Catherine, Christine, Colin and Judy started walking up the Nina Valley about 2pm on a cool overcast day. We had left the car at the Boyle Outdoor Centre and had been advised the track was muddy, which it was, not really the usual family friendly track. The Nina Valley is a very pretty area, with lovely beech forest and plenty of bird life. Kiwi are present. We arrived at the Nina Hut and cooked tea, before the first of our early to bed nights.
Day 2 was just a day walk up to the Nina Biv in similar weather. From the hut it is a steep 15 minute walk to the river where we had our first of many river crossings then an undulating track adjacent to the river. The walkwire bridge on the current topo maps near the Biv was long gone but the water was only knee deep. The Nina Biv is in bush with a lovely clearing in front. The return trip was considerably faster as we chose river crossings and riverbed walking for about 40% of the way, only returning to the track when the valley closed in.
Day 3 was over Devilskin Saddle, a marked route, and into the Doubtful River Valley. Our notes advised it would be 6 hours walk. It wasn’t long before we had our first taste of windfall and track finding. The track was a constant climb for 2 hours before suddenly increasing gradient for a km or so where you used roots and rocks to scrabble up, using neck muscles to hold your head high enough to see the route. After 3 hours we came out above the bushline and walked easily to the saddle and the gorgeous views of the surrounding tops and valleys from the cute Devils Den Biv. The route down was initially though tussock, speargrass and alpine plants, before entering the beech for a long, and even longer sidle down the valley. At times it was a scramble, climbing over or under fallen trees, or fighting through bush, then searching for another marker. Late afternoon we stopped to put on our raincoats, then descended a final ridge down to the valley floor. We could see a sign on the opposite river bank but with the rain stopped we found a suitable campsite, pitched tents, cooked tea and went to bed. It had been almost 10 hours on the go, averaging 1km/hr.
Day 4 we packed up and headed 2 hours up the Doubtful River Valley to the Doubtless River and Hut. Just after we started walking we heard a bird, saw it on the tree top and carried on walking. It swooped close to us and crossed the river to sit on another tree top. It did this four times and on the 4th we were prepared and watched it. The speed was amazing, but as it flew past 3 metres from Christine we identified a Karearea. I knew it was a ground nesting bird, we worked out it had a nest nearby on the ground, and left it in peace. We had an early lunch, dropped our packs, and carried on up the Doubtful River to Amuri Saddle. We went up the horse track to the saddle, admired the view which was disappearing on the West Coast as the rain arrived, returning down the walking track trying to skirt the bog. Above the bushline, only a few alpine plants were in flower but it was lovely. Another month it would be stunning. Once in the bush we returned to Doubtless Hut. In the bush we had emptied and reset five possum traps. There is an active trapping group and their efforts are easily seen with the amazing bird life. That evening we smoked and dried our clothes near the open smoky fire.
Day 5 we knew would be our easiest, so we had a late start, filling the woodshed and walking down river to the Doubtful Hut. A mixture of bush and river walking. Opposite the Devilskin River we read the sign we saw 2 days earlier, but had not crossed to read. We had camped 15 minutes from the hut. We had lunch at the 3 bunk hut. Christine and Catherine pitched their tents whilst Colin and Judy took the bottom bunks. After an early lunch we found a track up to The Reserve, where Catherine had seen 10 deer at dusk and found a great view of the Devils Rampart and the ridge down to the saddle. It was our first sunny day so we sat and enjoyed the view, before descending to the river for a wash and dip in the river. Two hunters were heading up the river for the weekend, the first people we saw all week. The Doubtful Hut has no fireplace so we gathered wood and sat outside by a fire in a previously used fireplace all evening. Two others arrived about 7:30pm, just as we had put out the fire. A later night chatting then off to bed. At 10:30 two other hunters passed through, stopping briefly to say hello.
Day 6 we set off at 7:30 down the Doubtful, through bush or along riverbed. We crossed the Doubtful linked against a powerful current near the confluence with the Boyle, where we turned upstream and found the Tui Track for Te Araroa walkers. After lunch we crossed the Boyle River just over knee depth and walked back to the car. The previous day the hunters had crossed the Boyle below the Doubtful confluence in waist deep water.
As usual Catherine had organised a fantastic trip, a balance of easy and difficult walking. The trip awakened desires to stay on the Lewis or Nina tops for several days on future trips. Although we were all over 60, and do not find wind damaged tracks as easy as they used to be, we know there are lots more places to visit and enjoy.