The Majestic Milford Sound
Sorry for no text with these pics... it shall be coming!
Sorry for sideways pics...
The Wanaka Tree
Macetown- deserted mining town
1/8 Due to the slight tilt of our beech forest campsite, neither of us had the best night's sleep. Nevertheless, the trail waits for no one, so we packed camp at our usual time and headed out for another steep climb. The the views were some of the most spectacular on the trail, as the low tussock afforded 360 degree views of the rocky peaks surrounding us. We followed a dilapidated fence line high among the mountains and wondered how and why anyone had bothered to build a fence so high and lengthy through these almost impassable crags. Our descent led us down to Rose's hut, another beautiful and new 12 bunk accommodation built largely for Te Araroa trampers. We grabbed some water, used the long drop and put on sun screen before heading up and other Rose's saddle. It was a straightforward climb, which meant it led pretty much straight up the saddle at a steep pitch before switch backing briefly at the final climb. We headed down from the saddle over various spurs of land, eventually leading us to the Arrow river. Here we had the option of either walking in the river or following the trail the climbs alongside its banks. We opted for the river walk after all the climbing we'd done in previous hours. It was a perfectly sunny day and the water felt good sloshing around in our weathered boots. Full of pebbles, we stopped to empty them out before entering the deserted Macetown. An old mining village, its remote remains have been transformed into a walking tour through time and we passed another couple who had driven up through the valley for a picnic. A bit further down we stopped to have lunch near a couple who were panning for gold in the river! The sand flies were almost unbearable and we had quickly, covered in hot layers of clothing to keep them at bay. Once moving again, they ceased to bother us and we made our way up our third and final climb of the day over Big Hill Saddle. The trail was completely overgrown and we were at least warned by some runners before making our ascent. Once at the top, we had excellent views of Arrowtown and Lake Hayes below. The path followed a nicely graded footpath, frequented by locals, and we took it easy as we headed into sunny Arrowtown. Also having roots in the mining business, Arrowtown was bustling with tourists "panning for gold" at small booths and enjoying the nostalgia of a preserved Main Street, reminiscent of Disney World. We stopped for ice cream and got funny looks as in our dirty state. We pressed on through the affluent neighborhoods and golf courses in this Queenstown suburb before arriving on the banks of Lake Hayes. Despite signs for no camping, we found a secluded spot and cooked a warm dinner as locals walked their dogs in the evening sun. Queenstown tomorrow and then a day off!
1/7 One of my favorite days on the trail! We broke our rocky and windy beach camp to grey but warm skies. Lake Wanaka had raged like ocean tides all night and had ceased to let up even this morning. We continued to follow the Glendhu track which round about bluffs on the lake. It was a well formed dusty trail and we were greeted by morning cyclists as they passed, leaving us in a cloud at their wake. The track led to the Glendhu campsite... Or circus should I say. Never have I seen more camper vans, giant tents or motor boats so concentrated on one bay. Lazily campers began to wake as we passed through. There was even a camp store open that sold coffee AND my favorite popcorn, so of course we stopped for a bit. After a short break we made our way up a dirt road to the start of our next track. Per usual, we made the obligatory tramp over multiple stiles through pasture land, avoiding giant cow plops and sheep dung as we meandered through a poled track and up into the woods. Once in the forest, the track was well defined and scrambled over roots and up the river valley at an enjoyable and challenging pace. There's always a fine line between a track that's too easy and doesn't pass the time, a track that's just right (like this one) and a track that's so back breaking it makes you want to chuck your trekking poles and curl up in ball till it's over. This track- was just right. It lead up to the beautiful Fern Burn hut where we paused only to sign the intentions book and then made way towards the Highland Creek hut. The trail climbed and fell with the cascading landscape. Ridges and valleys cut out so uniformly they looked as if you roll up the conic form of the mountains right into themselves. Covered in ankle high tussock, we could see the trail for miles ahead as it meandered over the peaks ahead of us. We summited Jack Hall saddle and then descended towards the next hut. It was early and yet we had a challenging 10 km ahead. We weren't sure if we could camp anywhere in between, but luckily Gareth, a native scotsman and now kiwi, was also just arriving at the hut and he assured us that we could camp by the creak in the middle of the next section. So we pushed on and the weather turned out to be perfect for this next difficult but rewarding climb. Ascending and descending over 450 meters within 5 km we made good time to the creak valley and called it an early day to enjoy the sounds lighting of a beautiful day in the mountains. A hot dinner and cozy tent rounded out another perfect day on the trail.