Day Hike on the Routeburn Track

I start the day with another beautiful weather day and an 8am pick-up in front of the Nomads Queenstown hostel by Guided Walks NZ. I booked this trip for $199 NZ about $133 USD.  Compared to other offers/guides this one seemed the best value for money. Our goal is to day hike the Routeburn Track from the Routeburn Shelter on the Glenorchy side of the track. I’m the last one to be picked up before hitting the road. We have introductions and we are a group of 7. Two from Germany, two from Seattle, and two from Canada.

We stop along the Wakatipu river for a scenic photo view of the lake, then another restroom stop in Glenorchy village after about 45min from Queenstown. Glenorchy is a small village of about 400 people.  Our guide Susan, also the driver, was a good narrator for the duration of our road trip and told us about the large eco-camp as we passed by it being owned by a U.S couple who fell in love with the place and invested in the camp.

There’s a large metal sculpture of an Haast eagle sitting on a boulder. This eagle became  extinct as recently as 500+ years ago. The statue represents the actual size of the eagle with about an 8-10 foot wingspan. It became extinct after hunting and eating all the Moa (a 3-meter tall emu like bird).

We arrive at the trail head, make a bathroom pitstop and hit the trailhead after a briefing from our guide Susan around 10am.  Our total hike distance will be about 14km (8.7miles) round trip. The sky is a deep blue with a waning moon getting ready to set behind a mountain The trail starts off with an easy garden-like path as we are making good time.

There’s a gradual climb of about 300-400 meters to our destination of the Flats Hut. We crossed several bridges of different sizes and stopped for pics at several viewpoints. Some of these bridges have signs posting number of people limit for crossing at a time.

The path winds around mountain edges to reveal a lush green landscape with turquoise rivers and mountain peaks.  I mention that I would love to wade into the stream at some point and our guide says we will get the chance later.

We hit the flats area which is a meadow with a stream. This is actually a slight deviation from the main trail in order to see this wonderful meadow. It was a short hike from there to the Flats Hut where we stop and have lunch (included) consisting of chicken salad sandwiches, cookies, and an apple.

I take a few panoramic shots before, during and after lunch. I also fill up my water bottle with clear cold water from the stream. We have some sharing of stories about where we are from, the hike and where we are going after Queenstown.

After lunch we go off trail into what I was calling Jurassic Park and wondering when the velociraptors would pop out. I loved this part of the hike where we had to climb over, under fallen trees and sometimes both. Although I did hear some comments from others who did not share my enthusiasm for this off trail patch. It was a rugged trail to traverse which would take about triple the time of the regular path. We walked up a nearly dry river bank and kept an eye out for any gold nuggets which may have recently washed up from the previous rain.

We break through to a rocky open space near this most turquoise river yet. I decided to take my pants off and wade in with my under-tights. The water was cold, I would guesstimate upper 48 to 52deg F. I’m the only one who chose to do this from our group although there was another guy already there who jumped in from the top of a large boulder. I got in all the way and swam down river. I found it refreshing and invigorating and it gave me a burst of energy for the hike back.

On the way back not so many pictures were being taken as we had more chit-chat and viewing of the surrounding flora. Our legs were beginning to feel the hike. My total hike mileage was 9 miles after returning to the van. I was also nearly dry from my river swim but I did change into the extra set of clothing I brought in anticipation that I might get wet based on the majority of my past experiences. We had another stop in Glenorchy for some snacks and coffee you could really feel some stiffness in the legs.

I sat in the van feeling pleasantly tired after a good hike along with good memories. I was thinking if I planned a little more I would have liked to do the whole track, however the huts book out quickly so they need to be reserved almost a year in advance. The whole track is about 32km or 20miles. Some people do it in one day. I’m not in that kind of shape though I did almost half of that with my round trip.