Thursday, 26 January 2012

Queenstown and the Routeburn

Jan 15 – Wanaka to Queens town
After packing up at the campsite we headed into the town of Wanaka. There was a little craft fair/market in the park which was a little underwhelming. We wandered around town and walked by a nice restaurant which we decided on for lunch. After lunch we had a twisty drive to Queenstown. Before arriving in Queenstown we stopped into little Arrowtown. The town itself was quite pretty and quaint. The guys found a bar to watch the football game in and us girls had a wander of the shops and bought ourselves a goody from the bakery. Once in Queenstown we made a grocery run and then found a camp site. The campsite was interesting, it had reused shipping containers for the kitchen and bathrooms.
The view from Wanaka
Jan 16 – Queenstown
Back home it's football Sunday so Beau hunted out a place to watch his Packers game. Mom, Dad and I went off to find some sleeping bags and other bits and pieces for the Routeburn. Afterwards Dad joined Beau to watch the game and Mom and I headed for some lunch and internet. After lunch and internet we all met back up together and walked along the board walk. We got some really nice fresh made ice cream. We later drove to a Department of Conservation (DOC) camp site right near the start of the Routeburn. It was a lovely spot right on a river but the sandflies were brutal. We got quite a few bites that night.
Outside Queenstown
Jan 17 – Routeburn
The weather gods were with us still this morning and we woke to a gorgeous day. We were setting off on our 3 day hike and took this as a good omen. We got started on the trek around 10am. The first portion had some ups and downs but was all in the cover of the trees, Red Beech were the most common. The forest had a very BC, red woods forest feel to it. We saw a few birds but NZ doesn't have any indigenous animals so the forest was relatively quiet. We stopped for lunch in an area called the Routeburn Flats. We parked it on a log in the grass and enjoyed our sandwiches in the sun. This part of the hike was 6.5km and was relatively flat. The next section took us up to the Routeburn Falls Hut where we were staying the night and it was straight up for 2.3km. We arrived at the hut around 3:30pm and started the process of finding some bunks and getting checked in. To our dismay there were no sleeping platforms which we had been counting on since Beau and I had planned on sharing a sleeping bag as had Mom and Dad. We also had trouble finding bunks together since people had not checked in properly but we got it sorted in the end. After getting our bunks we (excluding Mom) went for a walk up to a nearby lake and to see a really nice look out. It was a two hour round trip but very worth it. We stuck our feet in the freezing cold lake and got an awesome group shot from the top of the view point. Once back down at the hut we had dinner and played some cards. Everyone in the bunk house was going to bed around 9:30pm so we figured we should too even though it was still light out. Beau and Dad doubled up on sleep sheets and slept in there clothes, assuring us they would be warm enough.
Our lunch stop
The Routeburn Falls

View of the valley where we came from

Jan 18 – Routeburn Falls to Mackenzie Lake
We awoke to another beautiful day. We had tea and oatmeal for breakfast. After packing up we got on our way around 9am. Mom and Dad headed back down to the Routeburn Shelter and we were headed to Mackenzie Lake. Mom and Dad were taking the RV around to the other side to pick us up. This part of the hike was completely out of the tree line and very exposed to the elements. Fortunately it wasn't too windy and the sun kept us warm. It was a pretty steep hike to the Harris Saddle which is the highest point on the main Routeburn track at 1255m. It also is where the park changes from Mt Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park. At this point we took a side track up to Conical Hill. This was a very difficult straight uphill track but the views from the top were spectacular. It took us around 1.5hr round trip. Back at Harris Saddle we stopped for lunch and sat outside in the sunshine to enjoy our cheese and crackers. We continued on our way and were rewarded with some breath taking views of the mountains across the valley. The path stayed relatively flat but hugged the mountain side. It was a little intimidating to look down into the valley. Mackenzie Lake and hut finally came into view but we had quite a ways down to go. The track switched back a forth down until we re-entered the trees. The forest on this side of the mountains was completely different. Everything was covered with moss and there were trees growing on top of rocks. It looked like a fairy forest. We made it to the hut around 3:30-4pm. We got checked in and then headed down to Lake Mackenzie to soak up some of the sunshine. Beau, Elaine and Shane went for a swim in the freezing cold lake. After they got dry and warm we made a surprisingly delicious dinner of Indian rice, red Thai tuna, and Mexican chilli beans. Most people went to bed around 9:30 but we stayed up playing Euker a little longer.
A lake along our hike

On top of Conical Hill

Beau hiking

The fairy forest

The mountains seen from Lake Mackenzie

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