Wanaka to Queenstown took a seemingly short 4 days but in fact it was a crazy ride of climbs and steep descents, two beautiful new huts, bipolar weather and excitement for a zero day to explore one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations.
“Aboot” the track for this section
This stretch consisted of the Motatapu Alpine track with shorter cycle trails to follow as we got closer to Queenstown. In our trail notes it says the track and huts along the Motatapu track were funded by foreign investors. Rumour has it Miss Shania Twain was the key investor here. How about that Canadian contribution! The song lyrics quoted by numerous people in the hut intentions books were pretty entertaining. The track was opened in 2008. How exciting to meander through Shania’s backyard.
Day One: 24 km
Wanaka to Fern Burn Hut
To make our way to the Mohatapu Alpine Track, we worked our way around Lake Wanaka, passing the famous “Wanaka Tree”, stopping at Glendhu Bay for lunch, and making our way through beech forest and tussock to Fern Burn Hut at 700m.
Day Two: 16 km
Fern Burn Hut to Roses Hut
No photos for the morning stretch from Fern Burn to Highland Creek Hut. Why? Because it was 2 1/2 hours of slipping and sliding along a track that became a mudslide within 2 hours. The rain picked up right as we started at 8am. Luckily we were able to wait it out in Highland Creek Hut for two hours and in that time, the sun managed to come out for us. A few trampers called it a day at Highlnd Creek but when the sun came out, we jumped at the opportunity to hike and set out to embark on the “toughest” section of the track according to our trail notes.
Two big climbs and two just as big descents took us to Roses Hut. It was incredible how hot the day could become after such a cold rain spell. The sun completely dried up the mudslide of a trail too, thank goodness.
Day Three: 23 km
Roses Hut to Arrowtown
First thing in the morning we climbed Roses Saddle. Then it was down a ridge line to the river which we followed until Macetown, an old mining town, now a ghost town.
Once we reached the river, we chose the dry weather route which means we walked right down the river. It was freeeeezing but, these days, we go through the trouble we must to avoid more hills than we need to climb. Along the way, we saw multiple people set up camp on the side of the river mining gold in the river. We chatted with one man who was putting on his wet suit and he said he usually spends January and February here. He gets his equipment flown in by helicopter. When we asked how much gold he usually gets he replied, “Usually just enough to pay the helicopter”.
From Macetown, it was one more big climb up to Big Hill Saddle. At the top we could see Arrowtown and from there it was all downhill to the ice cream shop.
Day Four: 28 km
Arrowtown to Queenstown
Following the Queenstown Cycle Trail, we resupplied for our next stretch in Frankton and then rocked into Queenstown. It had started to downpour right as we walked into the Patagonia Chocolates shop. After calling 10+ hostels, we were lucky to find 4 beds in a room at Base Hostel. Now we’re all showered, have pizza in our bellies and are ready for bed. Tomorrow we’ll spend the day exploring Queenstown and probably sneaking a few cat naps in throughout the day before we set off for what will be our last big stretch on this incredible trail.
Patagonia ice cream- the best ice cream in the world