned tri-athletes. Places like Break Leg creek, TFH (that fucken hard) spur and the Valley of one thousand fannies..."
Special people. Anyway no one had been there for one year and one day so we didn't have to worry about them.
The basin walls look pretty steep but we found a good way up onto the top of the ridge coming out just south of the big thumb that is .1840. The ridge was really good fast travel on short grass and rock with just a few steep bits for interest. We dropped into the very head of Burn creek (just under the Emily peaks) and cruised down to the Burn creek biv. We could have been there in about 12hrs from the carpark but instead took 13, as we got to where the biv is marked on the map, found it wasn't there and spent an hour looking for it, that involved Quentin climbing 140m back up the hill and a rather comical incident where through much hand waving and shouting I guided Quentin down through some bluffs and scrub to a dog box biv perched in an unlikely spot. He wasn't impressed when he jumped on to the rock that was there, although later on he did admit it looked quite a bit like a biv from where I was standing. Anyway, after 13hrs on the go I was scanning the area looking for a campsite and waiting for Quentin to get back down and spotted the biv only about 100m from where it was marked, hidden in the trees.
This biv is a bit rustic and doesn't get much use - apart from Alyn's mid winter party in 2006, no one had been there for over four years. As we settled in for a nights sleep I heard the familiar rustling and scratching of a mouse. I turned on my torch and found the noise was coming from a huge spider climbing up the wall 10cm from my head. Quentin wasn't keen to swap bunks so I had to spend the rest of the night curled into a tight ball well away from the walls, torch in one hand and axe in the other.
The next day we cruised down Burn creek following the old track that was pretty followable all the way. We dropped packs at the bottom and bagged Downies slab hut, then headed up the Matakitaki to the forks. There we dumped packs again and headed up to Bobs hut for the bag before heading back to get the packs and moving on up to East Matakitaki for the night. Another 12.5hrs, but this time for the addition of 3 huts. We slept well on this productivity increase.
The weather was fine, again, so we headed up valley and over David Saddle which is a steep but short climb. Once down in the D'urville we were on a trade route and we cruised down valley. A dilemma at George Lyon (Ella) hut. Do we stay in the hut with just a sole young female American backpacker or head down to the new Morgan hut. "I'm just going to take a swim now" she said coquettishly.
I looked at Quentin, Quentin looked at me, neither of us could be the one to suggest stopping, so we kept moving. We arrived at Morgans in 11hrs from East Matakitaki. Not a good choice. It was full of three hunters. I mean literally full, their stuff was everywhere. One guy was sleeping over half the top platform and his rifle had the other half. Did they make room? Oh no. They had 1080 to bitch about. We were trapped between ravenous sandflies and tedious bores. We blamed each other for not stopping at George Lyon.
We carried on down valley early the next morning and again dropped our packs. This time the target was Mt Misery biv. It's a steep 1100m climb from the lake to the hut. Quentin went at it like a greased eel that had been hit by lightening. We managed to put the first 700m away in 55 minutes, but slowed down after my heart started palpitating and Quentin said he could see pixies. It took 1hr 40 to do the 1100m climb. The biv is a nice spot, with nice views but we were too busy dozing in the sun. After picking up our packs we headed to D'urville hut for lunch. We noticed a bad smell on the way, and as we were tucking into lunch one of the hunters came in and told us how he had been caught short on the track and had a bad case of explosive diarrhea, I think I tuned out when he started talking about the absence of Rangiora leaf and copious amounts of bushlawyer.... It was good to leave them and head over the low saddle to Tiruamea hut and away from the loopy trail. The Tiruamea stream was good for a wash after 10hrs on the go.
Our last day was a short one, it took us 6hrs to get back to the car at Matakitaki station via a visit to Mole tops hut, a cute little spot and the dozenth bag of a great trip through some interesting country.
Richard Davies - scribe