It seems that no sooner are we back from one gruelling hike (in this case, Mueller Hut) than we are off on another. I woke up the first day after our Mt. Cook hike feeling surprised and very optimistic about the lack of muscle soreness. Of course, all this optimism quickly dissipates on day 2, just in time for the Routeburn Track hike we are embarking on.
All the details: Routeburn Track
Getting there: Drive to the Routeburn Shelter,about 60km NW of Queenstown on NZ’s South Island, where the walk begins. Alternatively, begin your trek from the Divide Shelter near Milford Sound.
Where to stay: Stay at the dorm-style Routeburn Falls Hut for $65/night, which includes access to the large communal kitchen area (running water and gas) and nice facilities. You’ll still need to bring your own food and cookware, as well as a sleeping bag (the bunks have mats).
Length of walk: The trek is 32km each way, and is usually done over 3 days (with 2 nights spent in the DOC mountain huts).
Difficulty: This is a rather easy walk— specifically the first 10km, which are flat and undemanding. The latter section of the hike involves a bit of climbing, but you can leave your big pack at the hut and take only a day pack for this.
Best time to hike: New Zealand’s network of Great Walks have a defined tramping season of late spring to early autumn (October – April); of course it’s possible to hike outside these times, but conditions will be more challenging and facilities will be limited.
Top tips: Stay both nights at the same mountain hut to simplify your routine and allow you to hike 1 day with only a day bag, which your legs will thank you for!
Fortunately, the tramp is predominantly flat, but it proves overwhelmingly challenging for my jelly legs. The first day involves maybe 2.5/3 hours of hiking (including the breaks during which we managed to finish off all of our snacks for the next couple days) before we reach the Routeburn Falls Hut. The majority of these hours are spent on hanging bridges. After it starts pissing rain at about hour 2, we set in to a full-blown powerwalk and manage to arrive at the hut quite early in the day, which leaves ample time for napping before dinner. Hooray!
By day 2, the weather has stopped storming, but we still sit out the early morning hiking in favour of 30 rounds of cards, “just to be safe”. Eventually we do venture up to Harris Saddle, the highest point of the track, and take in all the Lord of the Rings-esque scenery around us. The hike is fairly short and only slightly more uphill than yesterday. By this time, my legs are sort of cooperating with me, which is a delightful surprise.
We pass a good number of lakes before finally coming to Harris Saddle, where dad and Eileen happen to be having a snack break. We charge on over and finish off a good helping of their snacks, having nearly none of our own left and being hopelessly hungry, like always.
We are back at the Routeburn Falls Hut for dinner and excellent company, and then off back to the car the next morning. A short, but km-filled couple of days on our first Great Walk!