Day 18: Highland Creek Hut to Wanaka

Originally we were shooting just for the big campground on the lake for tonight and we were going to walk in tomorrow, but a couple of days ago we met Jamie and Simon, a couple of guys from Dunedin who were hiking the track for the weekend who offered to give us a ride into Wanaka when we were done with the track. Since tomorrow’s section was 15km of mostly road walking and I’d rather be in Wanaka anyways, it wasn’t hard to convince me to go. Sadly, everything in Wanaka is booked. See, tomorrow is February 6th, which is like the Kiwi equivalent of the 4th of July in terms of holiday. Lots of bbq, shops closed, people taking off camping for the weekend. On the way out from the end of the trail we called the holiday park in town to see if they had a spot for us, they did, so we rolled into town with the guys, 5 of us and our packs stuffed into a Mazda 3.

But that was the end of the day. First off we had a climb out of the hut. Not a huge one, but enough to get us properly awake. Then the big one. 400m of climb over 1km. Steep, I believe is the word.

It seemed to go so fast though. Being the last of the 4 big hills we’d climbed over the last 3 days, we were finally in shape to take it on.

The descent was, in my opinion, much more difficult. It took a lot longer, it was harder on the mind and the body, and just in general wasn’t super pleasant. We were afforded with some great views, however.

The lake we’d been approaching slowly for the last 4 days was getting closer and closer and we kept seeing new views of it. Really nice.

Fern Burn hut turned out to be exactly the same as the hut last night if it looked in a mirror. We stopped and had a really nice lunch and hung out for a while. We were in no hurry, we got there at about 11am and really didn’t have that far to go.

While we were there a steady stream of people started showing up. One lady came in, dropped her pack, loaded up a day pack and took off, probably going to return and spend the night later. More folks showed up, some TA but most not (too clean). Some were heading on to Highland Creek Hut, some staying here. It was clear that tonight would be a busy night for the hut.

Along the way down, more crappy descent. Oh and before that started even a ridiculously steep difficult climb up the side of a hill to get even to the sidle. Finally we passed through a livestock fence, saw a sign that said do not disturb the stock, terrified a poor lonesome lamb when we popped around a corner, and saw quite a few more people heading in to the hut. At the car park there was another couple who were just about to head in and I suggested they should have a tent as the hut was probably going to be full.

Now we’re in Wanaka, showered and waiting for laundry to dry. It’s super super windy here tonight, our tents are all flapping in the breeze. It’ll be an interesting night to say the least.

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