Day 117. Wanaka – Fern Burn Hut. 26km. Total 2609km.
We agreed on a lazy morning as we went to bed late but my room mates wake me up at 6.15am so I go out for a walk in the sunrise. (We only got beds in different rooms).
The weather looks promising but still cloudy and a bit colder at 9am as we start walking along Lake Wanaka. Soon we reach that famous tree in the water where just everyone takes a picture (of course we do as well!).
Then more and more kilometers along the lake, with mountain views and some bikers who overtake us. At twelve it’s time for a lunch break at a well placed bench. I have eggs and tomatoes on a bread roll and it’s so delicious!!! Fresh food!!!
Rested we continue along the road to a big holiday Park, walking through it and on a gravel road to the start of the Motatapu Track.
This will take us in 7km along the Fern Burn river to the Fern Burn Hut. The beginning is easy and flat bit as we get into the forest, there’s a lot of climbing up and down again. Peggy’s blisters are bad again / still… The creek is quite spectacular nested in gorges, rocks, trees and once we get above the tree line we have amazing views. I still don’t have a camera and mad at my limited smartphone pics but hopefully that will change in a few days. And hopefully then the trail is still as beautiful!
After 2 1/2h we reach the hut, no one else is there yet. I go back down to the river to wash myself, just when I am all naked two other hikers pass right by (there is no other river access off trail). Well, that’s done, more hikers knowing me naked now 😉 We are now four in the hut, it’s a very nice and new 12 bunk hut. The whole trail of this stretch and the huts were built in 2008 when investors bought farmland and had to build the trail in exchange. Apparently Shania Twain is one of the investors. (still waiting for her to be flown in for a concert tonight!). The DOC was here today to clean the toilets and dig a new hole. They also replaced the hut book with a new one and I have no idea when my hiker friends ahead of me went through and if I can catch up and see them again. I just have to wait for the next hut!
Day 118. Fern Burn Hut – Roses Hut. 16km. Total 2625km. Sun-kissed climbing. The other hikers seem to have a different rhythm, chatting till late and at 10pm two more arrive in the dark. We are the only ones getting up at 6am, now our turn to disturb the others although we try to be quiet.
It’s gonna be a tough day for my knees. The first ascent begins right behind the hut, from below 800m elevation we have to climb up to 1275m. I thought this first one would be rather easy as its along the river, but we actually have to climb up and down next to the river.
After 90minutes we arrive at Jack Hall’s Saddle and also we are finally in the sun. It’s been pretty cold although I was sweating and I had to wear my gloves.
I am wrong in thinking it will be easy downhill to the first hut now… It’s first steep down the mountain, then it’s a long series of up and downs in this beautiful scenery that is hard to capture on my phone camera again. The mountains look like they were folded and the rocks add to a dramatic scenery. The morning sun sets everything in a glowing warm light and we are blessed today with a blue sky. It hasn’t been raining for days! I take plenty of pictures, it’s beautiful!
The last turn and I can see Highland Creek hut, a perfect setting in the mountains. It took us just 3h to get there and we enjoy a break and the view. The next stretch will be hard with two steep climbs up to 1500m.
After a short hike further downhill we can see the trail going very steep up a mountain and I let out a big gasp. But no hesitation, just keep on going Bettina! Try to breath and focus on hiking upwards until you find a good rhythm. And so I do and it turns out it’s not too bad! The view is the reward and some flatter parts in between the steep sections give my breath a break. The valley below is stunning and that’s why I just love to be in the mountains. It’s tough but also rewarding with the best views especially on such a nice day! After the highest point we continue downhill for a while before taking a good lunch break.
We can already see what’s waiting for us next. But first, another few hundred metres of altitude down to that creek and a short forest section and then all the way up again on the other side. It’s tough again but then the trail starts to go up in zigzag which is easier on my breath. Then we follow the fence all the way up the ridgeline. All the way back down the valley we can see Lake Wanaka! Wow. It’s just amazing up here! When we are finally over the highest part we take another break to enjoy the view.
Then all the way down a steep ridgeline to the next valley. My knees and feet hurt very much now and I am reliefed once down in the valley for an easy river crossing and the final kilometer to the hut. As I see three hikers coming down from the other side, I start running to make sure we still get a bed. What a surprise to see Luke and Ray again in the hut. We get two mattresses and with the three other hikers the 12 bunk roses hut is now full. It’s 4pm and after washing I take a short nap and read a bit. Too hungry I need to cook at 6pm and as I have a spare dinner, I just have 2 dinners tonight…