A Weekend on the Nydia Track – Marlborough Sounds
The Nydia Track in the Marlborough Sounds is a beautiful 27Km tramping and mountain biking track stretching from Duncan Bay at the end of Tennyson inlet to Kaiuma Bay Road, in the Pelorous Sound. We walked 19Km of the track from Duncan Bay to the Nydia Lodge DoC accommodation on a winter weekend, at a very leisurely pace. DoC times recommend 6 hours to the lodge, but we made it in around 5 hours including plenty of stops for exlporing. The trail takes in the coastline of the Sounds, a gentle climb over the Nydia Saddle, and a variety of beautiful forests. There is even an added bonus of spotting the large, tame eel at Nydia Bay. It was lovely to be back in the Sounds for the first time since Te Araroa Trail.
From Nelson it is around a 105Km drive to Duncan Bay, and took us just over 2 hours including a long coffee and cake break en-route. Head towards Picton on the SH6 then turn off just before the Rai Valley heading towards Tennyson inlet. The road to Duncan Bay was sealed all the way, but after the turn-off it got progressively more narrow and winding. It was a beautiful drive with great views over the sounds from the high point at Opouri Saddle.
We took our coffee and cake break at the Foresters Cafe on the Mount Richmond Estate. It’s worth a special mention owing to the quality of the welcome (by two furry friends and some very waggy tails), the great quality of the service, and the excellent sweet treats. The signage for Devonshire cream tea had tempted us (me) in, but in the end we opted for carrot cake and an apircot slice. Delicious!
It was raining gently raining all morning, but cleared just a little for the start of our walk. We parked in an empty carpark at Duncan Bay, used the facilities (there was even toilet roll!) and checked out the jetty and foreshore.
Nydia Track to Pipi Beach
We set off at 11.30am in good spirits along the Nydia track, which was wide and as beautifully graded as a great walk! It was quite mild for a Winters day and the mist hung low on the mountains around us. We reached Pipi Bay after about 15 minutes and popped down to the beach for a look around. The track in this early stage was pretty easy and took us through lovely beech forest. It hugged the coastline, so we got some nice views of the misty hills around us.
Towards the Nydia Saddle
The track continued around the coastline for a couple of Kms to Ngawhakawhiti Bay through a variety of forest. It became a little more narrow, rocky and tree-rooty in places, but wasn’t anything difficult.
As we climbed the misty drizzle turned into proper rain. It was very mild, especially with the gentle uphill we were walking. We donned our raincoats and sweated as much in them, as it was raining outside them. The track narrowed and became more like a tramping track, and we climbed over and under a few downed trees en-route.
We reached the Nydia Saddle which is 7Kms (375m elevation) into the walk at around 1.15pm. It was still lightly raining, so we just had a quick 15 minute break and a snack just off the trail to the right under a large tree. We were up in the mist, and didn’t have any view, but we looked forward to seeing it all in the forcasted sunshine tomorrow when we returned.
The track down the saddle to the Nydia campsite was a little more rocky than the other side, so we took care – especially with the little stream crossings. As we descended the saddle we got some great views of the little islands in Nydia Bay.
As we got down to Nydia Bay, around 2.30pm, we took a small detour down to the campsite for a look around. It would be so beautiful in summer!! It looked ghostly in todays mist and rain.
Nydia Bay Campsite to Nydia Lodge
The latter part of the walk was around Nydia Bay to the lodge. It was a beautiful flat section in and out to the coastline. We passed by a few properties and thought how lovely it would be to own something here. There is no road, so it’s only accessible by boat, or on foot from either end of the Nydia Track.
On the downward side of the saddle the air was much colder than it had been going up. We had donned another layer under our waterproofs, but still got pretty cold around Nydia Bay. Judging by the smoke wisping out of the chimneys, a few of the houses were occupied. We envied their fires and hurried along.
The Nydia Bay stretch of track was completely different again – equally as pretty. We came in and out of forests of fir, manuka and kanuka. Little side streams trickled down towards the coast, and we paused by the signpost to see if we could spot the tame eel in the river. He too was in hiding, and we hoped we’d see him tomorrow.
We hurridly passed the historic historic tramway route, and as it was low tide took some shortcuts across the flats rather than sticking to the track. We were relieved to get to the turning to the Nydia Lodge/Nydia Track, knowing we didn’t have too far to go from here.
