This year’s pre-Christmas tramp took us to the Lewis Pass area for four days of forests, mountains, and lots of water.
Day 1 was up the Nina Valley Track through beautiful beech forest. We bypassed Nina Hut, planning to camp below Devil’s Den Bivvy. Unfortunately, recent rain had rendered the area below Devil’s Den Biv into a swamp. There was no place to pitch a tent, so we carried on to the biv. Then we had to figure out how to bunk four people in a two-person hut. With three in the biv and one in a tent blocking access to the loo, we managed. It was … cosy.
Day 2, we left the biv in dense fog, hiking down to the Doubtful River on a track that has clearly seen no maintenance for a decade. At times it felt like bush bashing, and there was lots of windfall to clamber over, under and around.
Once at the Doubtful River, a cruisy 40-minute hike took us up to the confluence with the Doubtless River, and shortly thereafter, to the Doubtless Hut, where we had a spacious six bunks to ourselves. Well, almost to ourselves. As we were packing up to leave, we found a beautiful young female Wellington tree wētā in the hut.
On day 3 we climbed up to Lake Man Biv—another 2-person hut, thankfully with a little more camping space nearby. Lake Man Biv is hobbit-sized. The door is about three-quarters height, and the bunks were so short, even 160-centimetre (5-foot, two-inch) me couldn’t stretch out on them. But in spite of its size, the biv is perfectly appointed, with a small table for cooking (complete with a drawer full of cooking and cleaning supplies) a set of tiny shelves, a fold-down bench, and an empty ammo box for additional seating and mouse-proof storage. Cords along the ceiling provide clothes drying space, and there are even clothes pegs fashioned from beech tree branches. The overall effect is a tidy, fully-functional space, in spite of its size.
After dropping our gear at Lake Man Biv, we hiked up to Lake Man, an alpine lake where we found our summer solstice snow and had a lovely lunch in the sun, surrounded by awesome alpine vegetation and some cool bugs.
After a cosy night in Lake Man Biv, we hiked out via the Doubtful River. The hike ended with a couple of crossings of the thigh-deep Boyle River and a long river-valley slog—easy hiking, but not terribly exciting.
The trip wasn’t our most strenuous ever, but after having spent the better part of the last six weeks sick, first with Covid, then with a nasty, lingering not-Covid, I was seriously out of shape and thankful for the relatively easy hike.