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Burn Creek Bivvy | Part 2

In early 2020, I thought I should get to the last two Nelson Lakes National Park huts I hadn’t revisited since returning to New Zealand.

I had scooted up the Matakitaki Valley a few times but not up a tributary to the Burn Creek Bivvy.

How hard could it be?

Downie Hut was a good base for the first night to rest after the five-hour-long trek up the Matakitaki Valley. Maintenance of the old four-wheel-drive track has been generally discontinued, and the track was washed out in places. It is only possible for vehicles to go all the way if the river is low enough to cross a few times.

The swing bridge over the Matakitaki River has been removed, so you cross on the gravel river bed not far from Downie Hut. For the first half, the old New Zealand Forest Service track is at times overgrown or washed out, so you just smash up the gravel/boulders/bedrock in the creek, crossing as required, ie, all the time, and dodging the numerous fallen trees.

Once in the forest, I could vaguely recall where to go, aided by a 1986 topo map that showed the general route of the old track.

Sporadic permanent markers could be chanced upon, but generally, it was just a day-long bush bash to get through the undergrowth of regenerating red and mountain beech trees.

Later in the afternoon, I arrived at the splendid Goldfields campsite at the halfway point up the creek, and it seemed obvious to set up my tent on a thick beech-leaf mattress and spend the rest of the daylight hours poking around.

The next day, I slowly smashed my way up the valley. When I reached the 4.5 kg gas bottle that marked where you should descend to cross the south branch of Burn Creek, well, I couldn’t believe that was the route.

Instead, I took to some deer trails, then crashed cross country to get above a 30 m waterfall. Once across the creek, it was only an hour or two for the bush bashing to get to the bivvy.

Man, that was a mission. Not any easier.

As a kid, what had taken a vigorous afternoon on a well-maintained track had taken two days pushing through the regenerating forest.

To complete the loop, my route was out over the tops to Nardoo Bivvy, climbing to 2000 m and following along a ridge along the visible Alpine Fault before exiting via Nardoo Creek the following day.

It’s easy when you say it like that.

author | GJ Coop | posted | 08 January 2024
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