Welcome to Borland – Part One

“On a Mish” #317 Welcome to Borland – Part One. Borland Burn (South Branch). Fiordland National Park. 11.1.2022. Anyone who knows me knows I have a slight obsession with Fiordland National Park. The place has so much to offer, and due to its remote location, it is usually possible to go where there is no one else. The Hunter Mountains offer a unique option off the Borland Road, which cuts through the range and into the Grebe Valley via Borland Saddle(990m). This is a location that I have taken many people to over the years in an attempt to get them hooked on the magic of Fiordland National Park…

Jens is from Sweden and had just joined the guiding team at the Glowworm Caves, and as fate would have it we both had days off and craved a mish. A rather underwhelming forecast told tales of drizzle and rain over much of the south. I still wanted to go for a mission, but I didn’t want to risk spoiling my first outing with my new Swedish friend. I remembered a spot I went to with tree cover and epic views of the upper Borland Valley. We gathered gear and hit the road, traveling south from our home in Te Anau. Jens was ‘lucky’ enough to have a full guided tour (whether he wanted it or not!) as we slowly crept our way up the granite gravel of the Borland Road. With rain looming on the horizon we drove up to the high point of the road at Borland Saddle(990m), and then pushed on higher on a rough powerline road / track to the most elevated powerlines. The road was built to make way for the power cables that run from the Manapouri Power Station to Tiwai Aluminium Smelter in Bluff. The view from the top is incredible and it was awesome to show Jens the epicness of the Borland Saddle. With grey skies above we drove back down the road to a spot in the South Branch Valley. I came here when I was easing myself back into the outdoors and the weather was exactly the same. With the first drips of spit dropping I quickly set my tent up to avoid getting my gear wet and then we decided to go for a wander up the valley.

The Upper Borland Valley

A dry spell in Fiordland meant the rivers were very low so we could get quite far up the valley without getting our feet wet. As long as you don’t look in the direction of the powerlines the place has the remote feeling of a valley that you have spent many hours hiking to get to. Thanks to the Borland Road we had done very little walking to enjoy such a big, mountainous environment. After our wander we returned to camp, and just after getting back the drizzle set in. We were sheltered by a big beech tree and before dinner we collected wood for our campfire. The campfire serves two roles. One is warmth and camp comfort, and the other is smoke to ease the numbers of sandflies. I’ll take a face full of smoke over a swarm of sandflies any day of the week! After a feed we watch the evening turn to night before retreating to our temporary homes in the Upper Borland Valley and then drifted off to sleep to the pitta patta of rain…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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