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You will be collected from Queenstown Airport or a local hotel and driven along a picturesque route to West Wanaka – there will be a chance to stop to buy lunch and any additional supplies you may need. You will have a safety briefing with some refreshments from your guides before meeting the horses. A short introductory ride around Lake Wanaka will help you get to know your horse and ensure you are well matched for the trail to come. Get to know your fellow travellers over dinner at the West Wanaka Station, and perhaps enjoy a gentle walk along the river or a glass of wine by the lake before bed.
After breakfast the horses are saddled and the pack horses prepared. You will set out through deer paddocks, climbing to the higher tracks of West Wanaka deer farm. You get a taste of things to come on today’s ride with views of Lake Wanaka, Hawea Basin and Mount Aspiring National Park. The evening is spent overlooking the lake at Minaret Hut with the lights of Wanaka town twinkling in the distance. You can choose to sleep in the hut or in tents outside. Enjoy a hearty meal as K’ak’ap’o (colourful wild Alpine parrots) come to investigate the newcomers.
From the hut you set out towards Minaret Station today, following a trail with dramatic and breath-taking scenery. Riding around rocky bluffs and thick native vegetation you drop down to the Minaret River for a break and some lunch. In the afternoon you climb out of the river and through the boundary of the two stations, hopefully spotting some wild deer in their natural habitat beyond the fencing. After about an hours’ riding you will reach the lush green paddocks of Minaret Station and follow the shore of the lake, the stunningly clear glacial water reflecting the majestic mountains like a mirror. No vehicles are allowed through this area, so pack horses are ideal for carrying the food and luggage across the station. You spend the night in the recently renovated shearer’s quarters with the evening meal hosted by the station manager or his wife, a great opportunity to learn about life on the station.
After breakfast you ride further along the lake to find the barge. This will transport both horses and riders across the water, and offers some unique photos opportunities. The crossing takes about 2 hours, after which you mount up again to ride through Kidd’s Bush. This trail, known locally as ‘the neck’ offers views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea at the same time, a spectacular scene. Arriving at Hunter Valley for the station the views over Lake Hawea open up even more, an impressive backdrop as you chat to station hands over dinner. Please note that if the owner is in residence accommodation might be in Hawea Hotel tonight.
Remember to say thank you to the pack horses before setting out this morning as their work is now done. Leaving the shearer’s quarters you head up into Hunter Valley, through native beech forests and alongside a stunning lake shore. Where the terrain allows, more experienced riders can do some faster riding today without the pack horses. On route to the boundary line, the trail takes you past old fishing huts which indicate the richness of the waters around you. You will also see plenty of Hereford cattle roaming around the station. Dinner and overnight is at the Boundary Hut with views across Hunter Valley.
You can choose to have a rest day today and stay at Boundary Hut, or to ride out into Hunter Valley again. The trail winds through an ice-blue glacial river valley between impressive mountain ranges. If you are lucky you might spot trout in the river or rare New Zealand falcons hunting overhead. The isolation from all other human activities in the valley is profound, highlighting the beauty and perfection of nature. There are opportunities for more trotting and cantering today for more experienced riders who wish to as well. Please note that after periods of heavy rain, the river may be too high to cross and the trail will explore a different area of the valley. Back at the Boundary Hut, the simplicity of an open fire and the chance to sleep under the stars creates a magically end to the day.
Crossing the Hunter river after breakfast, today you will enter Dingleburn station for yet more spectacular scenery. On clear still days, the lakes are like mirrors giving you a feeling of riding through a postcard. Your accommodation for the evening is the Dingleburn shearer’s quarters, located in a stunning spot and complete with hot showers, electricity and cookhouse.
A slightly more relaxed start to the day offers you brunch in the cookhouse at 10am before mounting up one last time to ride along the Dingleburn track, an engineered track over the steep country, towards Dingleburn cattle yard. You will pass the waterfall which generates hydroelectric power on this gentle and picturesque route. The horses enjoy a well-deserved rest at the cattle yard while you are taken to Hawea Hotel for your final night. Enjoy a set-menu dinner in the restaurant looking out on the lake (alcoholic drinks not included).
Transfer to Queenstown Airport or local hotel after breakfast.
Please note the 16th April 2020 departure will run in reverse, starting at Dingleburn Cattle Yards and finishing at West Wanaka Station.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses are typical hardy New Zealand hacks bred by the hosts, all of a solid build ranging from 15.1hh to 17hh. They are forward moving, calm, sensible, gentle and yet able to dig in and get the job done on terrain that climbs to 6,000 feet above sea.There are a number of Clydesdale crosses which can accommodate heavier riders, please check for availability of these if you exceed the weight limit but are interested in this ride. Saddles are comfy stock and western saddles and all the tack is well kept and suited to the horses.
The terrain is varied and can be steep in places, and the trails may cross rivers, but the horses are all honest, calm and sure-footed. They are comfortable going high into the mountains and through glacial fed rivers and streams.
Riders should have some experience, though general fitness is more important for long days in the saddle. Horses are selected for each rider based on experience level as well as height/weight, and the ride can be adjusted to fit many experience levels. The pace of the ride for the first few days is limited by having the pack horses, so less experienced or less confident riders will have time to build up to doing more trotting and cantering towards the end of the ride. There will be opportunities for more experienced riders to do trotting and cantering on some days. The minimum age for this ride is 12 years, children must be good riders and accompanied by an adult.
The weight limit for this ride is 220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
On this trail you will spend 4 nights in renovated shearer’s quarters, 3 nights in basic cabins or camping, and 1 night in a hotel. On occasion one of the nights in shearer’s quarters (at Hunter Valley) may be substituted for a second night in the hotel if the owner is in residence.
