With a day of rain coming I decided to go as far and fast as I could so that I wasn’t up in the alpine areas in the rain. Many parts of these tracks are dodgy even in dry weather and I have been very lucky so far, so I wasn’t pushing my luck at all.
On Sunday 1 March I managed a hitch out to Glenhu Bay which is where the Motatapu Track begins. This saved me 3 hours walking and meant I could get to Highland Creek hut on day 1 rather than day 2. We passed a large, newly, developed car park full of buses, vans and cars at the bottom of Roys Peak. My driver told me that this peak had become one of the most photographed places in New Zealand especially at sunrise. So tourists get up at about 2 am to drive out and make the 3 hour walk up the steep hill to get “the photo”.
The Motatapu Track was constructed as part of the conditions that allowed the pastoral leases of two huge areas to be sold to overseas owners. Shania Twain owns 20,000 hectares but I didn’t manage to see her while I was there. The track connects Wanaka and Arrowtown and has some really nice modern huts that are now looked after by DOC. It is a real privilege to be able to cross these spectacular high country farms. (Even though they have some very big hills)
I started the track with 3 Aussie men about my age. They had big packs and were only going to the first hut, Fern Burn, for the night. We chatted a bit about what we were all up to then I sped off. No time to lose today. But I did lose my outer gloves which I had taken off to use the camera, and my PeeRag, which must have become hooked on something along the way.
The gloves are just cheap rubber gardening gloves which are good for protecting my delicate hands from sharp rocks, prickly bushes and mud. Easily replaced but my PeeRag is on another level and worth waiting to see if the blokes had picked it up. So I sat and enjoyed my rest at a very lovely new (2008) hut while I waited for them to arrive.
The had not seen the gloves but had seen the PeeRag. One bloke pocked it with his stick as he thought it might have been a wallet and when finding that it wasn’t, he left it there. Aussie, what do you expect!!
I explained how important that piece of kit was to me and left a note the hut asking for anyone who finds it up bring it forward for me. I added that it was freshly washed and unused since.
Then I was off to Highland Creek Hut, only 6 km away but posted to take 4 to 5 hours. I did it I 3.5 hours so going well for a 1,000 metre climb in searing heat. I am walking through
Arriving at the hut the sun was out and there was 3 men on the decking soaking up the rays. So I quickly dropped my pack, threw my sleeping bag on a bottom bunk and joined them for a lively social evening. We discussed how good it was to have no sandflies for a change.
One man was an Aussie going NOBO (North Bound) South Island only. He is the skinny one without the shirt. The other 2 were kiwi trampers out for a few days R&R.
Later we were joined by 2 young Frenchies who asked if I was Karen. Yes, they had found my Peerag and had brought it on for me. I was deliriously happy.
Day 132. 2 March. A huge day.
I was up and off by just before 8am. Rose’s Hut was only 10km away but the sign said 7 to 8 hours. There was 2 huge ascents and descents to do with not much in between. I could see what was coming up all day and it was either steep up or steep down.
So I plodded on making sure I didn’t puff going up and apologizing to my poor toes as I went down. They were getting slammed into the ends of my shoes with every step, making downhill much harder than up hill. Many walkers have knee pain on these steep unrelenting descents but I don’t. When it wasn’t so steep so I was able to get into a run (maybe a canter or jog). I felt at ease, alone in the vast wilderness, but knowing that the Frenchies were behind me made me feel safe an secure.
I arrived at the Roses Hut at 1pm, only 5 hours! Shoes and socks and shirt hung out in the sun while I ate my wrap with egg, cheese, carrot and salami accompanied by a cup of soup.
The young Frenchies arrived and we discussed the merits of pushing on as there was another big hill to cover followed by 3 hours of a river walking. Rain was forecast for later in the day.
A Canadian ÑOBO arrived and his description of the trail made us decide to carry on for another 5 or so hours to Macetown. This would mean we only needed to walk along a 4WD track in the rain the next day which would be safe and manageable.
We arrived at 7.30 pm very pleased that we did not do that part in the rain. The big hill wasn’t so bad, long but not particularly steep as it zig zagged all the way up, instead of the usual Kiwi straight up the guts. . The decent was very steep and slippery in places even without rain.
The notes said the easiest way to cover the last 3 hours was to walk down the river. There was an alternative track to use if the river was high and we all decided we had had enough of walking up rivers so headed up the other track.
At times it was very dodgy. One slip and I would have been a goner. It sidled really high above the river and then we had to go down again. I really would not have managed it in the rain. I was terrible in some places in the dry. I believe the river walk would have been better.
Arriving pretty tired at Macetown, an abandoned gold mining town with a population of zero, I ate my dinner then crawled into my tent, tired but very pleased with the decision to carry on and my achievements for the day. The sandflies were back with a vengeance.
Day 133. A 4 hour walk in the rain to Arrowtown
My alarm went off at 6 am as I wanted to get to Arrowtown before the forecast rain at noon. However my forecast was 3 days old and it started raining just before I had a chance to get my tent packed up. Bugger. So off I went in the rain for 4 hours along a 4WD track, rather than the cross country route which went up and over hill called Big Hill. I had climbed enough big hills in the previous few days.
I must have crossed the river 25 times but they were all only up to my knees at the most.
So I was wet and miserable looking when I reached Arrowtown which was swarming with tourists all looking very clean and neat. The rain magically stopped as I arrived.
I found a bunk room at the Holiday Park, as I wasn’t keen on a night in the rain in my tent. It cost $70. That is the most expensive bunk bed I have had on the whole trail. The toilet block was a separate building too. I had a hot shower, hung out my tent and wet clothes to dry and ate my lunch in the the communal kitchen.
I was soon joined by a group of Kiwi Blokes my age who were on their annual motorcycle tour. It was good to chat to people who are travelling differently to myself and we had a few laughs before I was off to get a fix of fatty food and a beer and a look around the museum.
Arrowtown was a gold mining town that had a big Chinese population at the time, now it is full of tourists and a few Te Araroa Walkers daily. The lady at the counter in the museum said that there was usually bus loads of Chinese tourists adding to the mix but this had all stopped with the Corona virus issue. This seemed to be getting worse every time I reached civilisation. I wondered how it would play out and what affect it would have on the world and New Zealand, in particular. I was happy to be away from it all.