One of the things on my bucket list was doing a multiple day trek with a full pack. January 2012, I could tick that off my list: I hiked the Routeburn Track, a 32km trek through Mt. Aspiring N.P. and Fiordland N.P., New Zealand! Most people do the tramp (Kiwi word for a trek) in three days, but since I had all the time in the world, I did it in four…well, three and a bit.
Things started off just great as I had forgotten to go to a DOC office in Queenstown to get my hut tickets. I’ll never make that mistake again! I had booked a bus ride through Tracknet and met other travellers, while waiting for our ride. I got a bit carsick along the way as it was quite a windy road! The sun was out, the weather was beautiful and after a last check I went on my way. Exciting! 🙂
The trail went up, up, up aaaand uuuup! My goodness! But everything around me was stunning, beautiful, amazing, mesmerizing. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! After about four and a half hours I arrived at the first hut, the Routeburn Falls Hut. I settled in, slept for a few hours because I was sooo tired! The mattresses were very comfortable, yay!
After some rest, I went to the common room. I ended up chatting with fellow travellers and later on the hut warden too. He was very friendly and had a project going: his idea was to have trekkers write ‘sleep tight, get well soon’ on pillow cases in their native languages and then give those pillow cases to children in a hospital so that they knew people were thinking of them. Such a lovely idea! Since he didn’t have Dutch on there yet, he asked me to participate. It was actually quite awesome to chat with the warden like that and help him out with this heartwarming project. And he gave me tea and chocolate! 🙂
Day two was going to be a lot tougher. The trail went further up, above the treeline. I’d never been in an alpine environment before, so it was a feast for my eyes. I was mesmerized and I just loved being out there so much. It was calm and quiet. Every once in a while travellers would pass, but most of the time I had nature all to myself. Amazing and something I’d never experienced before!
One of those moments where things just make sense and you’re content just being there. One of those moments where time can stop for all you care, because you never want to forget how amazing you feel.
Anyway, I reached the highest point of the trail. There was a hut where I stopped for a break. Two married couples from Sydney, whom I’d met at the first hut, arrived around the same time. They were very friendly. 🙂
Then it was time for me to make my way to Lake McKenzie hut. The trail went down, down, dooown and my left knee had gotten very painful. It took me foreeeever to go down. The two married couples caught up and saw me struggling. They lent me a bandage for my knee and one of the ladies took my pack, threw it over one shoulder, adding the weight of my pack to her full load, said ‘ah, your pack weighs nothing!’, and kept an eye on me as I went down. That was the moment where in my head I renamed these people ‘The Fantastic Four’.
After six or seven hours, I finally arrived at Lake McKenzie hut. There weren’t any bottom bunks left and I was struggling to get up on the top bunk, with my busted knee. Another guy, that I had met on the bus, switched his bottom bunk with me. So incredibly nice! The Fantastic Four invited me to come to the lake with them, so I could cool my inflamed knee. I was really loving this microworld of trekkers. If only the outside world was this beautiful!
As I was limping my way around the common room, a man approached me. He asked me very specific questions. Turned out he is a doctor! He gave me ibuprofen. Another guy lent me his walking pole for the next day. I could stay in this beautiful world forever! It felt so good! People of all walks of life getting along, helping eachother out, enjoying the same things. What can be better than that?
The third day was wet, very wet! The trail was a lot easier than the day before. The walking pole helped me heaps and after around three and a half hours I arrived at Lake Howden Hut. All the amazing people that had helped me the day before, were staying at this hut as well. The beautiful world continued. 🙂 The fourth day was easy, the last bit only took about an hour. I really wanted to hike up the lookout, but the weather was so bad that it wasn’t worth it, you wouldn’t be able to see anything. The hut warden had advised to leave early as the weather wasn’t going to be very good that day (possibility of snow!).
I had prebooked a bus for the afternoon. This meant waiting for hours and hours after I finished…and it was bloody cold!! Beaming with pride that I had finished this awesome trek, I was waiting for my bus. Some guy was waiting too, so it was nice not to have to wait alone. Very proud and very tired I arrived back in Queenstown. I treated myself to a double room so I had all the space just for me! 🙂
I look back on this track with pride and gratitude. It has given me so much! Not only do I feel incredibly badass for having finished a trek like this (me, from a flat country where I live below sea level, finished a trek through the mountains!), I also met wonderful, kind and caring people. For a few days, I was part of a beautiful microworld where people actually cared. Whether it’s a hut warden doing a project for sick children or people helping an injured fellow traveller out. Humanity is not lost. This experience will be a part of me forever. The world can be so beautiful!
The world was incredibly beautiful those days.