It’s late (by our definition) by the time we wake on the second day of our Routeburn Track adventure. I’m glad I put ear plugs in before going to bed and I slept very comfortably on the thin bunk mattress – just like being at home! By the time we get up, half of our bunk mates have left, some of them at first light I’m guessing. We aren’t in that much of a hurry, most of them are going the opposite direction to us and will probably need to be out to meet their transport at a certain time at The Divide where we started. I take a look around the kitchen when we go in for breakfast, noticing only one single woman, one family of four and two guys headed the same way as us. I guess it’s more popular walking from the Glenorchy side but I’m glad we’re doing it this way… it took us four hours to get to the start of the track in our transport and it’ll only be about an hour-and-a-half back to Queenstown from where we finish – much much closer to hot showers and cold cider!
We make hot coffee and eat tiny mince pies before breakfast. Breakfast being the same as lunch each day, it doesn’t take long to prepare our food, do the dishes, pack our bags and get on our way. Still, it’s around 8:30am before we start, so we are going to be walking above the tree line through the heat of the day. Oh well, that’s what sunscreen and cold mountain water is for!
We get amazing views back down to Lake MacKenzie and the hut as we zig-zag up the side of the first hill. Up the top, around the corner we again get spectacular views of the Hollyford Valley and the mountains, the river growing smaller, and harder to see, as we climb. We are shaded from the sun for the first part of this side of the hill which is nice. Along this ridge, we meet the first lot of people coming the other way – they must have got up early to make it this far by now. I stop every now and again to look back the way we came. Sometimes the best way to make a photograph is to look behind me as I will be photographing into the sun all day otherwise.
With each new turn around a corner we climb higher, finally making it to the Harris Saddle shelter at lunchtime. After a quick sit down, we stash our packs in the shelter and head up Conical Hill. This side trip takes us even higher up and from the top we have a 360 degree view of the mountains and valleys around us. Spectacular. We see Lake Harris, glistening below us, around the side of it our pathway down to tonight’s hut at Routeburn Falls.
Scrambling back down to the shelter, we grab our packs and are off again. It’s all (mostly) downhill from here. My foot has not been right since about 8km in to our walk yesterday, but there’s nothing I can do about it until we are home and I can see a podiatrist, so I take some pain killers and anti-inflams and carry on. We pass around the side of Lake Harris, then go down into the first valley. We stop for a photo and a water bottle refill, then keep going, the roar of the Routeburn Falls getting louder and louder. One final scramble and we’re done.
That’s the top of Conical Hill in the background (above)
This hut is even fancier than the one we stayed in last night. It has separate mens and women’s loos, a glorious view down to the flats from the deck and two bunk rooms, each one with little pods of four beds. And it’s not full yet, so we manage to grab two lower bunk beds for tonight. Winning.
After dumping our packs, we find a way down to the pools beneath the falls where we soak our tired feet. Not for the first time in a place like this, I get a sudden attack of the crazies, strip off my outer gear and hop into the screechingly-cold water. The perfect antidote to today’s hot walk.
Time, again, for wine and chocolate plus a bask in the sun before dinner and the hut talk by the ranger. He tells us that the we have been treated to a beautiful sight on our walk today – Mt Cook Lilies. They only flower for a couple of weeks of the year (which just happens to be now) and they’re a flower well-loved by NZ’ers and very rarely ever seen by them. So another reason to feel blessed today.
Another stunning day.
Today we walked: 15.9km (including the side trip up Conical Hill)
Elevation: We climbed from 868 metres up to 1591 today, then down to the hut at 1000 metres above sea level.