It started raining at 0100 last night and rained continuously (at least every time I was aware) alternating between heavy and meduim fall. I was quite snug in my tent that I have full confidence in staying dry. At 0600 it stopped and I thought "great my tent will be dry by the time I get up" but alas 5 minutes later it started again. This is the first time in the entire hike that I have had to pack up in the rain. It was actually pretty easy as everything can be done under the vestibule. So breakfast eaten, teeth cleaned, pack packed, shoes on and rain gear on I ventured into the rain. Now I packed my tent and put it into my pack in its own waterproof cubin Fibre stuff sack. Easy.
I trudged off in the rain and started my day with a big hill, only 350 vertical meters today on a track described in the trail notes as "light ground trail". What this means is you can make out where to go but it is mainly overgrown. It wasn't too bad but my shoes were quickly soaked from the wet grass. The temperature was ok until I got to the top of Big Hill Saddle when the wind picked up.
From the saddle the track improved apart from a couple of overgrown patches. The track sidles downwards gently and the trail notes said there were good views from here but all I could see was white mist and rain. The rain wasn't boring, every now and again it would be really heavy before easing to steady. After 2 km the track entered a lovely patch of beech then more open then non native forest. In this last bit the rain eased off and there were constant smells of the pines (not the normal pinus radiata) and flowers. I met one girl and she said I was up early. When I explained I had camped overnight I nearly burst out laughing at her shudder at the thought of camping in the rain.
The track enters Arrowtown through the old Chinese Miners Camp and there was a bus load of umbrella weilding Chinese tourists I had to weave through. Talk about contrast from my isolation this morning.
I headed straight to the cafe for a big breakfast and cupaccino. I sat next to an older lady and eventually she got what I was doing. She struggled to understand it was a continuous trail. Once she got it she was very concerned that I was by myself. My breakfast had arrived and it was impressive; toast, poached eggs, mushrooms, home made baked beans, sausages, hash browns and bacon. It was a huge plate and I saw a few people watching me tuck in. Unfortunately my hands were still cold and I struggled to use my knife and fork properly and was forced to be very ham fisted. However I bravely persevered and conquered the meal and received a few comments of admiration. The waitress seemed very surprised I had finished everything.
Now warmed up and full I continued and the rain had stopped, replaced by blue sky. There was still a strong cold breeze so my jacket stayed on all day.
After leaving Arrowtown the track went through the Millbrook Resort and down to Lake Hayes. Here I followed around the lake on a trail funded by a local resident. It was then around a subdivision and along the Kawarau River and then Shotover River. The bridge over this river was recently refurbished after being used from 1915 to 1975.
The track went under the highway and then I got to a trackclosed sign with two bits of danger tape across it. After weighing up ignoring the sign, trying a possible road to the south or the highway I choose the later option. Luckily there was a wide shoulder and it was only a few hundred metres until the Te Araroa Trail came onto the highway anyway. After this point there was roadworks which actually worked to my advantage as the cones gave me a safe walkway for mosy of the km. The trail then turned off at the events centre and to the lake edge where a gravel path went all the way into Queenstown. I was pretty impressed that there was only 2.5 km of road walking between Arrowtown and Queenstown. Once again the recreation paths are excellent.
In Queenstown I went to the food court for a kebab and fries for tea then to the supermarket for snacks for the evening and 15 minutes later arrived at the YHA Lakefront Backpackers where I was in a 4 bed shared room. I think this is the first time I have actually arrived on the day I booked and not earlier.