Days 46-47: Hawea River to Queenstown
It’s been a great couple of days traversing across to the buzzing south island hotspot town of Queenstown. We’re now just north, in the lakeside suburb of Frankton from our pleasant spot next to the Hawea River, I finished the Hawea River and Outlet Tracks to takeme through to Wanaka. All the running was on gently meandering and undulating waterside trails, and being close to built up areas as well as a Saturday morning, busy with local joggers, dog walkers and cyclists. It was really strange having to share the trail with anyone! I’ve spent so many days withseeing a sole, it really felt weird. The trails took me through to Wanaka, next to the popular watersports lake. It was a scorching summer’s day so Wanaka itself was also heaving with boaters, families and people generally getting in my way (scrooge, booooo….). Wanaka was bustling, but Tango Café had yet to get busy, so it presented a great opportunity to launch a raid for ice cream andchips, which came in generous quantities when they heard what I was up to. With the camera guys hovering around me, the conversation went along the lines of; waitress “are you famous or are doing something crazy?”. Jez replies “does running the full length of New Zealand off road count as crazy?”.The poor girl couldn’t take it all in, and was then looking rather flustered!
I was in town for less than hour, most of that time in the café, and by that time I was definitely ready to move on. The Glendhu Bay Track took me round Lake Wanaka on a deceptively challenging trail,and then I was at the trailhead for the impressive Motatapu Alpine Track, a recently formed route traversing across to Macetown. It was classified as ‘hard tramping’ and it was, but definitely more pleasant that other hard tramping sections which I have felt to be somewhat on the cruel side! I set off with my fast pack at about 4pm after a good feed up from James, the plan being to simply see howfar I could go before feeling like crashing, at one of the three huts en route. Well the first, Fern Burn,was too early, but also full of a large family with kids so probably not that suitable anyway. I continued, and soon made the decision to sleep at Highland Creak.
The climb over Jack Hall’s Saddle to get there was memorable. The hills felt special and unique,almost folded and rippling with many spurs. Highland Creek is a brand new twelve bed hut, and I wasmore than excited on the approach, as it’s the first newer hut I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at. I noticed footprints en route, so I suspected someone else would be there (shock horror, a fellow tramper). I had also been left a ‘Trail Magic’ gift at Fern Burn Hut – a snickers bar. Someone knew Iwas on the way…. It was a fellow brit and through hiker – Kyle – a really great guy. We had a great evening chatting and sharing trail stories before crashing for an early night. Unfortunately it wasn’t agreat night’s sleep; the local mob of possums decided they would raid the outside of the hit. They were charging up and down the roof and verandah causing a right old racket, so Kyle did the honor sand went outside and chased the blighters off!
We both got an early start; a 4.30am alarm for 5.30am on the trail. I was hoping to get plenty of distance behind me before it got really hot, and they strategy worked well. There were five 500m(vertical) climbs to negotiate, every one of them testing me significantly given the steepness. I’m finding that whilst I can still climb, the built up fatigue in my legs is slowing me down, so a bit more patience than usual is required. It was an impressive, albeit rather intense route, with the final section being down the bed of the Arrow River. Given how hot it was that was my preferred place to be, and when I found some deep pools I took a full on swim. Heaven. The end of the track was Macetown. I don’t know what I was expecting because I knew it was an un-inhabited ex-mining town, but there really was no one there apart from some speculative weekend gold hunters! For some reason I set my heart on a museum, or a random shop, or anything, please! All I needed was a cold can of coke and an ice cream. No, it was inaccessible by all but 4x4s, and eerily quiet. I stopped for a quick sandwich, but decided not to delay the inevitable final stretch of super-hot hill climbing on the aptly named Big Hilltrack, to finally get me back to civilization in Arrowtown.
It was the hottest of the lot, a battle of the mind to get up there, with my body just wanting to rest in the shade. But a lovely reward at the end,with a stunning contouring section of singletrack before a final descent to Arrowtown.It was a relief to get back to the van, but everyone was baking hot, not least me. I had a good feedand a rest for a while, catching up with the team, and telling them all about my 24hours of excitementin the hills. I wanted to get some more kilometers in before the close of the day, despite it already being late afternoon, and my body not being particularly enthused. But it wasn’t as bad as feared (itnever is), and once I got going I successfully knocked out 17 more kilometers to help the totals.
Tomorrow I will run a mega-long lakeside section from our overnight location at Frankton, to Glenorchy, where we will launch for our final paddle of the trip, a crossing of Lake Wakatipu. Another big day lies ahead…..