Tramping Through Middle Earth

by Johnny

After a final night in Te Anau, we made our way back up to Queenstown…a town where we had so much fun that we’ll need multiple blog posts to do it justice. On one of our days in QT (am I hip or what?), the macho team of Johnny, Jay and Big Pete left the women and children at home and set out for a day of tramping (what the Kiwis call hiking) on the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s nine “Great Walks,” a series of multi-day walking tracks through some of the country’s best scenery. The Routeburn Track is one of the more popular Great Walks as it traverses both Mt. Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks and offers a variety of landscapes and stunning views.

We began our hike at the Routeburn Shelter near the town of Glenorchy, located about an hour from Queenstown. I’m glad Anna and Susan declined my offer to hang out in Glenorchy while the dudes hiked because the “town” consisted of a general store, a tractor and six sheep. From the Routreburn Shelter it was about a 90-minute walk through fern forests, across swing bridges and over gorges to the Routeburn Flats Hut, an ideal setting for a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich. After a quick lunch break, it was a steep, hour-long climb up to the Routeburn Falls Hut. Routeburn? More like Calvesburn. Heyo! After taking in the Shire-esque views (cut me some slack…I’ve gone three New Zealand blog posts without mentioning Lord of the Rings), we made our way back down to our car. Big Pete beat the spring chickens by a solid half an hour. I’m convinced he started going downhill and just couldn’t stop himself. It was an incredible day of tramping, although it made me wish I had more of my camping gear so that I could properly do one of the Great Walks. Hey, with Jay living out here now, maybe Anna and I will have to make a return trip.

I have to give a quick kudos to the New Zealand Department of Conservation. I’ve never been in a place where the outdoors are as easily accessible as they are in New Zealand.  All the hiking trails, lookout points, etc. are well-marked and have incredibly well-maintained facilities.  I mean, the two huts we hiked to on the Routeburn Track were nicer than 90% of the places Anna and I stayed in Southeast Asia. With over thousands of kilometers of hiking trails in New Zealand, it is truly an outdoor enthusiasts Shangri-La.

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