Section 11: The Breast Hill Track – to Wanaka

Birchwood carpark-Wanaka
85km
4 days
Resupply in Wanaka

Day 55: Birchwood carpark to Top Timaru Hut (22km/7hours)
We were standing in the rain when Ben picked us up and offered us a room for the night. I was glad for it because it rained all night. Kiwi hospitality never stops impressing me. The next morning we have a coffee and even get dropped at the trail head! What better way to kick of the day? So at 7am we are at the start of the Breast Hill Track. From the carpark we follow the fenceline on a 4WD track covered in cow- and sheep shit. A bit down the road we encounter the producers. The herd slowly moves away, except for a young bull calf that seems keen to show its manlyness and makes a stand on the road. But as we draw closer it loses its nerves and runs back to the herd, causing a small stampede.

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View down the valley where we walked through

After about nine kilometers we arrive at a small private hut. To our surprise it’s not locked and there is a log book inside showing that quite a few Te Araroa hikers stayed here. We have a lunch break and then continue down the trail. On the slopes we see some Chamois (mountain goats)

There is a small private hut (Tin Hut) on the way where we had a lunch break. It is open for TA hikers.

There is a small private hut (Tin Hut) on the way.

We ford the Burn and start climbing up to Mt. Martha Saddle (1660m). It starts to drizzle and soon we are up in the clouds with very limited visibility. On the saddle there is a heavy gail so we hurry down to the valley and follow the Timaru River to Top Timaru Hut.

 

Top Timaru Hut

Top Timaru Hut

Views from Top Timaru hut. Spear grass, a trampers worse enemy.

Views from Top Timaru Hut. Spear grass, a trampers worse enemy.

Day 56: Top Timaru hut to Stodys hut (15km/8, 5hours)
Jack went for a run up to Mt. Prospect this morning so I went ahead. From the hut the track follows a small ridgeline and then descents into the forest. The track siddles through a steep river valley and there are many river crossings. It’s like a roller coaster with many steep ups and downs. Lots of climbing but unfortunately without the reward of actually gaining elevation.

 On the final climb up there are some good views.

On the final climb up there are some good views.

Then there is one final steep climb straigh up to Stodys hut (1080m), an old musterers hut with a dirt floor and quite a few bugs by the looks of it. There is water in a very small creek nearby, not much more then a slow trickle but it will do.

Stodys Hut

Stodys Hut

Day 57: Stodys hut to Lake Hawea (26km/10 hours)
It’s cloudy this morning but there are already some blue patches visible. Today we go up to Breast Hill. That sounds quite pleasant: to me the name suggests smooth undulating landscape. Like breasts right? But nothing is further from the truth, this is a very steep and jagged climb/descent. It offers good views though.

On the way up to Breast Hill

Views on the way up to Breast Hill

We follow an old farm track up to the ridgeline and continue along the broad ridge towards the Breast Hill summit (1578m).

On top of Breast Hill

On top of Breast Hill

There are good views from the ridge and from the top of Breast Hill we have amazing views over Lake Hawea and the Southern Alps. We can even see the peak of Mt. Aspiring just poking its head through the ring of clouds.

Beautiful view of Lake Hawea from Breast Hill.

Beautiful view of Lake Hawea from Breast Hill.

Beyond the summit we follow the fenceline down to Pakituhi Hut. From here it’s a very steep, almost 1000 meter, descend to the Timaru River Road.

Wavy ridge lines on the way down

Wavy ridge lines on the way down

We are down at the road around 3pm. From here we walk along the shore of Lake Hawea following the Gladstone Track.

Walking along the Lake Hawea shore. Fishing is very popular

Walking along the Lake Hawea shore. Two people are fishing, hiding from the heat under their colorful umbrellas

We get into town around 6pm and find the general store is still open. Time for some ice cream and bananas: I get wierd cravings sometimes.
There is not much free camping oppurtunity in Lake Hawea so we camped a bit past the village near the Hawea River. It’s 9:30pm by the time we pitch the tent, a very long but satisfying day.

Day 58: Lake Hawea to Wanaka (~22km/5, 5hours)

We wake up just before dawn. Its still very cold outside as we are eating breakfast. But the sky is clear and it’s promising to be a sunny day. We follow the Hawea River downstream towards the Albert town Conservation Reserve. It’s easy and flat, so we make quick progress. After we cross the swingbridge we’re supposed to turn left, but the area is taped off with red and white ribbon. What is this? Some crime scene? As it turns out nobody is murdered. This is the nesting area of a couple of endangered New Zealand falcons. Falcons first in this case, so we’ll just have to walk around. We pass through Albert Town. From the town we folow the Clutha River to Lake Wanaka’s outlet. This is a very busy trail with lots of mountain bikes and dogs running around. Somehow they manage to share the road in perfect harmony without any fatalities.

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

We walk along the lake shore for few more hours. There are lots of activities going on, both in and on the water. Sailboats, jetskis, canoes and stand-up paddleboards are all competing over heir patch of lake. Meanwhile the sky is dotted with colorfull parachutes and paraglides.

The 'famous' Wanaka tree, a.k.a. 'that tree in the water'. Possibly the most photographed tree in New Zealand.

The famous Wanaka tree, a.k.a. ‘that tree in the water’. Possibly the most photographed tree in New Zealand.

Yes, I went back for sunset

Yes, I went back for sunset

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