The Famous Routeburn Track, NZ
Updated: Oct 12, 2019
Location: Mt. Aspiring & Fiordland National Park, Canterbury Region, South Island, NZ
Elevation: 1,300m (4,300)
Difficulty level: Technically easy, but be in good shape!
Trail length: 32km (20mi)
Elevation gain: 823m (2,700ft) (if you start at the Lake Wakatipu/Queenstown side)
The Routeburn Track will always be my favourite – I think the wonder of that first multi-day hike will never fade away. Which is really something special, considering my memory or general lack thereof.
Everything we saw during those three wonder-filled days was a testament to how gorgeous nature is, and naturally I literally took photos of everything. This resulted in about 800 photos of mountains, sky, clouds, trees, trail, rocks, birds, leaves, waterfalls, rivers, and a few of my Bob’s bum (my meandering pace usually disqualified me to lead the way).
Yep, she set the crackin’ no-nonsense walking speed that probably saved our lives millions of times, while I snap snapped away, stopping every five minutes to look at fluorescent white moss, an orange dinosaur-flower with a mud-like substance at its center, tiny fat golf-ball shaped birds with no tail (mountain wrens that only live within a specific window of altitude, about 1,000ft range, so pretty special), rocks with fossil pictures of skulls or miniature men, leaves changing color, etc.
Every few hours on The Routeburn you feel like you are walking into a completely different country - from dense rainforest to windswept tundra, high altitude grasslands to hidden mountain lakes. The epic second day with gale force winds made it a little trickier footwork on the trail, and we realized how lucky it was that we were heading from The Routeburn Shelter towards The Divide and not vice versa (you can begin the trail from either side).
As we were hiking over the Saddle and down into the Mackenzie Valley from Routeburn Falls, the conditions were rainy, 60km wind with 80km bursts, and we became eternally grateful that we were not the poor people hiking up from the other way – it looked like a brutal ascent in those conditions, and the hikers ascending looked positively miserable (though part of their unhappiness was probably stemming from their decision to wear plastic bags around their shoes instead of forking out for appropriate shoes).
If we didn’t have such bad weather we would have missed out seeing hundreds of waterfalls falling down into Lake Mackenzie surrounded by mist, which was absolutely stunning. There's a silver lining for ya! It’s a busy track but that only meant we got to meet some pretty interesting characters along the way, some of whom were well over 75 years old and passing us with embarrassing, yet impressive, ease. #goals