Adventures living as expats.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

New Zealand - Hiking the Routeburn Track and Queenstown

When you compare the island of Java to the South Island of New Zealand you  really can't get much further in contrast.  Java, the most populous island on Earth, has 143 million inhabitants with just over 128,000 square km, while the South Island has 1 million residents and takes up about 151,000 square km.  To put this into perspective, Java's population density is around 1,120 people per square km while the South Island hosts around 6.5 people per square km.

Before moving to Jakarta, Jeff and I loved hiking and backpacking during the warm summer months in Oregon so the first booking we made while travel planning for New Zealand was the Routeburn Track, a 20 mile hike featuring incredible views of the Southern Alps and surrounding valleys.  Considering that our fitness levels have been on a steady decline since moving to Jakarta, I was a bit apprehensive and convinced Jeff to do the hike in 4 days rather than the typical 3 days the most able bodied people opt for.  New Zealand has an amazing set-up for all of the Great Walks which includes huts to sleep in and cooking stoves to use.  Its was so nice to have a cosy bed and warm dinner to look forward to after a day of hiking.   You're sharing the huts with about 50 other people so earplugs and eye masks are a must, but it sure beats carrying a tent and thermarest.

Our first day of the trek was the shortest segment and a great starter to ease ourselves into the hike.  We were dropped off at The Divide and took a small detour up to Key Summit to enjoy our picnic lunch and get our first taste of the scenery we would enjoy for the next 3 days.

Our picnic view at the top of Key Summit 
My handsome mountain man 
Our reward after all the "strenuous" hiking
View of Lake Howden - where we stayed our first night
The second day brought us past a lot of waterfalls including Earland Falls where we stopped for lunch.  Jeff spent a lot of the hike today filming his documentary using his new gadget - a generic Go Pro camera and selfie stick.  After expending all of my patience stopping every 3 minutes for the first few miles, I threatened to sabotage his camera when he wasn't looking.  He really picked up the pace from there on and after seeing a sneak peak, I'm glad I put up with the endless videos!  The video is in final edits and I'm hoping to post it on the next blog post.
Jeff had his selfie stick and camera ready at all times
Earland Falls

Lake Mackenzie - Jeff couldn't resist going for a swim in several icy lakes including this one.
Our hut the second night.
It started raining that night and continued on the next morning so we bundled ourselves up in our rain gear and kept our fingers crossed it would clear up.  Luck was on our side and by the time that we got to the top of Harris Saddle we had clear views with just a few clouds rolling through.  Jeff convinced me to take a side trip up to Conical Hill which provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  Even though my fear of heights kicked in half way up, I was glad he convinced me to make the extra effort.

Beautiful rainbow as the fog cleared.
On our way up Conical Hill
New Facebook picture? 

We took so many pictures along this section of the trail - if I had to choose a favorite, this would be it.

The view from the Routeburn Falls Hut - just a few days back in nature and it seems like we both get our sparkle back.  
After finishing up the hike the next day, we headed back towards Queenstown only to be delayed by a herd of escaped sheep running every which way.  After a few minutes, the sheep dogs came along and set them straight but it sure provided some welcome comic relief during the drive when all we could think about was what we were going to eat once we got back to Queenstown.   We picked up our home on wheels that afternoon, grabbed some lamb shoulder take-out at Pedro's House of Lamb, settled into our campsite, and cracked open a bottle of Pinot Noir.  The next day was filled with lunch at the famous Fergburger, wine tasting, and a bit of sightseeing around town.

Jeff and I found the sheep crossing hilarious.
Our campervan for the rest of the trip. 
Burgers the size of our heads.
Vineyards in any country always make us nostalgic for Oregon wine along with friends and family back home.

Our first week in New Zealand was exactly what we had hoped for - nature, scenery, relaxing, and wine tasting.  We had a dramatic change of plans the second week due me getting appendicitis.  Since this post has become way too long, I'll write more about that in the next installment.

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