Sunday, June 3, 2012

Tramping in the Nina Valley

Hmmm, where to begin after such a long break. So much has happened in the last few months. So many stories I've been meaning to tell. Perhaps they will make it here, or perhaps I will just move on to new things. Like our most recent trip into Lewis Pass to visit the Nina Valley.

It is currently early winter here in New Zealand, with snow beginning to dust the mountain tops and cool Southerly winds bringing in cold rain and chilly temperatures. Perfect weather for tramping in the mountains. Especially on a long weekend celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. So Saturday morning, after waking up we pulled together some food and gear and piled into the car at a leisurely pace, not pulling out of the drive until about 11am. With a 2 hour drive ahead of us, we were hoping for a relatively quick trip up to the hut to arrive before darkness set in.

After a quick stop in Culverden for some pitas and humus, we pulled up at Palmer Lodge, threw on our bags, and headed out to the trail. Because of our mid-afternoon arrival the sun had skirted up the valley sides and was just kissing the tops, glistening on the newly fallen snow there. But the air was clear and the birds were singing, so we headed off happily on our way.

Walking through the open beech forest

The Nina Valley trail starts with a gentle climb over a low spur to get into the actual valley itself. Afterwards, the trail follows the Nina River which is a lovely little river carving its' way through partly metamorphosed sedimentary stone. The valley is thick with beech, rocks, icy mud, and birds. There is a very active trapping program going on with a local high school, looking to eradicate the threat of stoats, weasels, and possoms. This left us with loads of robins, silver-eyes, and bell birds singing our way along the trail as we traipsed through mud, and over roots and rocks. At one point, we encountered a man coming back along the trail who warned us there were 18 people currently staying at Nina Hut which has 10 bunks. We thanked him for this valuable information and decided that tonight would be a great night to use our tent which Stephen's mom had so kindly brought with her at Christmas.

Surprise. I'm 5 months pregnant.

This was well timed news for us, as the light was quickly drawing up the valleys and it was good to know we should start looking for a good place to camp. Across a lovely swing bridge and down the trail a little further we came to a lovely grassy opening on the side of the river, just perfect for our wee tent. So with the tent up and the sun gone, we started in on a hearty chicken soup for dinner before the feeling completely left our fingers. After finishing off the soup and washing the dishes out in the river, we climbed into our wee tent and settled in for the night. I noticed the bright stars we had been watching while eating dinner were quietly disappearing behind banks of clouds coming in from the South.

Our wee camp on the edge of the forest.
The rain started at some point in the night. The million tiny sounds of each little drop hitting the fly filled the tent with a sort of calming white noise - as long as one didn't think about it being there in the morning. On and off through the night, I would wake up surrounded by the dark and the sound of water (not always sure of whether it was the river or the rain). Finally, the faint light of morning filled the tent to indicate the changing diurnal cycle and time for breakfast. Stephen kindly volunteered to go out in the rain and make the food, while I stayed in the tent and tidied gear away. Soon, oatmeal was brought into the tent and we gobbled it up before packing the tent away and headed back down the trail.

I always find it funny the way trails you've been down once before seem so much shorter than before. As if the knowledge of what to expect around the next bend  makes it appear that much sooner. So, despite the ongoing drizzle and general greyness to the day, we were soon hearing the whizzing of trucks and cars along the highway. Once back at the car, we changed into some dry clothes, popped open the requisite bag of potato chips, and drove off towards home. 

Almost a full moon.

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