Resupply in Queenstown
Day 59: Wanaka to Glendhu Bay (15, 5km/3hours)
Glendhu Bay is now officially our most visited campsite. We spent a few days here, rock climbing at the nearby climber’s mekka: Hospital Flat. The weather has been great the past few days, but now heavy thunder clouds have rolled in. Soon it starts pouring and we discover that every tent has its limits when it comes to being water proof.
We decide to hang out for a day, figuring that it can’t get worse than this. The next day the weather looks reasonable, so I suggest we make a dash for it. We hitch to Wanaka just to return to Glendhu Bay, again, only now on foot. The trail along the bay is pretty but unfortunately the weather gods are not on our side and it starts to pour again. We arrive a couple hours later at the same spot where we left from this morning. Only soaking wet this time. As if that wasn’t enough we still have to resupply for the next few days. So we hitch up and down to Wanaka again, luckily it’s not too far. Possibly the craziest logistics so far (Sometimes being a ‘purist’ can seem a bit nuts).
Anyway, it’s good to be back on the trail after a few days. Queenstown here we come!
Day 60: Glendhu Bay to Highland Creek Hut (13km/8hours)
It’s dry when we leave the campground at Glendhu Bay around 10:30am. It was raining in this morning so we got a late start. We walk a bit on the road and then down a dirt road for 2,5 kilometer to the Fern Burn Car park: the start of the Mototapu Alpine Track.
The first part of the track goes through some flat deer paddocks and then sidles along the Fern Burn. It steadily climbs through the forest and when it breaks tree line it enters the typical New Zealand tussock country.
We reach the Fern Burn Hut around 2pm and have a lunch break. From the hut we climb up to Jack Halls Saddle at 1275 meters. At the saddle we have great views of Lake Wanaka in the distance.
We follow the ridge down to a creek and from there it’s mostly sidling and ridge walking until the Highland Creek Hut, which sits in a very pretty spot in an alpine basin.
Day 61: Highland Creek Hut to Roses Hut (11km/6hours)
When I venture out of the hut at 7am it’s still quite cold and the wet grass is chilly on my legs. The sunrise is beautiful and hopefully it will be a clear day.
Today will be a tough day with two major climbs and ascends. The climbing starts straight away up a steep spur.
The trail notes say this will be a “memorable climb”. I don’t know exactly what this refers to. It might be the physical part: if there is such a thing as muscle memory, I’m sure my calves will not forget this quickly. It could also refer to the views on the way up. Which are stunning and definitely memorable too.
We follow the ridge line for a while before descending all the way down to a creek. A bit of the trail is washed out and we have to climb down a bit. The edges are covered in snow grass. Did I mention snow grass is slippery? Especially when it’s wet. Before I realize what is happening I lose my grip and am flying over the edge. I somehow make a complete somersault and land on my butt about three meters down. Luckily snow grass is also soft, so no harm done, except for a bruised ego. Could be worse.
Now we have to tackle a second long and steep climb up towards a major ridge off Knuckle Peak. Once we are on the ridge it starts to drizzle and by the time we descend the ridge it’s pouring. Fortunately the hut is in sight.
Day 62: Roses Hut to Arrowtown (27km/9 hours)
The sun is shining bright this morning and there is no sign of yesterday’s clouds. New Zealand’s weather is fickle As. But I’m not complaining.
We climb start the day by climbing up to a point just east of Roses Saddle, at 1270 meters.
From here the trail descends down to the Arrow River. There used to be a lot of gold mining in this area and the river played an important part in the Central Otago 1860’s Gold Rush. As I‘m wading through the water my feet kick up lots of little particles. It is not gold but probably quartz and other minerals that make the river water sparkle as if somebody just spilled a box of glitter in it.
We walk in the riverbed and follow the river down to Macetown. This old gold mining town now has a population of zero: as the gold disappeared so did its inhabitants. All that remains are a few stone walls and foundations. We take a lunch break by the river and try our luck at some panning. Jack finds a tiny speck of what he is convinced is gold, but as we are discussing what we can buy with this the wind blows it away.
You can camp for free in Macetown. Which would be quit cool, but it’s still early and we want to get a bit further. We follow the 4WD track towards Arrowtown. At some point we’re supposes to get onto the Big Hill Track, but we completely miss the turn and end up making a big detour. We did get to see a nice gorge instead and make it to Arrowtown around dinner time.
Arrowtown is a picturesque little settlement that transports you back in time. Wandering through the small tree lined streets of restored cottages, shops and old churches I can imagine what it must have been like when early settlers were seeking their fortunes here. Many of the miners were Chinese and there is an old Chinese settlement on the outskirts of town.
Day 63: Arrowtown to Queenstown (28, 5km/5, 5hours )
Last night we slept in the forest close to Arrowtown. Today will be a short day, walking into Queenstown via the Wakatipu Track. The route has quite a different scenery than the previous Mototapu Track. First we walk through the rolling green hills of the golf course where we spot some local fauna, mostly old birds with nice colorful platted patterns.
Next we reach Lake Hayes. The views along the lake shore are really nice but I also keep looking over my shoulder to avoid the numerous mountain bikers on the trail.
We cross the Shotover river via the scenic Lower Shotover Bridge.
The next section is not very scenic, going through the industrial area past the sewage oxidation tanks and the airport. There is a nice park to compensate for it.
And once we reach the shores of Lake Wakatipu we are rewarded with beautiful views of the lake against a backdrop of rugged peaks of the majestic Remarkables. We walk along the shores for a couple kilometers before we reach Queenstown.
After the relative quiet of the mountains the city is so loud and busy! Queenstown is full of adrenaline junkies: they are racing on the water in jetboats, floting from the sky with parachutes and thundering down the steep slopes on their mountainbikes. All I want right now is some food and peace and quiet. So we grab a pizza and hitch back to Arrowtown where we pitch the tent in the nice and tranquil spot in the forest.