Shearer’s Quarters: These cabins, traditionally used by farm hands watching and tending sheep in the valleys, have all been renovated to provide comfortable accommodation with stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. They come equipped with hot showers, flushing toilets and electricity (often from a generator). Beds are dormitory style, with two or three rooms at each cabin. There is usually a dinning/social area at each cabin where you can relax in the evening.
Basic cabins: These huts have long-drop toilets and water will be provided for washing. There is solar power lighting and a limited water supply to have hot camp showers at the Boundary Hut. Beds are dormitory style in one room, or there is the option to have a 1/2 person tent.
Hotel: The final night of the tour (and night 4 if Hunter Valley is unavailable) is spent at Hawea Hotel on the shores of Lake Hawea. Rooms will be twin or family with all modern amenities including hot showers, flushing toilets, electricity, Wi-Fi and TVs. There are common areas available to relax in including a bar with pool table.
Food on the trail will be locally sourced as much as possible, adding to the authentic feel of the trek. Meals will generally be rustic and hearty farm fare including. On the last night dinner will be in the hotel restaurant from the set menu (alcohol not included). At breakfast there are cereals, toast and preserves as well as a cooked breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausages), tea and coffee. Lunches are pack-ups of sandwiches/wraps, fresh fruit, home baked slices, sweets and nuts. Dinners are designed to enhance the visit through each high country station with Angus beef, roast merino lamb, high country salmon, Mount Harris venison. Puddings also include the fruits from central Otago. There is a complimentary glass of wine with dinner, additional drinks can be purchased before the trail and will be carried to each overnight location for you.
Please enquire if you have any dietary requirements: every effort will be made to accommodate dietary needs but please note that all the food is carried in pack boxes and the isolated location of the trails can make it difficult to source certain items.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
Visa requirements are not currently necessary for the U.K., other Europeanor USA nationals. But do check before travelling. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk
The British Consulate in Auckland can be contacted on .Tel +64 9 3032 973 email: postmaster.Auckland@fco.gov.uk.
The New Zealand High Commission in the U.K can be found at New Zealand House, 80 The Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4TQ. Tel (020) 7930 8422. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wanaka has four very distinct seasons with the warmest months being December to March.
The region shares the same latitude as Bordeaux, Belgrade, Venice, Portland and Montreal. Because New Zealand is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the weather changes quite quickly so you need to be prepared for this, always carry additional warm clothing, including a waterproof outer layer.
The town's average annual rainfall of 682mm, is half the New Zealand average, with most rainfall occurring in spring months.
There are no specific health requirements in place for visitors to New Zealand. Ask your GP for advice before travelling.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org. You can also check the Department of Healths website at www.dh.gov.uk.
There are no specific health warnings for this ride. Insect repellent is a good idea though!
Voltage is 240V, 50 Hz as in EUrope and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.
There are opportunities to charge phones and cameras at some, but not all, accommodations along the trail. Spare batteries and/or a powerbank are a good idea. There is only Wi-Fi in the hotel on the last night.
We recommend you bring the following equipment (in a soft travel bag, please avoid hard suitcases):
Paddock boots or hiking boots with half-chaps or full-chaps
Riding hat or helmet STRONGLY ADVISED
Shirts or t-shirts
Pullover, fleece sweaters or fleece jacket
Warm coat and windbreaker
Comfortable trousers for evenings
Warm woollen/ merino clothing/ Thermal underwear (including long Johns)
Comfortable light-weight shoes for evenings
Hat or cap
Warm Hat/gloves/warm socks/ scarf
Personal toilet bag
High protection sun screen and lipstick
Tissue/toilet paper and wipes
Soap and shampoo (biodegradable if possible)
Antibacterial product for hands
Sleeping bag suited to mountain conditions
Sleeping bag liner
Hot water bottle if you feel the cold at night
Camera + batteries + powerbank
Electric adaptor if needed
Panadol or equiv. (if you think you will require this)
Chocolate (or other sweeties you can’t resist)
This is a 9 day/8 night programme with 8 days riding available on set dates.
2020: 14 Feb; 16 Apr (reverse itinerary).
2021: 13 Apr.
Single rooms are not available in the shearer's quarters so guests need to be willing to share. Single tents are available at no additional cost. Single rooms in hotels may be arranged subject to availability, please enquire.
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Kiwi Tracks: New Zealand Journey by Andrew Stevenson
Deer, K’ak’ap’o (colourful Alpine parrots), Hereford cattle, trout, New Zealand falcons
New Zealand is a fertile and mountainous group of islands in the south-west Pacific Ocean. It is made up of two main islands (the North Island and South Island) and a number of smaller islands.
New Zealand's first settlers were the Maori, whose Polynesian ancestors probably landed on what they called Aotearoa ('Land of the Long White cloud') during the 10th century AD, making New Zealand the last major habitable land mass to be settled by mankind. European settlers first came across New Zealand in 1642 when the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, spotted it in the course of his search for Antarctica. He named the South Island 'Nieuw Zeeland' after the Dutch province. James Cook sighted the North Island in 1769 and returned with various charting and scientific expeditions a number of times over the next few years. His enthusiastic reports encouraged a wave of European settlers who came across from Australia, and whalers who came from the UK, the USA and France. They gradually displaced Maori from their lands.
New Zealand is a country of rare seismic beauty: glacial mountains, fast-flowing rivers, deep, clear lakes, hissing geysers and boiling mud. There are also abundant native forests and long, deserted beaches. Because of its isolated geographical location, New Zealand is home to many unique species of flora and fauna, including the kiwi, kakapo and weka (all flightless birds).
New Zealand is twelve hours ahead GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.
The international dialling code is +64.