One wet Monday morning Allison and I set ourselves the challenge to conquer the Routeburn track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. As the week pressed on the weather hung low, until we were due to depart and the weather turned stunningly beautiful.
We were driven to the divide, the meeting point of the three rivers, Hollyford, Eglington and the Greenstone. The first part of the walk was a steep ascent and with backpacks and a warm afternoon we were feeling not as clean as when we first started. From Key Summit we could make out the surrounding landscape, Lake Marion and the Hollyford Valley. From here we said goodbye to Ina who had accompanied us this far, and pressed on, and up to Lake Mackenzie hut.
Sweating and puffed we continued along the tree line, climbing progressively upwards. We stopped only to admire the beauty of thundering waterfalls with their own private rainbow, to scramble over treeslides and squelch through mud. By 6:30 we spied our rest stop, the hut at Lake Mackenzie where the mountains were reflected perfectly in the calm water.
We chose our bunks, layered up and went for a paddle in the lake, the icy water numbing our feet as we crossed the carpet like moss floor of the water to sit astride a rock and congratulate ourselves for a good days walk. With makeshift ingredients we threw together a basic pasta dish then took our most important haul, the bottle of wine, out to the lake front to watch the day close in to night with a stunning sunset.
In the morning we rose early for a hikers breakfast of porridge, fruit before continuing the climb up and up in tiring switchbacks until we reached Harris’s saddle. Our morning break was sunny with a backdrop of snow, swapping stories with hikers coming the other way and distainfully greeting the runners who had caught up our progress so far in 2.5 hours.
From the saddle we passed beautiful calm lakes which reflected the snow freckled mountains like Dalmatian spots, crossed a snow ridge and began climbing down through mountain to the next hut, then forest trail to the last. On the flat we wound lakeside closer to the end, our spiritedly steps slowing.
We had plenty of time to share stories, swap gossip and reaffirm our status as ‘besties’ before reaching the sign at the end that exclaimed us conquer the 36km great walk, and by a smidgen, within 24 hours!
After our final chocolatey treat we set about the real challenge, getting a hitchhike from here, the end of the road, to Queenstown, where a nice warm shower and some goodies awaited us. With little action on the road we waited an hour, taking it in turns to nap in the warm grass, before a kind lady and her niece picked us up. It was 27kms to Glenorchy where we stopped for coffee and ice cream at the quaintest general store, before pushing on to civilisation, a warm bed, a beer, wifi signal and a food restock.