Birthday Dinner in the Darrans (Part Three) – Cleddau / Gulliver River

“On a Mish” #282 Birthday Dinner in the Darrans (Part Three). Cleddau / Gulliver River. Fiordland National Park. 9.6.2021. A campfire over a cake. A night in a tent instead of plenty of presents. Nature and being in the wilderness is the gift that keeps on giving, and when I wanted to spend a quiet birthday dinner in the Darrans I thought it would be easy. For a second I forgot this is Fiordland!…

With plan A a no go I was now enjoying plan b. It is awesome how on the Milford Road if one place is not able to be seen another will be found only minutes away. The Grave / Talbot Route is not usually an easy hike, but I only intended to go a ‘short distance’ until I found a clearing to camp in. In classic Fiordland fashion even the simple task of finding a camping spot was a challenge.

Downed trees and branches needed to be clambered over and when avoiding using your left hip this becomes a very awkward process. Slow and steady was key as I knew rushing my broken body would be the end of me. At every spot that I could see the mountains I stopped and dropped my pack for a couple of minutes. I wasn’t breaking any speed records on this mish but that wasn’t what I was here to do.

At one point I took a break with an epic view up the Donne Valley to Karetai Peak and the Taoka Icefall, and I had the strange feeling of being in an unsafe place. I quickly stashed my water bottle and kept going with an unusual haste. About twenty metres up the track I looked back to see I was standing on an undercut part of the riverbank. There was a thin layer of land beneath my feet and then nothing but air for about five to seven metres. If I had broken through I would have had quite the tumble! I now knew that the 2020 storm and other rain events had left their mark on this very remote area.

I had been going for just over an hour and this was stretching my limits. I really wanted to find a camping spot but there just wasn’t anything around. Having been up the valley then up into the Esperance Valley a few years ago meant I had a rough idea of where I was. I knew there was a climb into the Esperance Valley when the track rounded the base of the shoulder of the appropriately named Mt Isolation. This was going to take me up and away from the river and I definitely didn’t want to do that. I made the choice to barge through the ferns in the direction of the Gulliver River. To my surprise I emerged from the forest at a small clearing just perfect to camp in. I didn’t ask for it but it would seem the Darrans had given me a birthday present!

I had to shake the odd fern and tree branch off my pack before I could get my camping gear out. I quickly realised that I needed a rest before I could do anything and luckily I found another birthday gift in the form of a large rock with a view. I had to be patient before I could enjoy my birthday dinner in the Darrans…

Looking back up at Gertrude Saddle(1410m)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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