Trip Report TA: South Island pt4

Side Trippin'

Straight from Roses Hut I climb up and over the ridge line before sinking down the valley to Arrow River. I take the low water route which keeps my feet in the river for the next hour as I reach the derelict mining reserve of Macetown. A short stint on a gravel road and then back into the river before crossing via Big Hill Saddle down into Arrowtown. I pass a SOBO hiker going the wrong way who tells me there is a better route into town via Brow Peak but I'm too focused on getting to Queenstown today to go on an unplanned detour.

Popping out of Arrowtown the track leads me past a bougie golf course then along paved and gravel cycle paths. I take a wrong turn at some point but commit to a gravel road finally connecting back to the TA at bridge spanning Shotover River. Now in proper civilization I walk down empty sidewalks beside congested roads leaking out from the nearby international airport. The track spits me onto the Frankton Walkway which is along the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu as I race by elderly couple and cyclists using the public recreational paths.

It all comes to an end when I hit the start of the Lake Wakatipu Bypass section and am in the heart of tourist trap Queenstown. I head to McDonald's for a cheap eat and then hitch out as quickly as I am able away from the din of the crowds. My first hitch is with a Brit who runs clubs in Queenstown. My second hitch is with a kiwi coming home from working at the airport. My final hitch back to Wanaka is with a British girl coming back from working at Doubtful Sound. I end the day sleeping on Bri's couch.

Today is a zero day, and the first for me on the South Island. I try to message Annie and see how far behind she is now as I spend the day inside and on my phone. I meet Bri's British roommate, Zach. Wild Turkey eventually makes it into Wanaka after taking a side trip to Aoraki National Park and Bri let's him crash at her place as well.

Annie is still far behind and her expected estimated time of arrival coincidences with bad weather in the Southern Alps. We ditch our old plan so I decide to ask Bri to drive me up to Raspberry Creek car parking so I can hike Cascade Saddle solo. I get dropped off and start into Matukituki Valley as clouds hang long over the surrounding mountaintops. I arrive at Aspiring Hut which is a massive luxury "hut" and hear the cries of kea in the trees.

Matukituki Valley

Turning from there I begin the climb right up to the saddle. Slowly but surely I walk into those clouds as I crest the ridge line. The hike itself is fairly easy with some bit of near vertical hiking just before the top. As I descend down the other side to the proper saddle the clouds begin to clear up and I see the incredible Dart Glacier fill my horizon. I make my way right beside it and take a long break just staring in silence.

Cascade Saddle Cascade Saddle Cascade Saddle Dart Glacier

This side of the saddle is very popular with people hiking the Rees-Dart Track as a three day loop. I pass lots of weekend hikers and the majority of them are sitting down having given up reaching the saddle proper. The track is a poled route due to massive land slips from the erosive forces of being so close to a glacier. I head over to Dart Hut to sign the logbook and then double back to exit via Rees Saddle. More and more hikers pass me in the opposite direction and eventually I make it to Shelter Rock Hut.

Rees Track Rees Saddle

I settle in a eat my dinner while other weekend hikers chat me up and are impressed that I did some ~33km(20mi) today. There are tons of people outside camping but all the bunks that are in the main dining room are empty. I decide to sleep here for the night.

I leave early in the morning before anyone else hoping that the weekend hikers behind me will be nice enough to give me a hitch back to town. The track is boring so I mostly ignore it and instead play around on the riverbeds and mud. It's not quick but it is fun. I arrive at the track terminus before noon and take an extended break hoping some other hikers will also be heading back down in their car.

Rees Track exit

An hour passes with no activity so I begin walking down the gravel road. Eventually a car drives down and stops when I thumb out. It's one of the families I chatted with last night. I squeeze in the back with their three kids and they bring me just to the main road junction. After a short wait another couple coming from finishing the Routeburn picks me up and drops me in Glenorchy. I'm undecided what to do next: resupply here or get to Queenstown to resupply, and then what...take a day off or continue right away on the Routeburn. I distract myself by eating an expensive burger in town and then check out if it is even possible to resupply here.

The first indecision solves itself. It is not possible for me to resupply in Glenorchy so at the very least I need to hitch out of here. A cute French girl, Anise, picks me up and I join her to Queenstown. We gab the whole way there and she stops at a public shower for a moment. She is driving all the way to Haast Pass so I take the opportunity to stick with her to get dropped off in Wanaka. She has to stop for gas but all the self-serve petrol stations in Aotearoa are currently not working due to a timing issue and it being a leap year(today is April 1st). We arrive in Wanaka, get petrol by paying at the counter and hang out while she deals with her e-wallet being frozen(I assume probably also due to a leap year bug).

Isthumus Peak in background

Instead of heading to Bri's place, I link on to Anise's plan to hike Isthumus Peak tomorrow for the sunrise. She's glad to have the company so we drive down to Kidds Bush Campsite with some beers for the night. Ultimately she is extremely indecisive if she wants to wake early to do the hike because it is forecasted to be cloudy. I try to tell her it will still be fun to do the hike regardless of the view but she doesn't share my view and is also on a tight schedule for her vacation.

Today is a zero day. We wake at a normal time and Anise decides she will just move along with her itinerary instead of doing the summit. I plan still to do it so she drops me at the trailhead and we say goodbye. The climb itself is fine and the view, despite it being a bit overcast is still worthwhile. I regret not more strongly trying to convince her to hike with me as I'm certain she would have enjoyed it. Oh well.

The sun comes out on my descent and it becomes a gorgeous clear day. I hitch back to Wanaka and chill out on Bri's couch. I chat with Zach's parents who are also in town visiting and then go out with Bri and a friend of hers for Korean food.

Today is a zero day. Waiting for bad weather to pass so I can continue on the Routeburn.

Today is a zero day. Bri mentions that there is a small hill nearby called Mount Iron so I kill an hour to summit that in the morning. Wild Turkey is back in town now having done the Cascade Saddle alternate as well. We go meet a big group of hikers at a bar in the evening: Rampaige, Sweet As, Princess, Disco, T-Bagging, Jazz Hands, Giggle Box, Peep Show, Lorenz and Georgina. It starts to feel more like an American thruhike having so many hikers in one joint. Wild Turkey and I split off to have burritos and run into more hikers: the American Hexatrek couple and Yelmer who I've met before and another American couple.

Today is a zero day.

Today is zero day. The bad weather(snow/rain) finally passed last night and so my intention is to get back on trail. I leave early with Zach on his way to work and he drops me off near Cardrona Alpine Resort. I stand along the road in freezing rain until someone grabs me, an Irish local, and brings me to Frankton. I drop into McDonald's for snack before getting a hitch with a German couple to the west edge of downtown Queenstown. Then I get a hitch with a young kiwi coming back from a few hours of work who drops me near Seven Mile Creek. My following hitch is in a Tesla, as I struggle to figure out how basic things like the doors work, and she drops me off at Twelve Mile Campsite. Finally a Japanese tourist picks me up and we go all the way to Glenorchy.

On our drive up my Japanese hitch, Hiro, and I connect over the fact that I spent a year living in Tokyo. We stop frequently along the roadside so he can take pictures. We even do a little boardwalk in Glenorchy together before getting lunch and going our separate ways. I can see heaps of fresh snow on the tips of the mountains and I'm worried that will affect the Routeburn Track. My anxiety gets the better of me as I decide to wait until tomorrow to start hiking. I book a bunk in the nearby lodge.

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