We left the campsite at 0730 and did 16.5km in 6.25 hours of walking, arriving at Highland Hut at 1515. The days GPS track is here.
It was a short walk (about 700m) up from the campground entrance to where the Motatapu Rd turnoff took us up toward the Fern Burn carpark. We arrived at the carpark after a 45min stroll. The track started on flattish farmland and passed through some ewes and lambs and, in the next scrubby paddock, some deer. Then we started to climb a bit alongside Fern Burn. The going was varied with a little bit through small trees but also more open grass/bracken/fern country, with a few wet patches to negotiate.
Most of the Motatapu track passes through land controlled by Mutt Lange (originally bought with his then wife Shania Twain and later added to). In total the four stations make up over 55,000 ha, and cover most of the land between Wanaka and Arrowtown, but around 53,000 ha was put into a QE2 Trust covenant, I believe, so the vast majority is protected and only relatively small areas of valley floors support mainly sheep farming. The track and huts were paid for by the owners as part of Overseas Investment Office requirements when approving the purchase.
It took us only 2.5hr climbing from the carpark up to Fern Burn Hut where we stopped for an early lunch at about 1120. Passed a guy from Auckland who was just down doing a bit of tramping here while his wife was back in the UK. At the hut an English chap arrived on an “up and back” walk - he spends quite a bit of time walking in NZ. David from Germany also came in while we were there. He is doing TA and heading for highland Creek Hut like us.
We set off just before 1200, letting David go ahead as he would be faster. The photos probably do more justice to the terrain than words but we climbed up through mainly tussock country to Jack Hall’s Pass (1275m), about 500m above Fern Burn Hut, where we got some good views back towards Wanaka.
From there we did some up, but mostly down, including some sharp spur descents taking us towards the next hut. Took exactly 3hr walking from Fern Burn to Highland Creek Hut, arriving at 1515, so an early stop for the day - which suited my sore foot! Perhaps surprisingly, we actually did 1300m of ascent and 750m descent - didn’t really feel like it today :-). David was already there and then we were joined by Jack from Aussie. Another local came walking/running through from Arrowtown, but he was heading all the way over to the carpark - so he took off soon after. We four had dinner, then about 1915 another walker came in. This was Daniel from Israel who told us he had three friends maybe half an hour behind. They arrived in about 2000 so we were up to 8 in a lovely (c2008) 12 bunk hut! Looks like everyone is heading for Roses Hut tomorrow!
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!