The Infotrack shuttle was due to pick us up at the car-park at 12:00pm. Not wanting to risk missing our ride Eric and I began our final day on the track with our headlamps at 6:30am. The going was a bit slower than i would have liked in the dim light. It was rocky and changed elevation in short bursts like a roller coaster. But eventually the sky lightened  and the trail leveled out. After passing through the forested narrow gorge we arrived in a flat grassy area called Slip Flat. We crossed over the mostly dry river bed via rocks. There is abridge upstream for early season when the river must roar. We scampered across the mix of thin forest and open meadows. Sheep bleated in the glasses and ran off the trail as we approached. There is a junction with the Lake Rere Trail loop which leads back to the carpark about 30 minutes after the Flat, but it is a longer route. We stayed on the main track.

The trail was easy and we moving quickly. After passing through a pasture of cattle we crossed the final wooden bridge decorated with a steer’s skull. On the other side the Greenstone meets with the Caples Track (note: the Greenstone & Caples Tracks are commonly linked as a loop backpack)… and another track leads to the carpark 30 minutes away. A junction with the Lake Rere loop is reach again. Stay on the Greenstone/Caples and do not cross the bridge. There are several gates to open a shut behind you. Follow the signs to the car-park.

Of course we arrived early… and surprised that we had evaded the rain that was forecast. The sky was definitely white and gray with clouds though as we settled down for a 1.5 hour wait for the bus. We wanted to wake to Lake Wakatipu which is not too far away walking straight on, but that route was fenced sheep pasture and the road was twisty twindy. We walked around the car park for a bit before retiring to a picnic table. Our bus arrived at 11am to drop off a single trekker. At noon on the dime 4 other homebound backpacker emerged for the forest and we headed out.

The shuttle dropped us off at Glenorachy. We were instructed to wait there until 3:00 (it was currently 12:30) for another bus to take us to Queenstown. This got Eric and I rather annoyed as this had not been listed on the bus company’s timetable… and, more importantly, we were famished. Folks at the general store suggested we hitchhike. Hitchhiking on South Island is common and very safe so we stuck out our thumbs and hoped for the best. Several cars passed us by. But after about 15 minutes a car slowed and pulled over.

As it turned out we were picked up not by Kiwis, but by an older Swiss tourist couple who could speak English just enough to get by. We did have a fun conversation in the car and were very grateful to get back to Queenstown by 1:45. Once dropped off we walked straight to Fergburger.

As expected, there was a long line, but it moved quickly. Eric and I both ordered Sweet Bambi, a burger made of venison. There was a 30 minutes wait so we sat at the counter anxiously waiting and probably smelling really bad to other customers. The burgers were massive, but it was the bun that gave it most of its volume. About halfway though when my mind began to process taste over the need for calories I began to conclude that the burger was not all that outstanding. Just average. But calories are good… in fact we skipped right next door to Fergbakery where we had a 15% off dessert coupon since we’d eaten at Fergburger. I picked out a slice of chocolate mus cake, a local favorite, and Eric ordered a turkish doughnut. The cake was amazing, the doughnut just okay. We also ordered cross bun (kiwi favorite, but not my taste) and tomato pesto bread (awesome!) to go.

At the hostel we discovered that the labeled food we had left in the fridge had been stolen. Luckily, our dry food was still in the kitchen cubbies. Our luggage which we had locked in the storage shed was also unhampered with. After long anticipated showers we prepared our gear for the flight in the morning. Still full from the burgers and desserts,  but also still hungry, we ate dinner before collapsing to sleep.

7.7 miles

942ft ascent/ 1566ft descent

7.7 miles

942 ascent / 1566 descent

Our day began at 7 as usual. We followed the Greenstone back into the forest for a little ways before breaking pout into the sprawling Greenstone Valley. Mist hung low over the glasses and mountains towers above the golden meadow. A path was beaten though the grass marked by poles beside the bordering forest on the valley’s edge. We followed the trail in awe of the scenery while hoping over cow patties. An earlier sign had warned that this valley is used as livestock pastures, This also meant that there were livestock trails everywhere though the grasses and I think we somehow ended up on one.

We were wandering along the track observing the mountains when suddenly the trail kind of petered away. We looked around and backtracked a bit. It seemed we were on trail… but we had stopped seeing the pole markers. Luckily, route finding was pretty easy with our map. We followed valley keeping the river beside us, crossing it several times before we reached a clump of tree at the end of the first valley. We crossed the river there and discovered trail markers in the trees.

Back on the track we walked through the clump of trees for a minute or two before they cleared revealing the next section of the Greenstone Valley. Light was flooding the over us now, illuminating the mountains as we leaped over more cow patties. In the distance white specks of sheep were grazing on the hillside. We followed trail stayed in the edge of the valley for about .5 mile before climbing up into the forest; a relief as the sun was growing hotter. We stayed just above the meadow catching glimpses of it through the trees. We began to hear copious moos from cows at this point. Minutes later a massive herd of over 100… maybe over 150 cattle could be seem dotting the pasture.

The trail led back down into the valley for some time. We came across a cow and a bull at one point and decided to make a giant arch around them off trail. Cattle remind me too much of bison so we never get close. The sun as in full force now and when we stopped at a rock pile for snack we slathered on sunblock and topped it was bug spray to keep the sand flies at bay.

Beyond rocks about perhaps a mile further is a swing bridge. Signs indicate on own person at a time may cross. Beyond is a hut owned my guide companies where we as trekkers were not welcome. We crested a hill and were treated with views of the most gorgeous part of the valley. about 200 feet below was a sprawling river valley of green glasses and winding rivers… and grazing int he valley were hundreds of freshly sheared sheep. As were descending into the valley the sheep scattered away from us. Very shy creatures indeed. After passing the sheep herds and some lovely river carved canyons the track gained elevation again. We entered the forest beside the valley following just on the edge. There was a side trail back into the valley where a small shack stands. This is NOT the hut. The hut is about another 20 minutes away after the Greenstone Valley ends. In the forest there is a sign indicating the Greenstone Hut Turn Off. It is about a ten minute walk down the slope over a bridge crossing a deep and lovely river gorge, and back up to a hidden alpine meadow. The hut stands at the edge of the meadow. It is one building with two sleeping rooms off the the large kitchen.

Eric and I stripped off our socks and sipped off the bottom portion of our muddy convertible pants. After washing them in the sink we laid everything on the deck to dry. Eric retired to his bunk for 30 minutes while I watched grey clouds rolling in over the mountains. Rain was supposed to be coming for the east that evening. When Eric woke up the clouds were fully covering the sky and threatening showers. We hung our damp garments inside the house and decided to take a short walk up Mavora Walkway beside the hut. This is really part of a long trek. It climbs to the top of the ridge offering lovely views of the Greenstone Valley. We turned back for dinner and arrived at the hut just seconds before rain began to fall.

The women for the previous night joined us as well as a middle aged couple, Don (from Australia) and Natasha (from Kazakhstan). They got out to NZ about every other year and suggested treks that might also provide glacier access. I took notes. The women allowed us to use they stove to boil water for some couscous to go with our planned dinner of bread. Don and Natasha pretty much refused t take no for an answer and fed us some quinoa with peas. They then refused to take no for an answer and shared a rainbow trout they had caught earlier on the river…. and to top that off the women cam over with a bag of extra chicken curry and a pot of rice they had left over. That was the most stuffed I’ve ever been backpacking.

13.9 miles

1129ft ascent / 1485ft descent