Tramping the Routeburn Track

I woke to the alarm at 5:45am feeling very tired and groggy. I felt like I had just gone to sleep. I needed more sleep, but unfortunately there was no time to get it now. I got up, had a shower, scoffed down some breakfast and headed to the reception desk to check out and meet my bus.

Bruce our driver was a chatty man and I felt sorry that he got stuck with me as I just couldn’t find my words that morning. The body was aching and my brain was not functioning yet. We left Te Anau and picked up some other people along the way, but none of them were going to The Divide, the start of the Routeburn track for me today.

We stopped to let a lady out who lives at Glades House on Milford, she was going to trek over the Dove Pass which we had spotted while on the Milford Track a few days ago, crazy if you ask me but she was obviously an experienced hiker. There was another girl from Poland and one from the Netherlands, they were nice to chat to.

Day 1 – Walk to Mackenzie Hut, 12km

It was pouring rain when they dropped me at The Divide, so I shuffled under the shelter to get my wet weather gear out and convinced another hiker to stand in the rain and take my photo at the start.

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The first thing I noticed, aside from the torrential rain, was the technical trail and how steep it was. Underfoot was very rocky and slippery so moving was quite slow on my already tired legs. I’m sure there would have been some beautiful views that day as I spent a lot of it above the treelike, but unfortunately the clouds were blocking the view. I stayed positive and added the uphill side trip to Summit Walk, however the rain just got heavier and the wind picked up so I didn’t stay at the top for very long.

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The walk was very tough this day, but so beautiful. The rainforest was a beautiful green colour and the rocks underneath my feet were all the colours of the rainbow. I noticed because I was looking down a lot, trying to make sure that I didn’t trip over.

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I passed a hut within the first few kms and there was a little lake just next to it which looked very pretty. There was nobody around to chat with so I kept moving.

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I went past several streams and waterfalls, and some very wet sections of the trail. In some parts there was water gushing over the path and you had no choice but to step into and through the water. I had given up trying to keep my socks dry and trudged through making it fun by splashing about. How old am i again? ha ha

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There was also a giant worm on my trail, check it out – even looks big next to my size 8 trail shoes!! (below)

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Eventually I came to a large waterfall that had a detour for flood’ sign, however I decided to take the trail next the waterfall and chance it. As I was about to start a young girl came out smiling and laughing in front of me, we started chatting and she said that I should definitely go past the waterfall. She said she got soaked but it was the most fun she’d had in ages. So off I went being very careful with my footing and she was right. I was giggling like a school girl and had so much fun getting soaked and cried with happiness, life was good. The photo below does not do it any justice but it was a moment in time I will never forget.

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I’m so glad I had gone that way and not chickened out and taken the detour, a risk that paid off thankfully.

I passed a lot of hikers going the opposite way on this trip yet somehow felt more alone than ever, which made me sad at first, and then brave. The trekking was quite hard through this section as there were lots of technical slippery sections to brake your ankles or knees on, but it was like a scene from a movie or postcard. Breathtaking.

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I caught up to a lady called Jane who was from Perth and she was going even slower than I was, being very careful. We also saw a (rude) lady come flying past us without responding to a word we said, which was very strange as most people on the trail at least say ‘hi’ and most stop to have a chat and ask you about your journey. Oh well, her loss.

Eventually I got to Lake Mackenzie (pictured below) and I was very glad to see it as I had been getting colder and colder despite my efforts to speed up. My hands were freezing inside my wet gloves.

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I scored a bed upstairs and chatted to Jane as she arrived just behind me. I removed my wet gear and hung some inside the hut and some outside under the awning. The dry clothes felt amazing. I grabbed some food and went downstairs to fuel the body and score a nice spot near the fire to thaw out. My stomach had been grumbling on the trail too, but it was too wet to stop and put my pack down so I had my late lunch at the hut when I got there.

I chatted to some really nice ladies who were travelling in the opposite direction to me. I also got chatting to Marg and Ken from Canada who were lovely. Marg and I ended up chatting for hours, then I took some time to catch up on my journal.

