Thirdeyemom

Hiking into Middle Earth: A tramp along the Routeburn Track

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.   So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.    Explore.   Dream. Discover.”   – Mark Twain

The New Zealand Silver Fern, the symbol of purity and beauty.

The Routeburn Track in the South Island of New Zealand is perhaps one of the finest hikes in the world.  It rates up there with neighboring Milford Track as well as the world-famous Annapurna Trek in Nepal.

The 24 mile/29 kilometer Routeburn Track generally takes three days and climbs up to some of the most spectacular, pristine temperate rain forest and alpine scenery in the world.  Unfortunately my husband and I only had one day allocated to a tramp (what the Kiwi’s call hiking) along the Routeburn Track, and we were going to make the most of it.  Given what we had already seen of Queenstown and the surrounding area, we knew that our visit to Routeburn would be one of the best parts of the trip and we weren’t at all disappointed.

Below is a panoramic shot of the view at the top of the Routeburn Track….a view that we didn’t get to see.  This means we’ll have to someday go back and do the whole thing! (Photo credit Wikipedia Commons). 

We woke up before sunrise on Thursday morning to catch our lift out to the start of the Routeburn Track.  We ate a nice, hearty breakfast before meeting up with our local guide Andrew as well as eight fellow “trampers” from around the world.  Part of the best part of taking a hike is the people you meet along the way.  I always find it fascinating to have so many different cultures represented and there is never a dull moment or lag in conversation.

The weather outside wasn’t the picture perfect brilliant blue sky we had the day before during our day of pure adventure in Queenstown.  Instead, the sky was dark and menacing and it was a perhaps a 50-50 chance that we would be stuck tramping in the pouring rain.  But we didn’t mind the least.  Both Paul and I love to hike, rain or shine, and we were thrilled to finally be visiting the world-renowned Routeburn Valley and Mount Aspiring National Park.

Despite the dark clouds, the drive was absolutely stunning.  The picturesque landscape continually screamed “Lord of the Rings” in my head and I envisioned the battles and horse rides of Middle Earth while I looked longingly outside the van window.  Spring was also in the air as we passed fields coated in freshly-bloomed yellow flowers which contrasted sharply against the dark black sky.

Setting of on turbulent looking morning to the mystical Routeburn Track.

The clouds looked ominous and threatening with the perfect storm. Would we escape it?

En route to the small town of Glenorchy where we would have a quick tea and coffee break. 

Coffee stop at the small, quaint Glenorchy cafe, the only place in sight.

Finally we arrived at the start of the Routeburn Track.  Fortunately the dark clouds had passed leaving a low-level of fog across the mountains and blanketing the valley. We wore our rain gear just in case as hiking in a temperate rainforest means you never know when it is going to rain.  This area of New Zealand attracts a tremendous amount of rain year round making the forests unbelievably green and full of life.

Start of the Routeburn Track. 

My first experience on a suspension bridge. There would be many more of these bouncy bridges down the road (on other hikes I would take around the world).  

Below:  Looking down….wouldn’t want to slip and fall.

Another view from a different angle.  I was relieved to get across.  I don’t really like heights but then again, I did just jump off a mountain the day before on a hang-glider! 

We hiked awhile talking cheerfully with the others and enjoyed the solitude and pure beauty of our surroundings.  I understood at that moment exactly why they ads say “100 percent pure New Zealand“.  I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it.  

Our first glimpse of the sheer beauty of the Routeburn Trail. Wow, it was so mystical. The low hanging clouds were a bit of a bummer yet added to the mysterious, secretive splendor of this place.

Simply spectacular!   I can only imagine in my dreams what this valley would look like on a sunny, cloudless day.  The thought of it makes me know that I’ll have to someday find out. 

It had rained quite a bit and here is evidence and a grim reminder of the dangers of mudslides.  Not only did they wreak havoc to the trail they also could be quite treacherous.  

The Silver Fern is New Zealand’s national pride and you can see the fern symbol on everything ranging from baseball caps to the curled up fern on the tail of all Air New Zealand planes.

We ended our hike six hours later to the song of the birds and the fresh, fragrant air you come to expect in this part of the world.  We were elated with a “hikers high”:  the kind of feeling you get after combining strenuous exercise, good company and marvelous scenery.  We could hardly wait to get back to our cozy hotel and have yet another delightful meal with plenty of well-deserved Sav Blanc!

Stay tuned….we board the bus and head south to the New Zealand’s fjord land and an over night cruise in the Milford Sound.  Thanks for reading and commenting! 

6 comments

  1. OMG, Nicole. What stunning beauty. It takes me breath away. However, I don’t know how I would have done the suspension bridge. That looks like it might scare me–as in, a lot!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

  2. I always wanted to see New Zealand after seeing how beautiful it is in the movies. Today, I get to revisit its breathtaking landscapes via your wonderful pictures. As always you travels inspire me to explore the world whenever I can. I’m going home this March and I hope I get some tropical adventures for myself… Happy Valentine’s Day .

    • What island are you from? I have been trying to figure that out. I loved your last post on Regret. Your posts are always so beautifully written and so thought out.

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