It’s Christmas Eve and one of those mornings that I’m glad we usually wake early – we have to be up, packed, and ready to go by 6:30 am, when our Routeburn Track transport arrives.
We do a couple of rest stops, as well as a couple of shuttle bus changes and it’s 11:30am before we get to The Divide where our Routeburn Track adventure truly begins. Time for a quick rest stop, then we’re on our way.
Nic and I are spending three days walking the Routeburn Track (< that’s a link to his short write-up). It’s one of the reasons I wanted to move back to New Zealand. I’ve never done anything longer than a day walk and I want to do all the Great Walks over the next few years (as well as other NZ explorations).
This is one of New Zealand’s most popular Great Walks (the first one for me, the umpteenth one for Nic). All the huts have to be pre-booked and they’re FULL. Three days of walking, two nights in DOC huts, pack everything in, pack everything out – no rubbish service, no cellphone service, no cafe’s, no TV. Heaven.
The first section of the track, through silver beech forest, begins with a steady climb up to where the key summit track forks from the main Routeburn track. We dump our packs in the shade then head up to the summit. It’s a stunning day and we get magnificent views of the Hollyford valley and Darran mountains. The mountain daisies are in full bloom making even the close-up scenery beautiful.
[The summit is the first of many many places where I’m kicking myself for making what I think is the biggest packing mistake of the trip: instead of moving my wide-angle lens into my pack last night when I thought of it, I planned to do it when I got up this morning. Did it happen? Nope. So, I’ve got three days of stunning landscapes and only a 50mm lens! Working with what I’ve got will be an interesting challenge, and I’m less than happy with myself for such forgetfulness. Not gonna lie, that this less-than-happy feeling stays with me for the remainder of the trip.]
Back down on the main track again, we soon end up at the first hut at Lake Howden. There’s already quite a crowd here, but we find a spot down near the lake to sit and have lunch. We’ll be eating the same thing every day – wraps with pastrami, horseradish mustard, cheese and spinach, followed by turkey jerky and a handful of chocolate coffee beans. It’s easy to make, easy to carry, and tasty enough that I won’t get bored of it before our three-day walk is over.
There are loads of small waterfalls beside the track on the way to Mackenzie Hut, and there’s an equal number of exclamations from me about how beautiful they are. There’s also loads of waterfall photos that I made that end up in my reject pile. The water in these is cold, clear and safe to drink, so I take advantage of this during the walk today and we make use of them for bottle refills for the duration of our adventure.
There’s a lot of up today, punctuated by a bit of down and we make it to Lake MacKenzie hut in the early afternoon. By the time we arrive all the good (bottom) bunks are taken, so we pile our sleeping bags onto two of the top bunks and get ourselves checked in.
After getting changed into our non-walking gear, we sit on the front porch of the kitchen/dining hut for a very well-deserved glug of wine and some chocolate!
We are both so tired that we eat dinner early, find the ranger to hand over our hut passes and are in bed, asleep, around 8:30pm.
Today we walked: 17.2km (including the side trip up the Key Summit)
Elevation: We climbed from 508 to 868 metres today