Dinner was good and filled the belly very nicely, along with the red wine….. such a nice luxury to have and it would send me right off to sleep later. In fact, I missed the ranger talk this night as I was really starting to feel exhausted, the body was starting to show signs on tiredness and I thought an early night with some extra sleep would be perfect. My calves felt like they were on fire just to touch them and my body had chafe in places it never had before.

The next day was another tough 11+km  of mostly uphill so it was nighty night for me.

Day 2 – Walk to Falls Hut, 11.3km

I woke many times during the night, once for a toilet trip and many due to snoring Suzie above me. Somehow I had developed a knack for choosing beds below snoring people, great!

As soon as it got light I was up and I realised that I had not once yet used an alarm during my treks, funny that. It was raining again and very cloudy which meant visibility would be poor and probably no views for this most picturesque section of the trail. Oh well, I would find the beauty in whatever came my way.

I said goodbye to the lake and gathered all of my belongings. I said farewell to my friends and we exchanged contact emails with the promise to keep in touch and to visit if we were ever in the others country, maybe one day I should visit Canada.

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Todays trek started with a large hill through what the girls had called the ‘Fairy Garden’ and that’s exactly what it looked like. It was beautiful and green and felt somehow magical.

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On the way up the first hill the views back down to the lake weren’t too bad, see below.

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And of course another shameless selfie below, getting soaked and still smiling.

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The trail was not as technical as the previous day. The trail wound up and around the mountain and I came across many runners and walkers going the opposite direction, all of them stopping to exchange a few words and encouragements.

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A man called Bernard came blazing up from behind me and we chatted a while. He told me there was a side trail coming up called Conical Hill which was about a 1 hour return trip up a hill and back. Thankfully we had somewhere to drop our packs, Saddle Hut, and then we made our way up the hill into the clouds. I’m so glad that we made the side trip as the views were spectacular!

The hidden lake was eerily beautiful amidst the mountains and the grey sky, beautiful. The weather was incredibly windy at the top of the hill (I almost got blown over a few times) and the trail was very steep and slippery, but I struggled up feeling very thankful to be there.

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There was even snow on some of the peaks of the mountains so that gives you an idea of how cold it was in this place, although I kept pretty warm on this day and thankfully did not get too wet. It was grey but I was smiling from ear to ear. Being in this beautiful place is hard to describe and the emotions you feel sometimes do not have words.

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It was a slow trip back down the mountain and into the valley. I ran into Jane at the hut and a few other people from Melbourne. I made use of the toilet back at the hut and got some food and water into me. Bernard had said farewell and trekked on ahead of me as he had a longer journey ahead of him than I did, and I was thankful for the silence again.

The views along the next section were spectacular. The lake, a huge waterfall that went down the valley and followed the path next to me was beautiful. I can see how this route had become so popular, as it has more view points than Milford.

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I went down the last rocky section past a small waterfall (pictured above) and onto the hut (pictured below). I got some dry clothes on to warm up and had a ‘trail shower’. I felt very refreshed and warm after that, but the legs were still struggling.

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I then gobbled down my food in the kitchen/dining hut (pictured below) and took a seat next to the window which looked out over the valley below, the route we would be taking on the final day of the trek. I ate so much of my food, I had been starving again and didn’t stop for long to eat, just kept moving to keep warm.

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I sat and chatted with Tina from Germany (left most in below photo), Asheem from the USA and Jane who i’d previously met and chatted with (far right in below photo) and played cards.

We were all travelling solo and we got on really well. We even won a game that night which was run by the ranger. You had to guess as many of the languages written on the quilt (second picture below) and we ended up with more than anybody else so we got the chocolate bar. Jane and myself had already gone to bed by the time they had chosen the winner, so Tina brought us some chocolate to have in bed and the rest was shared around to the other hikers.

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My dinner was a dehydrated chicken tikka masala and it wasn’t too bad. I washed it down with the last of my wine and felt very sleepy. My bunk had a view of the valley (pictured below) so I put it to good use and then hit the sack. Only one more day to go.

