Nina Hut sits on an open knoll surrounded by beech forest and mountains.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) information reads that it is an easy 1-3 hour walk to the 10-bunk bed hut; is a good overnight option for families with children who have some tramping experience or new trampers and, bookings not required – first come, first served.
An ideal start to getting out onto the back-yard landscape. We had even convinced a friend (Maree) whom surprisingly accepted our invite to join us even though the toilet was going to be a long drop and sleeping conditions possibly squashed up alongside a total stranger.
It had a log fire and so purchasing a bag of kindling and wooden logs bridged the thought of a snuggly night up in the bush, away from suburbia. All we had to do was carry them in and walk the distance for it to become a reality.
We forgot that Maree doesn’t do crossing swing bridges without hyperventilating nigh on having a heart attack. So, when we parked up the car, lifted the back packs onto our backs and walked a couple of hundred metres up the road to the start of the track, we arrived at our first of two swing bridges to cross. The maximum one-person load per crossing didn’t help the situation however, we managed to coach Maree across giving high fives when we too swayed unevenly to reach the bank beyond.
There, there was the hut book where you sign in to advise your intention as a mountain safety practice. Oh f..k! Ahead of us was a group of 11 Venturer Scouts going to stay the night at the hut and, already a family of five who were going to stay a second night. It meant the hut was full and squashing our best laid plans to escape into the wilderness for the night.
The conversation that followed resulted us in going back to the car, dumping all the overnight stuff to still head into the hut for a day trek, only carrying a day pack. But before we did any of that, we had to get Maree back across the river and then, back across the river for a third time! With incremental confidence each time, she did it. The firewood purchased too sat in the car as we traipsed off towards Nina.
The lushness of fauna and flora rising from the forest floor to stretch up towards the light was staggeringly stunning. All shades of greens complemented the earthly smelling browns (rot and decay) and care had to be taken navigating tree roots. Sometimes we had to negotiate sections of track that were mud baths – it was easy to follow someone’s tracks who had gone before, sniggering at a wrong step where the imprint would eventually crust up from the sun’s rays or fill up from a down pour.
Creek crossings were part and parcel of the track, keeping balance critical so as not to end up on your arse saturated. Walking poles helped. There was undulation. The track cut towards flowing river water and then inland to total silence where only our conversation broke the tranquillity. We had to go further into the valley before bird song was heard. It’s slowly rebounding after pests have decimated the native feathered friends to close to extinction. Traplines to snare stouts or weasels play their part – two vermin had taken the bait to lay lifeless from the snapped shut trap.
We were encapsulated by the dark green water depths from a gorge. Water must rise and fall considerably as two tree trunks laid horizontal up the cliff faces. A joke was made that we would have to cross it using the logs for Maree’s sake. Hahahahahaha as we all laughed.
That didn’t last long. We climbed a small rise to a second swing bridge that we couldn’t see because of the tree canopy. Below were the logs we joked about. Getting Maree across was another team effort and again, she got there. We didn’t joke about stuff like that again!
The next two hours was more track, tree roots, mud negotiation, creek crossings and green and browns. Arriving at the hut was welcomed and yep, chock full of other beings staying the night. We sat down outside with views of snow-capped mountain tops to eat lunch.
And then they came, by the hundreds. The Sandfly. Or, Sandflies to be more accurate. They are vicious little bastards that sink their mouth parts into unprotected skin to draw blood; leaving a welt that can be itchy from the excretion they inject before the sucking. We may not have poisonous snakes or spiders or wild beasts – but we do have the sandfly that is the scourge of the bush to ruin all types of forest paradise. Even though Bushmans 80% Deet insect repellent was lathered on, the little bastards will still kamikaze in to locate the parts missed to take the bite. In-between bites, hands were working overtime to slap as many as we could dead.
Carrying fly spray is a must if staying the night so as you can fumigate the hut before climbing into your sleeping bag for the night. That too was back down at the car.
Some photo’s taken and then we retraced our steps back down the mountainside; Maree crossing the swing bridges with better ease. Back at the car, we made the decision to head back towards home, stopping in at Hanmer Springs for a hot pool soak. Well deserved, given the six or so hours on the feet.
Arrr, what the heck, we found a lovely backpacker’s to crash the night, picked up some Scrumpy Cider for Maree as we consumed the wine disguised in our water bottle and enjoyed a chat with a fellow backpacker who was sharing the joint.
Made special because, the fella was in his early nineties.
Sometimes the best laid plans when disrupted can end up resulting in a better time had.
It’s just how the world turns, sometimes.