Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Track #4 Routeburn - day one

We decided due to ticket reservations and weather, to walk the Routeburn from east to west (north to south). As we did for Kepler, we took the nontraditional method of hiking the whole trail in two days instead of three. The first day we would hammer out 20 kilometers, and the second day finish 10 kilometers, plus a side trip up Key Summit.

The Routeburn is northwest of Queenstown, and the trailhead is in the middle of nowhere and is set up as a point to point hike. This means logistics as to how to get to and from the trails heads should be planned ahead of time. I bought bus tix for both the entrance and extraction. However, on both ends the booking company lost my reservation. To make the ride more confusing, my bus driver on the start end did not give me my ticket back so I did not have documentation for the return driver. To make matters even more confusing, the booking company put us on two different carriers for start and return, and to top that, we finished the hike early and took and earlier bus that had empty seats. It all worked out perfectly; apparently this kind of mix up is common.

The track takes you up through a forest of moss and beech trees - at least three varieties of beech tree. The first few hours are a gentle climb until you hit the alpine tree line, where you are immediately graced with waterfalls and lakes.

For about two miles I hiked with a fellow from Bristol named Paul who was a mountain biker. We leapfrogged about four times and finally gave in to hiking together. He was just out for a day hike, but was pushing up far and fast. He had run/hiked the Three peak Challenge, where you must summit the three highest peaks on Scotland, Wales, and England within 24 hours, including drive time. It is a team competition, so you can choose a support driver etc. His team completed the challenge, but failed at the 24 hour marker. We also talked about Danny Macaskill and his now famous Isle of Skye ridge ride. Youtube that now! You will not be disappointed.

The water in NZ is so pure you can drink directly out of the streams, which makes fast packing much easier. The water is sweet and better than most purified tap water.

Paul turned around at a stream where we met two hikers from Berkeley, CA, who live on Grizzly Peak! What a small world, where you can be on the other side of the world, halfway up a mountain, and meet someone who lives literally down the street from your own home.

After the ridge line the trail drops down into a mossy fairyland, ending at Lake Mackensie. Many of the names in this region are Scottish; 20% of the people are of Scottish ancestry. I can see the natural draw; the area has a look and feel of the Scottish highlands, and where there are scots, there are sheep. There are at least 10 sheep per person in NZ.

When we reached the lake I got swarmed by sandflys once again, so we decided to upgrade from lakeshore camping to a hut. The last thing I needed was hives. I discovered I am very allergic to these bites.

The Berkeleyites showed up about two hours after us, and we shared a dinner. They were vegans and brought way too much cheese and spinach, so I gourmet up my ham sandwich. Thank you guys!

Location:Church Street,Queenstown,New Zealand

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