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Day 3 – Walk to end of Routeburn Track, 9km

I woke feeling quite sad as it would be my last day trekking. But the smile soon grew on my face when I realised that a long hot shower and decent food would be on the agenda for tonight. I’d woken to the usual hustling of people inside the hut and felt like I’d actually got a decent amount of sleep the night before. I was restless during the night but there was no sign of a snoring person underneath me. Finally!!

I has breakfast (horrible dehydrated, powdery scrambled eggs that made me want to vomit!) with Jane and Asheem while Tina was still sleeping. I had a black coffee which I’d grown accustomed to but didn’t really enjoy. I was craving milk. That’s right, fresh, delicious milk and made a mental note to pick some up when I got back into town. Asheem was heading the opposite direction to the rest of us girls, and both Jane & Tina were on an earlier bus than I was so I had plenty of time up my sleeve.

I packed up my things in the top bunk and couldn’t believe that I had been living out of this pack for the past week. Pretty awesome to think that everything you need you can carry was in one backpack.

And it was still raining so on with the wet weather gear (again!). I stood on the balcony (pictured above) and took in one last mental image of the view into the valley and chatted to some other hikers making their way out onto the trail too.

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There were some huge boulders going down the trail today and it was very slippery and wet. As like the other days I stopped to take in the views a few times and they did not disappoint.

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I got to Routeburn flats (pictured below) within 30 minutes and the time on the board had said 1 hour, so I must have been moving well again. I felt pretty cold so I went fast to try and keep warm. The rain was drizzling so I didn’t stop to take too many pictures.

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These huge boulders were scattered along the waterways and the one pictured below is about 2 storeys in height!!

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I crossed a few bridges and the running water sounds filled the air all morning. Speak of water, at one stage I was busting to go to the toilet and was getting worried that I might have to remove my gear and make a side trip into the bush, but just as I was about to get desperate there in front of me was a toilet. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was out there in the middle of nowhere, no hut in sight, just a toilet all by itself in the woods. Perfect placement if you asked me as I was bursting!

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I slowed down for the last section as I had plenty of time and wanted to spend as much of it on the trail as possible, even though my legs were aching. How often would I get to do this, hardly ever, so I was going to soak it up for all it was worth.

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Most of the days journey was downhill and the poles came in super handy again, they had been a lifesaver really. I don’t think my legs would have coped at all if I did not have them. And I finally made it to the end of the trail (pictured below) and it sure did put a smile on my face.

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There was a little shelter for me to sit and wait for my bus, so I chatted to other hikers who were doing the same. It was just after midday when I arrived. I finished off the rest of my food (which wasn’t very much) and chatted to 2 girls from Israel and 2 guys from Canada. They made the time pass quickly and before I knew it my 2pm bus pick up had arrived.

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The bus trip back to Queenstown included a short stop in Glenorchy for people to grab a quick drink/food if needed. But i was feeling so exhausted that I stayed in the bus and had a power nap. Not that it did much good as 2 noisey americans got on the bus and talked at the top of their lungs!! Seriously, they could see that I was trying to sleep too. Just rude! ha ha

We got back on the road after about 20 minutes and soon I was back in Queenstown where I had a 10 minute walk to my hotel (Nomads Hostel). I was booked into a ‘King Room’ and it was lovely, had a balcony and all. The shower was heaven! I’m not sure how long I stayed in there but it was divine!

After wallowing in the shower for what seemed like an eternity I dressed in some non-trekking style warm clothes and headed out the door for some real soon and some milk. I took myself to Patagonia and had a chocolate milkshake with cookies and cream then took myself across to the pub (view from the pub at dinner below) and had Beef Wellington, which I also washed down with 2 pints of beer. The beer went straight to my head (ha ha) and the food was amazing!

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It had been a very busy and strenuous couple of weeks and it was starting to hit me physically. I felt very tired after dinner so I headed back to the hotel and packed my gear up ready for my flight home the next day. Once packed I put on my pj’s and watched some telly while catching up on writing my journal.

I was very much looking forward to going home and seeing my beautiful family and friends, but the misty mountains have left me wanting more and more, so i will be back one day soon and hopefully with the hubby this time.

Wishing you safe travels 🙂

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