Thurs 9 February 2017
- Km today: 10
- Total Km: 343
It had been a cold night and a frost lay across the grass. It was nippy morning so I had a quick breakfast of porridge with fruit & nuts and wanted to get away. The three girls from yesterday had been up early and were already off across the creek in front of me. They were going to try to get to the Highland Creek hut today if they could. I wasn’t sure how far I would manage. The first part of the tramp today was up the Arrow River. This was described as the easier route when the river water level was normal or low. As I have learnt on the TA is that ‘easier’ has no correlation to ‘easy’. Easier is actually a level of difficulty on a scale of where it might begin as easier, then there would be steep, serious, hazardous and potentially life threatening. Easy and moderate would be two different scales of their own all together. So rather that following the sidings around the hills I went the ‘easier’ way which was up the river. The trail follows a light 4WD track that fords the river at every opportunity. I had my gaiters on (for the first time) but it wasn’t long before the water was filling my boots at every crossing of the river. Despite the wet boots in the Takitimu range, this was all together another level of wet, and one which I knew I would need to conquer at some stage. Earlier the better I think as it was another experience that I had not been looking forward to – tramping in wet boots all day. There must have been at least 40 river crossings this morning. Backwards and forwards across the river, looking for stones to step across or just plunging in through the shallower bits. At some times it was actually walking up the river as any sign of a trail disappeared with steep rocky banks. Also the banks were lined with matagouri, the thorny shrub that tears at skin and clothing. Sometimes the matagouri was so thick that you had to get on your hands and knees and crawl through the stuff. This is TA ‘easier’ alright!!! The water was mountain fed so on the chilly side but that didn’t matter in wet boots and was actually a slight comfort as the day warmed up. I passed the three girls and then met about 6 SOBO’s who were making their way to Macetown and out – bzzz bzzz – okay I needed to go to the blue digger before climbing out! Yep just follow the river down and then follow the 4WD track to Arrowtown if you don’t want to go over Big Hill…
I arrived at the blue digger which sat on the river bank, presumably it had been helicoptered in and would be used for a gold mining operation. The orange TA markers disappeared up the steep mountainside to the right and a small Motatapu Track sign indicated the same direction. There was nothing left but to start the ascent to Roses Saddle. Fortunately the narrow track did a zig zag up the first part of the mountain which made the going a little easier. Depending on the incline I still need to stop ever 10-20 steps to catch my breath and take a chance to look at the view, see how far I had come and look skywards to where I still needed to go. However by chipping away at the ascent you get closer and closer to the summit and before long you are marveling at how far you have climbed. And then I reached the Roses Saddle at 1270m. In 1853 Nathaniel Chambers, guided by Kai Tahu men Reko and Kaikoura, was the first European to see Lake Wanaka. Government surveyors followed shortly after and saw the potential for farming and gold mining. The subsequent track was used by Chinese and European traders and gold miners. I can only imagine the poor pack horses as they traipsed up and over this pass. The weather for my crossing was near on perfect, a light breeze to keep me cool and a light sky but not too hot. That accomplished I set off down the other side of the saddle towards Roses Hut. It was a steep descent and my knees were not that pleased about the downward progress so I must say I make these slowly and carefully.Almost to the bottom I had a chat with Liz SOBO who was reading her book and resting before continuing her ascent to the saddle bzzz. A little further down and I reached Roses Hut of 12 bunks which was built in 2004. The three huts on the Motatapu Track are identical, modern, warm and well designed. I thought I would wait for the three girls to arrive and ask if I could accompany them to the next hut as it was only 1300. Doug and Ned SOBO’s arrived for a rest, they have come from the Fernburn Hut (two distant) and were trying to make Macetown today so they could get to the post office in Queenstown on Saturday morning. It was a massive effort. By the time the girls arrived it was 1500 and I had already decided to stay at Roses Hut. There was no need to rush and I know the next day is a big one with 2 major peaks to climb which might take me 5-6 hours so I didn’t want to set off too late in the day and be caught out in weather or darkness especially if it took me longer. The three girls decide they will walk for another few hours and camp out. Good on them I think, but I am happy here. I watch them as they start climbing the mountain and before long they have disappeared against the tussocky background. More people arrive Ashay (Australia) and later his Mum Susan, Guyon & Olivier (France) then Elie (UK) who is trailing Doug and Ned. The 3 of them had caught food poisoning in Wanaka (don’t have the kebabs) and had a ‘zero’ day at Fernburn Hut. Zero being that no kms had been walked. Dinner all done, noodles and tomato alfredo pasta, everyone was tucked up by 2030 even though it doesn’t get dark until 2200.