Living Up to it’s Reputation – Camping in the Upper Borland

“On a Mish” #242 Camping in the Upper Borland. Fiordland National Park. 29.1.2017. Being prepared for anything is mandatory when traveling throughout Fiordland on foot. The rugged land is smashed by storms constantly giving some parts of the national park annual rainfalls of 7-8 meters plus. While the spectacle of Fiordland rain is a sight to behold, and it must be treated with the utmost respect. As much as meteorologists try, predicting the weather in the park is a difficult thing to get right. Sometimes the difference from one deep glacial carved valley to another can be like night and day. While heavy rain batters one part of the park, another is bathed in sunshine…

With a rare moment of downtime during the very busy 2016-17 season working as Track Manager on the Humpridge Track, I headed to one of my favourite parts of Fiordland (also one of the only places with road access in the entire park), the Borland Road. Up until this stage I had only spent time doing day hiking, then camping in my van somewhere on the road. This time however I wanted to hike into the upper reaches of the Borland River, and camp on the tussock flats at the valley’s head. I consulted the various weather forecasts available online, and from what I could see the rain from the morning had cleared and I was in for a night without precipitation. After sorting out things at work so I could disappear for the afternoon and morning the next day, I headed for the Borland Road. I parked my van on a side road near the Borland River, and as soon as I got out of the vehicle I was greeted by a very enthusiastic and large sandfly fanclub. A positive to a Fiordland Te Namu attack is that it gets you on the move ASAP! The first part of the hike was an easy stroll following an old track, once used during the construction of the road. Then after fording the river I got to my first section of forest. The forest floor had been cleaned out by the deer introduced to the area a long time ago, and now a huge drawcard for hunters from all over Aotearoa. Next came classic Fiordland scrub which gives the false hope of easy travel until you’re tangled in the mess of Spaniard, Hebes and alpine grasses. After adding a few more scars to my legs I finally reached the open meadows of tussock at the valley’s head. I found an epic spot next to the river, and to keep the sandflies off me I began setting up camp as soon as I could. It was just before I finished pitching my tent when I felt the first drops of unexpected rain. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but then what was drips at first soon turned into a heavy dose of the wet stuff. I was forced back into my tent, and as I sat out the rain I found a Speights beer bottle cap. I instantly recognised the cap as one of the ones that come with a question printed on the underside. I had to laugh at the irony as the question was: Which part of New Zealand receives the most rain? As I sat in my tent in unforecast rain located in the questions answer of ‘Fiordland’ I didn’t dispute what the bottle cap had informed me! Just before sunset the showers moved on, and from then the forecast of no rain was correct.

I was up early-ish the next day, as I had to get back to work. I decided that I didn’t want to push through the scrub again, so my route back to my van was to scramble my way down the river. This route was far quicker, and after getting over the first rush of icy water in both boots it was a very enjoyable hike out and drive back to work in Tuatapere.

Drying out after rain in the Upper Borland Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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