Day 97 (Wed 24 Feb): Queenstown to Arrowtown
Started 7.25am, finished 2.20pm, 29k.
Pain in the head status: No pain. It feels like a long time since the last migraine. As usual, I have no idea why or what I’m doing right, that’s different from what I’ve been doing the last few months. I’ll enjoy the reprieve while it lasts.
Word of the day: Seiche, standing wave in an enclosed body of water. From the US National Ocean Service, seiches are typically caused when strong winds and rapid changes in atmospheric pressure push water from one end of a body of water to the other. When the wind stops, the water rebounds then oscillates back and forth for hours or days.
I learnt about the seiche on Lake Wakatipu at the Boatshed Cafe on the walk from Queenstown to Frankton. I’d never known why there were waves on the lake before. Or that the first person to swim the length of the lake (Ben Campbell-McDonald, a conflicted Scot for sure) took 18 hours and 42 minutes, but his first attempt was scuttled by the wind and seiche, which gave him motion sickness.
The Boatshed Cafe delivered a caffeine shot that propelled us along the shore of the lake, past the airport and through the spanking new Frankton shops. We crossed the lower Shotover river, which is apparently chocka full of gold, through lots of spanking new housing, and on to Lake Hayes. We had lunch by the lake, looking out towards the massive mansions on the other side, wondering how many of them were permanent residences and how many were holiday homes.
We finally left behind the heavy, overcast weather that had dogged us from Queenstown and started sweating in our socks as we traversed the opulent Millbrook resort, which comprises two 18 hole golf courses (one open only to members), luxury accommodation, fine dining, exclusive private housing and a super-duper spa. I’m not sure what makes a spa super-duper but $260 for 2 hours must be good. We passed lots of landscaping, maintenance and housekeeping staff doing their duties including a cleaning service called ‘A woman’s touch’ (excuse me while I barf). I was so overwhelmed by it all I almost got run over by a golf cart.
Once past the harrowing reconstructed Chinese miner’s settlement, which documented the hardships and discrimination experienced by the Chinese gold miners in the region, the little township of Arrowtown was unexpectedly delightful. Probably horrendous when heaving with tourists, it was just busy enough to be pleasant. We stayed in the heritage New Orleans hotel, sampled fudge and licorice from the Remarkables Sweet shop, had an ice cream and walked up and down the two short streets that made up the historic part of town, with buildings originating from the gold rush days. Fortunately, this didn’t take long and then I could rest my sore feet for tomorrow’s walk up into the mountains.
Sad sight of the day: Walking up to Millbrook, we came across a very distressed sheep pressed up against the fence, frothing at the mouth, hyperventilating, coughing and shaking uncontrollably. It looked terminally sick and I didn’t know what to do. It was horrible to see; but much worse for the sheep I’m sure.
Day 98 (Thurs 25 Feb): Arrowtown to Roses hut
Started 7.20am, finished 4.20pm, 23k.
Pain in the head status: Started the day fine but a migraine descended suddenly just before Macetown. I tried the ginger tablet, along with some Nurofen, and this did keep it at bay for quite a while, but it came back once we reached the hut. I took a migraine tablet, which knocked it back to a tingly throb in the left temple that almost disappeared when I lay down. I had no objection to a lie down at that point.
Word of the day: Apposite, strikingly appropriate.
It was cool and overcast when we set off from Arrowtown, starting off beside a stream that could have been in England, lined with willow, oak and rowan trees. But then we moved on to the appositely named Big Hill track, which passed through some beech forest but mostly brought us up into the bare, open, desert-like slopes that were the feature of the day. The cloud obscured views from the top of Big Hill, but we could look down over Arrowtown and Lake Hayes on our way up.
We saw plenty of pest control efforts, from aerial spraying of wilding pines to plentiful traps by the track (and yesterday, workers on the shore of Lake Hayes were feeding crack willow through a chipper, which might keep them busy for a few years, if they’re planning to eradicate all the willow in the area). The rabbits and goats were plentiful, though.
We had lunch at Macetown, which was briefly a booming gold rush settlement, plagued by difficult access, bitter weather and hordes of sandflies. Only a few stone walls, a couple of restored buildings, scattered mining paraphernalia and old English trees remained to mark its existence. The settlers must have planted berries, too, as we came across raspberry bushes laden with yellow berries, which we left considerably less laden.
The cloud finally lifted in the afternoon as we started on the Motatapu track and variously walked up/in/across the Arrow River, which kept our feet cool and cleaned my boots. Then it was a long steep climb up to Roses saddle (1240m), during which I emphatically declared my desire to give up tramping. But that was not immediately actionable, so we continued on and then dropped down to our accommodation for the night, Roses hut. This provided a stark and unavoidable view of the first hill of tomorrow’s walk.
The other trampers at the hut told daunting stories of what was to come – one couple (TA walkers) took 12 hours to reach Roses hut, stumbling in some time after 7pm. The TA notes suggested this section might take 9-10 hours while the DOC times were wildly pessimistic and unhelpfully vague, positing a total time of anything from 11 to 16 hours. But everyone’s different. Another TA walker blasted past us around 4pm, cruising uphill barely breaking a sweat, intending to reach Arrowtown that night. I bet he did, too, and was sucking up beer and burgers while I was fast asleep in my sleeping bag.