The Routeburn Track – Day 1

Merry Christmas loyal readers! I hope you are all getting plenty of rest and relaxation this holiday season. Miriam and I decided to go in the opposite direction. On Christmas Eve we returned from a 3-day, 32 km walk called the Routeburn Track. This is one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, which you can read about here. We signed up for this walk in September, pretty soon after we decided to come to NZ and I have been looking forward to it ever since.

We ate a Joey Chestnut-sized breakfast on the morning of the 22nd and drove with Miriam’s sister (Sarah), her brother-in-law (Brett), and some random guy (Scott) to The Divide. This is one of the starting/ending points of this track and was about a two and a half hour drive from Queenstown. Unfortunately the smelly hikers started passing us in the opposite direction almost immediately¹. Fortunately there were incredible views to distract us.

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You’re right that is snow on those peaks. But don’t let it fool you, the weather was pretty much perfect on this day. We were able to hike in shorts and short sleeves for the whole day.

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Along the Routeburn Track there were a couple of optional side treks and of course we did all of them because YORO (You Only Routeburn Once). These first two pictures are from a side trek that went to the Key Summit.

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QUIT GOOFING OFF MIRIAM, WE’VE GOT HIKING TO DO!²

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We went through these really cool forests with moss everywhere. It was like all the rocks and trees had moss shag carpeting. Bonus points for standing really awkwardly!

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One thing that was amazing about this track and I assume all of them is that you don’t see any trash, initials carved into trees or any other unattractive traces of hikers that have done this trail in the past.

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We rounded a corner and stumbled upon Earland Falls, which was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen.

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Earland Falls is 174 meters high. Niagara Falls is 51. Niagara Falls gets hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of visitors every year. Earland Falls is just at the edge of the forest so I didn’t even see it until the spray was hitting me in the face. There was a little sign that said the name, but after I saw it I was so distracted by the falls that I forgot their name until I just looked it up. Basically if Earland Falls was an actor, it would need a better agent. It was so awe-inspiring but because it has Josh Weinstein representing it (Entourage reference for all the bros out there) I didn’t know about it before the hike and I wouldn’t have known the name unless I hadn’t just looked it up. On second thought, I guess it’s better this way.

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Although this looks like a great spot to go for a swim, the water in the falls is melted snow from glaciers, so its basically freezing. This didn’t stop Brett and Scott from getting in. After seeing their reactions, I’m pretty pleased with my decision not to.

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Scenery shot of Earland Falls from a distance.

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Along the path there were also many smaller waterfalls. It had rained for a couple of days leading up to the hike so the waterfalls were gushing.

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Getting close to our hut for the night in this shot. There were 4 huts along the track and you have to sign up and pay in advance if you want to stay in one. In the huts they have bunks, mattresses, toilets, running water, cooking facilities and lights.³

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After six and a half hours of walking we made it to our hut. This is the view a few steps from where we slept.

Each night when we were done hiking we would sit down and have some salami, cheese and the finest boxed wine in Kiwi country. The boxed wine paired rather nicely with the salami and cheese.

That’s all for Day 1 on Routeburn. Check back for pictures from day 2!

Cheers,

Gordon

A note from Miriam: Just like loading our packs on the hike, I let Gordon do the heavy lifting for the Routeburn recap. Click “Continue reading” to see my additional comments and pictures. I even put corresponding numbers to make my footnotes more official.

1 – Seriously, these hikers smelled like spoiled milk. I’m pretty sure they forgot they would be tramping in the woods for three days and were carrying ice cream, milk and yogurt. Me? Yes, I smelled like a bed of roses when we finished, thank you very much.

2  – It was a catwalk through nature. Gordon just picked the most ridiculous moment to capture. I regret nothing.

3 – So after walking for hours with a pack that weighed about as much as a small fifth grader, walking into the clearing and seeing a hut was quite a welcoming site. But on top of that, as we got closer, we could see couches, people walking around, possibly a fireplace going… This hut was plush. So with a new-found spring in our step, we marched toward our hut only to realize no. That wasn’t ours. It was actually a hut specifically for guided tours. Ours was nicer than I could have asked for, but that first hut sighting was a total tease.

Now on to the pictures!!! I tried not to repeat any of the ones Gordon posted, since we have a handful of duplicates (we both just kept our digital point and shoots in our packs’ easy access waist-pockets). While it would have been nice to have our fancy camera with us, I think we still had a great time capturing some awesome sights and an amazing experience. 
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I had to have the classic pre-trek pose with the track sign!

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It was awesome getting to do this trek with Sarah and Brett. Mostly because that meant Brett planned it all out so we knew it would be seamless! Read about his take on the adventure here.

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Gordon of course took every opportunity he could to climb on off-course rocks and cause mayhem.

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Earland Falls… Gordon made a valiant effort, but I don’t think there is any way to accurately describe how fantastic this was. On Brett’s post you can see our immediate reactions to seeing it… As you will see, I was literally dumbfounded. Emphasis on the dumb.

CIMG9636Every portion of the walk was like being in a fairy tale. The first day was especially grand with the clear blue skies.

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Gordon has really perfect the awkward standalone portrait since we’ve been in New Zealand.

The first day of Routeburn was awesome. It was a big wake-up call for packing light and staying hydrated, but it was a phenomenal experience!

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