Recently my hubby acquired Big Red.
It is safe to say Big Red would not be my first choice of vehicle as he is a monster truck. I need a Pole vault to get up into the driver’s seat and endure double takes and stares whenever I drive him. Nevertheless, Big Red is here to stay.
Big Red’s redeeming feature is he can drive up banks and across icy rivers, which is exactly what an aspiring photographer living in Queenstown needs to get the best shots. So one cold and icy winter’s morning we pole vaulted into Big Red and set off on an epic 4WD adventure from Arrowtown to the historic gold-mining settlement of Macetown.
Our rendezvous point was the Chinese settlement car park in Arrowtown, where the track to Macetown begins and crosses the Arrow River. Here we met up with three other trucks (none of them monsters) and two very brave motorbike riders. The Macetown road at Arrowtown is also the access road for the Motatapu Track, a challenging alpine tramp between Arrowtown and Wanaka. Down here you might also see 4×4 Quad bikes and some 4WD safari tours from Queenstown. This is offroad central.
Getting to Macetown is not difficult but you'll need the right vehicle or lots of leg power. The track to Macetown is 15kms of unsealed road up the Arrow Gorge and can be walked, biked or driven. If you opt to drive you must have a four-wheel drive vehicle as you need to cross 25 rivers and streams on the way up.
If you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, Nomad Safari Tours in Queenstown offers Macetown 4WD trip for around $175 per adult and $89 per child. Go here for more information. Alternatively, you can jump on your push bike. It should take you 1-2 hours each way to cycle. To walk the track you'll need 3-4 hours each way. And you can even go by horse.
I would strongly suggest leaving motorbikes at home until at least springtime. The track was very icy and the riders kept slipping off their bikes and had to carefully navigate the best path through the full rivers on their two wheels. After about 3kms our motorbike companions ditched the bikes and jumped into the safety and warmth of the trucks. The 4×4 tracks are taxing on bikes at the best of times. When the surface is slippy expect a few near misses.
The Journey up
Although the official estimated driving time is about an hour each way, we made plenty of pit stops for photos, to check on the motorbike riders and generally just have a yarn.
The scenery is incredible. Narrow single lane pathways, waterfalls, high bluffs with sheer drops and river crossings make the journey to Macetown a thrilling drive. Eighteen-month-old Romy didn’t complain once – in fact, she had a fabulous time, bouncing along in a car seat whilst playing with her Barbies.
Once you reach the old settlement the countryside opens up providing stunning views of the Arrow River, mountain peaks in every direction and golden fields.
We arrived at Macetown around 2.30pm. The boys immediately cranked up the BBQ for a late lunch and I set off to explore. The historic settlement is well posted with informative DOC signage so you can read about the history of the area.
Macetown was named after three gold mining brothers who joined the gold rush to the Arrow River after the discovery of Gold in 1862. In its heyday, the area had 1500 miners camping along the river and so the settlement of Macetown was formed. By the end of 1963, the population of the town was 300 and a school, church, bakery and two hotels were established.
A few short years later most of the gold had been extracted and the gold miners moved on to more “golden pastures”, leaving Macetown to become a ghost town.
Today a restored schoolmasters house and the bakehouse are few of what remains.
It was really fun to walk around the reserve, imagining what life must have been like for the gold miners and their families.
We packed up and left around 4.30pm, and as the sun was going down I managed to snap some nice photos of this historic cottage.
A Great Day Out
Overall it was a great day out. Not only do I have a new-found respect for Big Red – you could almost say we are now buddies (except during a hill start) – but I’ve decided I definitely need to go back to Macetown this summer to camp overnight at the reserve. The fact that I discovered a long drop toilet at the campsite has made it all the more appealing.
Give me a wave if you see me out and about in Big RED!!!