We had decided to take the short cut, the Cardrona Pass, from Wanaka to Queenstown for three reasons – speed, scenic value and the fact that Cardrona in the Scottish Borders is no distance at all from where my parents used to live. Before we set off we walked the track over Mount Iron, which is just outside Wanaka, in order to keep in practice. Just under 5k but a bit of climb and descent and great views.
The drive through the Pass was worthwhile. Cardrona is a well preserved little halt, worth a photo or two. The scenery on the drive is excellent and there are plenty of stopping places, particularly as you pass down the Crown Range Road at the end of the journey.
On the way into Queenstown we stopped off in Arrowtown. This is a well preserved small settler community from the time of the gold rush and well worth a visit. It documents quite clearly the differences in the circumstances of the European miners and the many Chinese who came to the area to work in the gold fields.
Queenstown is the liveliest place we have been to in New Zealand so far. It is very much holiday town. Every open air adventure is catered for. There were a lot of young people and families enjoying themselves. But that wasn’t what we were about on our first visit there. We had come to start the Milford Track and so our focus was on preparing for that.
We joined 45 other walkers at Ultimate Hikes HQ at 4.45 that afternoon. We were briefed to within an inch of our lives, leant equipment like larger rucksacks which we might not have brought and given the opportunity to buy other stuff which might be useful. I succumbed to a pair of slip on rubber slippers for use in the lodges; the sandals I had brought for this had proved to rub badly. Then back to the apartment for dinner and a re-pack.
Total climbing: 294 m
Total descent: -299 m
Total time: 01:31:46