Hiking through the Motatapu Valley was as beautiful as it was challenging as I hiked to Queenstown.
The Motatapu Valley served amazing views but not without hard climbs!
DAY 80 – Glendhu Bay Campground to Macetown
Though I went to bed at midnight, I woke up at 6am. My body won’t let me sleep in. I packed up and left the Glendhu Bay Campground. It was an easy road walk to the trailhead. Despite the extreme soreness of my body the previous night, I seemed somewhat refreshed now.
The track was nice and easy at first. I followed the Fern Burn (a burn is bigger than a stream but smaller than a river) through a nice beech forest. The trail sidled for a while before starting to climb.
I was trying to move fast as I had a huge day planned. I needed to get to Queenstown in the morrow which meant hauling ass today. The only problem was the terrain. There were four huge climbs in the 36km I planned to hike.
I was not enjoying the morning. I was worried the terrain and distance would be too much and I couldn’t reach my goal. Then I thought, Danny, you can do this. Quit worrying and underestimating yourself. Aren’t you the guy who hiked the Tararuas in two days when they said it would take four? And the Richmond Range in four days instead of the recommended six? And aren’t you the crazy hiker who climbed over the Travers Saddle and Waiau Pass in one day? This pep talk seemed to work and I kicked into gear.
I stopped at a hut for some peanut butter and KitKats. It was a nice view from the hut.
As I left the river, the first climb began. It was a steep ascent up into the mountains. The scenery was surprisingly beautiful.
Some clouds kept the sun away for the most part and a breeze was a nice change from the previous day’s heat wave. Still, I was sweating profusely as I climbed.
Eventually I reached Jack Halls Saddle at 1,275m (4,183ft). The views were amazing from the top. I could see Lake Wanaka way off in the distance.
The descent was steep but was quite stunning. I could see the trail ahead going up the next slope.
I stopped at another hut for a quick break and to eat some KitKats and peanut butter. Then it was on to climb number two.
This climb did not have a name but offered superb views of the Motatapu Valley. It was a strenuous slog up the mountain in the full sun.
The descent was hard on the knees but the epic panoramas made up for that. I was told by a Kiwi hiker that Shania Twain once owned the land here with the condition that this trail be built and land set aside for conservation.
And then there was a third climb. Same as the others, just as strenuous and exhausting. At least I was drinking more water today.
From the top I could see the road running through the valley around all these mountains. For once the trail was taking me off the road and making me climb mountains just for the hell of it. As a hiker I feel like I’d complain either way. Climbs suck. Roads suck. Haha.
There was another hut at the bottom of this climb. I had a late lunch of wraps. It was so tempting to stay as it was near 6pm. But alas I was doing so well meeting my goal.
And so I headed up my final climb of the day. I was armed with a Gatorade I’d saved from Wanaka. This was my secret weapon to give me an energy boost. Can’t go wrong with sugar.
This last climb was slightly more gradual. The sun was still hot in the late hour but I persevered.
At last I crested Roses Saddle at 1,270m (4,167ft). The next valley was beautiful.
This descent was just as magical as the others. Sweeping views and hard on the knees.
At the bottom I reached the Arrow River. I had the option of taking the high water route which I was told is a lot of ups and downs. Or I could take the low water route in the river.
Naturally I took the easy route and waded through the river. This was a refreshing way to wind down.
The river wasn’t too deep and I splashed my way down for 5km. At last I arrived at Macetown. Macetown used to be a gold mining town that is now deserted. Only a few buildings have been restored so it’s essentially a ghost town.
I walked through the ruins before finding a spot on the river to camp. I ended up surpassing my goal by 2km and set up camp in the dark. Then it was time for some dinner and Netflix.
Day’s Distance: 38km (23.6mi)
Total Distance: 2,638km (1,639.5mi)
Distance Remaining: 362km (225mi)
DAY 81 – Macetown to Queenstown
I didn’t want to get up, I was so tired. But I had planned to get picked up in Queenstown in ten hours with nearly 40km to hike. At my normal pace of around 4-5km per hour, I needed to move. Reluctantly I packed up and headed down the trail.
The first order of business was to get my feet wet crossing a stream and then climbing away from the river. It sprinkled on me briefly but never turned to rain.
I continued through increasingly long grass which was irritating. I wasn’t enjoying the trail this morning and just wanted to be finished. I’m so close yet so far from Bluff.
I ascended up the unimaginatively named Big Hill to the saddle at 1,060m (3,478ft). The trail was overgrown at times and went through some swampy areas. I was annoyed.
The view was nice at the top and the gloomy weather seemed to clear on the other side of the saddle. The descent proved much nicer.
It would seem that many people do the short day hike from nearby Arrowtown up to the saddle and back. And so the trail down into Arrowtown was well worn and nicely graded.
I enjoyed the descent and my mood changed significantly. It was a long but easy hike down as I passed many locals and tourists climbing up.
I stopped in the touristy Arrowtown. It was a historic town and I even saw tourists panning for gold in the river. I stopped at a bakery for a veggie calzone; Tom’s vegetarianism was rubbing off on me. And then I had to hit the pavement.
The next bit of trail was extremely boring. I was following a bike/footpath all the way into Queenstown essentially. It was paved for some of it and then gravel. I followed this path through neighborhoods and golf courses and around lakes. I talked to friends and family on the phone, I was so bored. I tried catching up a bit with my video editing. I even booked a flight out of New Zealand as I walked.
The trail eventually reached a shopping center outside of Queenstown. I went into Kmart to buy new jandals (in New Zealand flip flops/sandals actually go by the name jandals). I had lost one of my jandals a few weeks ago and needed a new pair. Kmart in New Zealand is kind of like a U.S. Target store, minus the groceries and a few other departments. I then went to the grocery store for some Gatorade; there hadn’t been anywhere to refill my water on the urban trail.
Soon I was on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. I was utterly bored at this point despite the beautiful scenery. The surrounding mountains and lake were nice to look at but the trail was taking me around the lake into Queenstown.
I’ve been to Queenstown many times before and it’s full of tourists and expensive. The trail arbitrarily ends downtown and then picks up on the other side of the lake. Needless to say I was a little irritated I had to walk all the way into the city center just to get a ride out of the city. But I kept on walking, trying to make the most of it.
It was a pretty walk as the tourists and runners/bikers increased on the multi-use path. Eventually I walked into downtown and it was mobbed with people. I quickly weaved through the crowd and found my friend Phillip waiting for me.
Phillip is a Kiwi and he and his partner, Jamie, live in nearby Cromwell. I met them when I worked in Milford Sound (blog on that to come eventually). We drove back to Cromwell and I showered and had dinner and drinks with them. It was great catching up, getting clean, and having an amazing bed for the night. I was so knackered from the previous day’s mountains and now this day’s endlessly dull walk into the city. But I was grateful for my friends and Queenstown was a nice city to visit. I was just over it.
Day’s Distance: 39km (24.2mi)
Total Distance: 2,677km (1,663.8mi)
Distance Remaining: 323km (200.7mi)
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