Friday 1st April – Motatapu Carpark to Highland Creek Hut, 13km, 5hrs
I flew from Rotorua to Queenstown where Sally, who was walking with me for this section and her husband, Dene picked me up. They had a surprise for me…..a change of plans. Sally, who was meant to be walking with me, had been sick for 10 days with the flu and was not up to walking. Dene was taking her place. Not a problem.
Sally drove us to Glendhu Bay to start our walk for the next three days. The track started off lovely and fast cruising along beside a man-made creek. It was a nice easy start to the day. After half an hour Dene and I made it to the Stack Conservation Area which was a remnant Beech Forest, undulating beside a stream. It was beautiful and I started to enjoy being back walking.
The track was cut into the side of the bank so in places it was really skinny and with there being steep drops some times, it paid to concentrate on where you were putting each foot. I find this hard sometimes, as all I want to do is look around at the view, rather than study my foot placements. I must have been looking up during this moment as I came around a corner and with a tree at my head height had a Bellbird in it, chirping away. A great spotting.
We reached Fern Bern Hut after two hours of walking. We stopped for a short rest and chatted to the two Czech Republic guys that were staying there. The hut was lovely but we only spent about 15 minutes there.
The next part of the trail was up Fern Burn onto Jack Hall’s Saddle (1275m). It was very misty and cloudy but it was amazing being in the mountains again. I loved looking at the craggy rocks and the steep cliff sides, whenever the clouds cleared. We were getting rained on a little but nothing to bother us too much.
The downhill was steep and horrible on my sore knee. I had knee trouble on the last section and had cut it short to go home and get some physio treatment. It wasn’t completely better so I had tape in place to keep my knee cap in the right alignment.
The track sidled and walked along the ridge. It was zig zagging quite a bit and I was focused on my feet, surrounded by mist. Suddenly, I looked up and there was the hut (Highland Creek), totally unexpected. This hut was built in 2006 and was nice with a view down the valley to a high country basin. It has double glazed windows but no fire. It made for a cold night.
It had just started raining harder so we hung up our wet things and got changed. The rain settled in heavier so we were pleased to be finished for the day. The view from the hut was spectacular and when the rain cleared, I went out and took photos.
We were joined by Tyler, an American doing the Te Araroa Trail, who was full of life. There was plenty of chatting getting to know each other. Around 5pm, Flo from Germany turned up so our hut that sleeps 12, had four for the night. We all ate our dinners while being interested in what everyone else was eating.
I then read in my sleeping bag. Yes, I had tramped with a book. Never before done by me but it was a small book and I knew I was going to have time in the hut. That night was really quiet sleeping and I realised that this is the first hut, for a while, that hasn’t been by a stream. Most others are, as that is the water source. I slept pretty well but did hear at two different times, animals on the deck having a scurry around.
Saturday 2nd April – Highland Creek Hut to Roses Hut, 11km, 5 ½ hrs
Dene and I got ready in the dark and left at 8am when it was light. I was dreading today with my knee knowing I had to go up twice and down twice. I thought that I should probably have a stick to lean on but the terrain is tussock with no trees around.
We had a steep, short downhill to start and I ouched my way down. Then suddenly, I saw a stick on the ground (very out of place) and picked it up and used it to walk for the next two days. It helped immensely and I am thankful to whoever dropped it there.
The first climb of the day was up a steep spur that then sidled to places that showed the view. It was mountains to my left and the green grassy Motatapu Valley to my right. I kept looking at it and taking photos. Then going higher and repeating with more photos. I couldn’t stop myself with such a good view.
A downhill followed, that involved a long gradual decent, that wasn’t too bad. The stick helped and Dene chatted to me and distracted me from thoughts of my knee pain. The last part was steep so I was happy when we made it to the short forest section and down to the creek.
We had a break by the creek, before starting the next climb. It started off very steeply and then went across but then after that it was basically an hour of climbing. It was great looking around and seeing the valley below. Also looking up above the cloud layer and seeing the mountain tops poking out above. I saw many skinks, furry black caterpillars and big black beetles.
At the top of the climb, it did cloud us in a bit but I sat and enjoyed what I could see and since I had cell phone reception, I sent a few texts to check in with my family. Dene and I got going again and the track undulated along and then travelled down the ridge line. Along the way, we had great views down to the Motatapu River. Then views to the hut we were heading too. It was a long down section and I was very, very, very happy to reach the bottom.
We had another short break then it was across the river, along the valley floor to Roses Hut (again built in 2006). Roses Hut is another nice hut and Tyler arrived just after us, had lunch and then carried on to Macetown.
Dene and I, sat on the deck, enjoying the sunshine. Two Aucklander’s came from the South and carried on to where we had come from this morning. We were watching them to see them walk up the big mountain, we had come down. It looked like hard work.
I enjoyed sitting on the deck with no wind, no sand flies and a fantastic view. Only ten more days of my walk to go.
Sun 3rd April – Roses Hut to Arrowtown, 9hrs, 23km
Today started with yet another climb, for an hour to Roses Saddle (1270m), 470m of climbing. I could stop for a breather and look behind me to fabulous views. We were thankful the weather was good so we could see.
On the other side of the saddle, there was a beautiful rainbow and then it started raining. We headed down to the river and walked beside it, crossing when needed.With the rain coming down, the river was filling so we decided to head back up to the track. This involved a bit of bush bashing, up scree and through prickly plants. There were some challenging parts that had us holding on so we didn’t fall off the side of the mountain.
We made it back on the track that undulated along and was cut into the side of the cliff. The track was on an angle and very thin so added a need to concentrate on where I was putting my feet.
The rain stopped and the track lead us down to some beautiful Autumn coloured trees into Macetown. This is a town that has a population of zero but does have derelict huts that have been restored for us to look at. We walked inside a couple of them. We stopped for lunch and I got eaten by sand flies (first time this trip). We didn’t stop for long.
The next part was a lovely track by the river. I enjoyed walking it and was feeling thankful that I was out here walking. My gear and clothes were drying nicely with the sun out.
It was now time for our final climb up Big Hill Track (a suitable name). It was only 1060m high but I was lacking in energy towards the last stretch. I got cell reception at the top and let Sally know that we were two hours from Arrowtown, for picking us up.
The last downhill section was gradual and had good views down to Arrowtown and Lake Hayes. It made me reminisce about what the next day’s walk entails, as I have already done the Te Araroa Trail from Arrowtown down to Bluff already.
We started seeing lots of other people walking or running so we knew we were getting closer to civilisation. We came to a forested section where the bird life was loud and prolific. So good to hear so many birds. The track had one last surprise with a steep downhill that was mean and not enjoyable. This was followed by a final stretch along a huge pipeline into Arrowtown.
Yay, another section done and my sore knee survived!