TA DAYS 57-64: WANAKA TO QUEENSTOWN

I had a day to kill before Antonia arrived to join me for the Motatapu Track, so I figured the polite thing to do would be to knacker myself out prior to her arrival. I hitched up to Haast Pass and climbed the steep forest track to Brewster Hut. It’s a gorgeous but cold hut, standing proud in a clearing near to the Brewster Glacier. 

View from Brewster Hut. Not going out. Too cold.


The clouds obscured much of the drama but it was still a great place. In the morning the skies cleared so I attempted to summit Mt Armstrong.

Before the clouds spoiled my fun


But alas after I got halfway up, the clouds came up from the valley and down from on high. Faced with low visibility, making it hard to find a good path, and wet slippery rocks, I battled my summit fever and retreated. I used waypoints I’d set on my GPS to make sure I came down where I’d gone up. It was a good decision as the clouds didn’t clear for a few more hours.
From Wanaka we got a lift (thanks Logan!) the 16km to the start of the Motatapu Alpine Track. The locals affectionately call this the Twain Twack, since the land was owned by Shania Twain when the track was established. It’s a fun route through unusual scenery. We found ourselves yearning for something a little more train track-like. It was a mental endurance test as much as physical: each day involves a climb to a saddle, and back down again. One great day does it twice. The terrain is slow going: narrow sandy tracks with no rocks or tree roots to supply footholds. So even though the climbs weren’t big nor the distances long, it was somewhat tiring. 

How are we going to get the twain over these hills?


Things got a bit more exciting on day four, as we chose to travel along the river for the middle section rather than sidle above it. This made it a lot more entertaining.


The day finished with a hard climb up to Big Hill saddle on slightly underused tracks (the junction from an alternative 4WD route being ambiguously marked) and a gorgeous descent in to Arrowtown, winding gently down the hills as the town came into view.


I decided to walk the final day to Queenstown despite persistent light rain, as I liked the feeling of walking from town to town. It was fun for the first 20km but I confess I lost the will a bit after that, having been wet since dawn. On arrival, I hitched on out of Queenstown as quickly as I could muster. That town is too hectic for my backcountry pace!

With 330km to go, I 90% never want the trail to end, and 10% am ready for different challenges. The remaining sections are likely to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one, with no big climbs or rivers left. I get the sense that some people are checking out from the TA, still here in body but bringing a little less energy to it. I hereby resolve not to do this and will try to treat each section as if it were the first. 

Cairns at Fantail Falls. Mysterious and beautiful.

Toilet rainbow at Brewster Hut

This track’s a bit grassy

Lower Shotover Bridge. Picture was taken as coffee was brewing to warm me up. Hence the excited eyes.

HOW WE SPENT OUR DAYS

57 rest and travel to Wanaka

58 “rest” : Fantail Falls car park to Brewster Hut 2.5km 1000m ascent 2hr15 **new PB**

59 Brewster Hut to 1900m and back to Fantail Falls car park 4.5km 4hr15 excl coffee break

60 Motatapu Road to Fern Bern Hut 6.5km 3.5hrs 500m ascent 

61 Fern Burn Hut to Highland Creek Hut 6km 5hrs 600m ascent

62 Highland Creek Hut to Roses Hut 8 hours 10km 900m ascent 

63 Roses Hut to Arrowtown 23km 10 hours 1000m ascent 

64 Arrowtown to Queenstown 26km 8 hours

STATS OF THE TRACK

River swims: 2 (well, baths)

Climbs to saddles: five

Items oversupplied: chocolate, dates 

Items undersupplied: sweets, whisky 

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