December 18- December 21
Day 1 Queenstown to Arrowtown to Macetown via Big Hill Track
I somehow took the wrong track to Arrowtown, but discovered the most beautiful area along a river bank, so it was a good kind of lost. I named this gorgeous river Lea as I walked along, thanks to Adele’s song “River Lea” from her new album, 25, being stuck in my head. I made it to Arrowtown by lunchtime, so I stopped in a café for a rest.
The next section to Macetown had the option to follow along the river for easy tramping or go by way of Big Hill Track. It was a gorgeous day, and I was looking forward to some good views, so I went for the big hill. I’m not sure which hill the title is referring to because there were lots of them and they were all big. Up, up, up I went, huffing and puffing all the way. I passed a woman on a casual walk carrying nothing but a water bottle, who laughed at me and said, “It’s much harder going uphill isn’t it? Haha” I politely laughed at here attempt to make me feel better, while a few harsher responses flooded my head.
I made it to the saddle in 2.5 hours and began my descent. The path was lightly marked, and I managed to always find myself to the left or the right of the trail. In the mud. Naturally. After the decent I would follow the river all the way into Macetown. I had to cross the river about 10 times. It was such a hot day, I put on my trusty Keen river shoes and happily waded into the water. There were heaps of flowers growing alongside the riverbed. Mostly pink and purple: nature’s own advent wreath. There were some yellow and white ones scattered randomly among the masses, reminding me that Easter is right around the corner.
I came strolling into Macetown at my leisurely pace just after 5pm. I had previously read many blogs warning about the sandflies at this campsite. They weren’t wrong! Even having slathered myself in bug spray just before arriving, they were still all over me. I strung up my hammock as quickly as possible. I got inside and was relieved to see the sandflies trying to get at me, but failing miserably thanks to my mosquito net encasing me.
Macetown human population: 0
Sandfly population: 100 billion
Day 2: Macetown to Rose’s Hut (10km)
I woke up early, surrounded by sandflies. I stayed in my hammock, eating trail mix for breakfast; trying to put off the inevitable for just a little longer. I lounged for a few hours before I finally made myself get out and tear down my campsite as fast as humanly possible. I ran out of Macetown like a bat out of hell.
The beginning of my day was amazing! The first section of the track had an option to follow the river upstream if it was low enough. It was, so I put on my Keens and enjoyed a glorious wet walk. I sang every river song that came to my head; Just Around the Riverbend (Pocahontas); River Lea (Adele).
After saying my goodbyes to the river (so sad), the trail turned inland and up. Up, up, up, 1270 meters up to Roses Saddle. This is where the mental challenge started. And I failed miserably. The climb was long, hot, and hard. I kept stopping and taking off my pack, which made things worse. My mind kept wanting to stop. I kept thinking I was tired, but I felt in my legs that they weren’t. My legs were strong. They could do this! If only my mind would shut the hell up and let them! Finally made it to the saddle. Snapped a picture of my backpack next to the sign (as if I needed another excuse to take it off.) With all of my motivation dried up, much like the dusty road below my feet, I walked the long decent to Rose’s Hut.
So happy to be in the hut! The woman at the DOC in Queenstown told me I wouldn’t see anybody out here for my entire trek, so I happily stripped down to my underwear and lounged about. Good thing I decided to slip into my clothes before going out to the bathroom because when I came back there was a boy! In the hut! I was so surprised, I was almost angry! I wanted to say, “Hey! You’re not supposed to be here! I wanted to be alone!” But instead, I welcomed him with a smile. We chatted for a bit. He’s from Canada. Hiking a few parts of the Te Araroa, trying to decide if he wants to do the whole thing. I was so exhausted I fell asleep before the sun went down.
Day 3: Rose’s Hut to Highland Creek Hut (11km)
Two major climbs and descents. The trail notes described the climb as “memorable.’’ I’ll say. The trail notes said 5-6 hour tramp. It took me 7!!! Hardest day for sure. Holy Moses, my legs were screaming by the time I made it to the next hut. Exhaustion from the long, hard, hot day in the full on Otago sun had set in. I found, “Call of the Wild” by Jack London in the hut. I sat out on the porch and read it with a fantastic view of the mountains from where I was sitting.
Day 4 Highland Creek Hut to Fern Burn Hut to Wanaka!
Awoke with sore feet and a tired body. I dragged myself out of bed to prep the usual oats, sultanas, and chia seeds. Ate my breakfast and slowly packed my bag. My plan for today was to make it to Fern Burn Hut. Just make it to the hut and see how I feel. Well hallelujah, I made it to the hut, and guess what? I felt AMAZING! After the day I had yesterday, I couldn’t believe how strong and motivated I felt! I stopped at Fern Burn Hut to take a quick break and continued out to the Fern Burn carpark. I wasn’t sure of my next step after that, but I felt good about continuing the walk. Along the way I met a guy who was out running the trail! Mad props to him. I was so hot nearing the end of my walk that I stripped and took a magnificent dip in the river when I got to the woods. It was exactly what I needed to revamp my energy to finish strong. About a half hour from the carpark the runner I met earlier caught up with me. He said, ‘’how’s it going?” and I screamed so loud I scared the sheep that were grazing across the way. Oops. We chatted for a bit and he offered me a lift to Wanaka! God is so good! I happily accepted. Being full of such joy at my luck, and my backpack feeling so light, I ran the last bit of the trail. He dropped me in downtown Wanaka: a small, cute touristy town with a gorgeous back drop of the lake and mountains (a mini version of Queenstown). My plan was to freedom camp in Wanaka, but with the heat of the day bearing down on me and my body screaming of exhaustion I decided a shower and a bed is what I needed. I ended up booking at the YHA and I am so happy I did! Such a nice place with such friendly people! They even have a discount special at some of the YHAs in New Zealand that give you an extra percentage off your stay on top of the membership discount if you are tramping the entire country! TA TRAMPERS FOR THE WIN!
It’s been such a nice rest day! Bought way too much food for the next few tramps; skyped with my sister who’s face I haven’t seen in too long! Relaxed and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day in this gorgeous town. I almost don’t want to leave! I have the best roommates! Most of us are leaving tomorrow so we will have a few goodbye drinks tonight to celebrate. I will be one and done, as I have a long 40km day tomorrow.
Overall review: some of the hardest walks of my life, but I am enjoying it more and more with every step. I am more exhausted than I have ever felt in my life, but I have never felt more alive.