Nydia Track Turn-off to Nydia Lodge
We continued around the coast to the Nydia lodge rather than turning right, through the paddocks and along the Nydia Track. The track had turned pretty muddy and slippery in the rain. There were a couple of small ups and downs, and I’m amazed neither of us ended up on our backside on the red clay! We came across a couple of huge, deep-voiced French mastiff dogs, who thankfully had their owner in tow, and we stopped for a quick chat.
We were absolutely freezing by now, and the persistent rain had managed to soak through my rain jacket. Our shorts were drenched and it was difficult to ascertain whether any of my clothes were dry at this point! I managed to keep my feet dry until shortly before the lodge, where a (low) stream crossing was required. You’d be OK in waterproof boots and knee-length gaiters, but the stream was just high enough to sneak in over the tops of my hiking shoes.
We arrived at the Nydia Lodge (which must be booked in advance through DoC) at around 4.15pm. When you book you get a code for the box containing the key to the rooms. It is a lovely facility in beautiful grounds, with 50 bunks across nine bunkrooms, a full kitchen, complete with gas and everything you need for cooking. This led onto a huge lounge area. We had the entire place to ourselves.
There was no heating, but there were hot water showers in the adjacent washrooms! By the time we arrived I’d almost lost the use of my fingers I was so cold. I hadn’t even reallly noticed until I had to fiddle with locks, zips and pack buckles. I can’t even begin to describe how welcome those hot showers were. It took an age for my fingers to come back to life again.
I brought a luxury item on this trip – a pair of fleecy trousers. I was so pleased to have them over my merino long johns!! I donned my puffa jacket and was finally warm. Post-shower, we made a hot soup, followed by a cup of tea chaser and got stuck into the cheese and crackers. We knew the walk wouldn’t be anything too strenuous so we had carried plenty of food (and wine) in. We spent a lovely in the candlelit kitchen eating, listening to music, and playing Yahtzee.
In the morning we had a very leisurely wake-up and popped down to the jetty by the lodge. As expected it was a lovely sunny day, but still chilly early in the morning. We enjoyed coffee and breakfast and waited for the sun to come up over the hills.
Back at the lodge there were a few kids hula-hoops lying around on the deck, so we warmed ourselves up by attempting to hula-hoop! Even though I had re-discovered the art of hula-hooping on Te Araroa trail, the hoops were so tiny, that after 20 minutes we gave up.
That’s when we realised that the huge wooden-floored lounge room would make an excellent ballroom. My tramping buddy is a bit of a salsa-dancing pro (although he’s too modest to admit it) so we enjoyed an impromptu Latin dance lesson as yesterdays wet tramping gear dried outside in the sun.
The Return Journey
Just as we were about to leave I had a small wardrobe malfunction as the hook pinged off my ankle gaiter. I carrry a sewing kit for such an eventuality and within a few minutes had sewed it back on. We left at 10.30am. The return journey was infinitely warmer an more pleasant than the incoming journey had been. We certainly didn’t hurry back, and took our time in the sun.
We stopped at the tramway to read the information board. Timber was milled in the area in the early 1900’s, and there was quite the settlement here. Back then, the then jetty was large enough to accommodate five steamers!
We stopped at the eel river and were delighted to see that Mr Eel was in residence!
Over the Nydia Saddle
Soon enough we were at the Nydia campsite, then started the slow climb to the Nydia Saddle. We found some incredible tiny mushrooms en-route!
We lunched on the saddle at 1.30pm at the same spot as yesterday, and enjoyed more of a view this time. We got going 20 minutes later and headed back down to the coastline and Duncan Bay. We passed a couple of hunters on the way down – the only other people we met on the trail.
Time for a swim!
As we came into Duncan Bay car park around 3.30pm we stopped and chatted to a couple of French lads who had been swimming. Inspired, we grabbed a towel and some home-made cake ( …which is becoming a luxurious tramping habit these days) and took it down to the Bay. We were about to lose the sun over the hill, so there was no time to waste. We stripped off, waded out into the soft, sinky mud and took the plunge.
It was very, very cold!! We had a quick splash around before exiting as fast as we could and getting changed into our dry warm gear. The reward? A beautiful piece of lemon slice, which couldn’t have tasted any better, than after a winter dip..!