Day 17: Queenstown to Macetown

Wed 8 February 2017

  • Km today: 13
  • Total Km: 333

Karmela took me to the Pac N Save for last minute supplies for the next section of the walk. We stopped in Arrowtown for some brunch, I had a delicious chocolate porridge which would fuel me for the climb I knew was coming. A hug and a photo with Karmela and I took off to find the start of the trail. My apprehension at doing this next section was palpable and after the wonderful time I had had in Queenstown I worried that I may have undone some of the fitness developed over the past weeks. The Motatapu Track is described as ‘arduous and for experienced trampers’ in the TA notes which do much for my confidence level at what I was getting myself in for. It would be 3-4 days with some serious climbs over some of the highest peaks on the TA. Still, the time had come so on went the pack (probably about 16kgs or thereabouts) and on I tootled up the Bush Creek Trail out of Arrowtown, a pleasant walk alongside a creek in the dappled sunlight. It was a much later start than I was accustomed to so I thought I would just get to Macetown this afternoon rather than continuing any further. The gentle Bush Creek Trail soon became the Big Hill Trail and like the name suggests I was in for some steeper terrain. Soon enough however I was gaining height and out onto the grass above the treeline with a wonderful view across Arrowtown and Lake Hayes.

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The track swept up a very big hill and I thought ‘oh no’ I have to go up there! Fortunately after a short climb my track went off to the right around the mountain which was a might relief. There was a very nimble looking lady with a little pooch down the trail from me and she continued up the mountain. I was pleased to wave as I was setting off horizontally. The trail followed the contour of the hills and was a lot of fun in the sunshine. The smell of grass and ferns warmed by the sun wafted on the warm breeze and it was nice to have another sensory experience as I was walking than just sight and sound. The trail steepened a bit and after following more sidings I arrived at the Big Hill Saddle (1060m). Three jovial girls that I had passed on the track arrived soon after and we took the chance for photos before the steep descent to the river below.

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At the bottom of the hill was an abandoned miners cottage but it was on a small hill so I didn’t bother having a look, as there would be more to see in Macetown. At this point I followed Eight mile creek through the lupins until it met with the Arrow River, whereabouts I turned left and made my way up the river track towards Macetown. The trail ran along the side of the river and was carved into the stony bank. It was really quite fun walking through here marveling at the effort that must have gone into making the track. It passed through fields of flowers and even fruit and exotic trees. I did wonder why the heritage fruit trees always seem to be crab apples – if only the pioneers had put in juicy royal gala or grapes, apricots or oranges. It could have been a feast along the way.

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20170208_153915There isn’t much left of Macetown these days. In its heyday during the gold rush it had 200 inhabitants, hotels, a school and a public hall however er by 1920 everyone had gone. However some of the stone buildings have been restored and they really are quite marvelous to see. I found a nice little spot near a stream and under some trees to put up my tent. There was a DOC toilet not far away so apart from the swarms of sandflies I was set. Suddenly a guy appeared from across the stream with a big pack which turned out to be his para-pente. He had lept off Coronet Peak and had wanted to go to Wanaka but had run out of uplift enroute so had come back to land and was walking out. He admired that I was doing the TA and I marveled at his courage. Shortly after another guy appeared holding a bike over his shoulder. We got chatting he had left his bike around the corner to ride out after climbing a summit. He pointed into the far distance where a mighty and pointy peak soared above everything else and I was like ‘up there, really?’ Oh yes nothing to it. I was just amazed with the outdoor spirit of these guys and many like them that take these challenges and just go for it. It takes courage, determination and fearlessness, but the reward to the incredible sense of achievement. It put my wee walk that I would have the next day into perspective and I was feeling better for it when I escaped into the tent for the night.

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