|Nelson to Murchison, Saturday, February 23
South from Nelson, on Highway 6, the wide valley was filled with vineyards for miles to south of Wakefield. The highway was quite straight and fast but we had been warned at the motel about 'greasy' roads when it's raining and highway signs are plentiful warning about 'slippery when wet'. Terrain changed to more rugged with sheep, some cattle and a deer farm or two. From time to time irrigation systems are evident in paddocks, and vegetation is even greener than in surrounding paddocks. As in all the rugged areas, planted forest is visible in nearly every direction. After about two hours we arrived at Murchison, population about 750, and described in the Lonely Planet as an 'up-and-coming town', an upper Buller Gorge service town and adventure base.
We checked into the Mataki Motel and decided to tramp up the Skyline Trail, just out of town. It was mainly cloudy, a bit threatening but dry so far, so we thought that would be a good one to do today. It was a good amount of up through some jungle-like vegetation for the first part, the opened a bit as we climbed higher. Up and up a 20% grade for 45 minutes; this was called a moderate walk by New Zealand standards! Views from the top were down to the town as well as across the Four River Plain, the Matakitaki, Matiri, Buller and Mangles Rivers. In the distance in every direction are forest covered mountains and in the valley, farms with dairy cattle visible in one of the paddocks and green squared fields, couldn't really tell if it was pasture or seeded.