Thursday, February 8, 2024

Routeburn Track

On our third full day in New Zealand we intentionally planned a late morning start. In my somewhat limited experience, mutinies are most likely to occur when a group is not well fed or well rested. We had, to this point, covered “well fed” adequately, but nights had been somewhat short, and it seemed advisable for everyone to have some good sleep.

Morning exercises
Today’s main objective was hiking the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s ten “Great Walks.” These are generally multi-day treks through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery. On a recommendation from some friends, we chose the Routeburn Track, which started at the north end of the lake Queenstown sits on and ends near Milford Sound. This (20ish) mile trek is usually undertaken over three days, with huts along the way for overnighting. Don’t let the moniker fool you. These “huts” are actually fully built out bunkhouses with beds, running water, and kitchens, a far cry from the “shelters” we’re used to along the Appalachian Trail. Not having the time to hike the whole thing, we decided to start on what we were told is the more scenic Queenstown end and hike towards Milford Sound.


Routeburn River

To get to the trailhead, we drove all the way up the north side of Lake Wakatipu, crossing the Dart River which was used as the location for Isengard in The Two Towers. We arrived at the bottom of the track and encountered quite a few hikers outfitted for the whole trek. After gearing up, we set out. This was one of the most varied and beautiful hikes I have ever been on - lush forests, waterfalls, gorges, rapids, swinging bridges, and a wide open river delta surrounded by mountains! We hiked five miles or so before halting at the Routeburn Flats, in a dramatic valley. There was a sign at the trailhead that said, “Authorized Drones Only,” but, after looking around carefully, I didn’t see anyone to authorize me. After resting here for a while and reveling in the magnificence, we turned around and headed back, taking a detour on the adjacent nature trail to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Routeburn Flats
We headed back to the AirBnB, stopping at a roadside souvenir shop that was, unfortunately, closed. Six of us then decided to squeeze in a round of disc golf at the Queenstown Gardens, which sits on a peninsula jutting out into the lake. The recreation center where we could rent discs was closed, so Justin loaned me his “favorite” disc and told me not to throw in the water (coincidentally he had never thrown this disc before). I told him I’m a professional and don’t throw discs in the water. He took out his phone and started making a note (captioning his next Instagram post, no doubt).

It would have been really sweet to beat Justin with his own disc, but, unfortunately, after a double bogey on my part, Justin won the round by two strokes. Trying to be gracious, I said something to the effect of, “It’s okay, I can lose,” and Justin retorted, “Oh, I know you can!”

Sunset in Queenstown
We finished the day with (another) late dinner, and ice cream!

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