Picking up from where I left off previously.
There was a great deal of lounging at Wanaka Bakpaka before we actually set off for Queenstown. I took the time to read up on Routeburn… which I still felt kinda scared for. The guidebooks described it with so much vocabulary but you just cannot imagine how it will be like. What is that majestic fall they are talking about? A cliff walk? Oh my mama.
The bus trip from Wanaka to Queenstown wasn’t too long. 2 hours tops. We went about doing the admin stuff like collecting tickets for the track, settling down, searching for dinner, figuring out how the whole luggage thing will work during the track, packing for the track. Unfortunately the trio had to be separated to uno and duo for the next 3D2N because one of us had quite bad knee damage from Roy’s Peak.
The jam-packed later part of the day was exhausting. It felt great to sink into the soft beds at Sir Cedrics that night. Oh and we bumped into a fellow traveller whom we met at Roy’s Peak! She happened to be sharing the same room as us. And the moment I saw her hat I thought she looked familiar. Small world haha. It was the first time I slept in a pod hostel and I think Sir Cedrics was a great introduction to it. Cos really, all you really need is a bed with privacy, space for the luggage, a decent toilet. Checked, checked, checked.
We woke up early the next day and set off to catch our bus to the start of the track! I remember at the start of the day I told Spouse, this is gonna make or break our friendship. Till this day, I still think it was a valid point. Just think about the secondary school camps, especially the ones which involve some sort of codependence in the wilderness. Anyway, we seemed to be the only ones lugging 2 big backpacks on the bus. Everyone else was dressed not for trekking. I guess they were heading to Milford Sounds.
We stopped by a few stops here and there. I think the first stop was at Glenorchy, where we decided to have a decent breakfast before we bid farewell to civillization for the next couple of days. And shared a 1 cent per ml juice pack. So so precious haha. Then we stopped by Mirror Lakes, which we were not particularly awed by that day cos the waters wasn’t really still for a good reflection of the mountain. And I remember we were freezinggggg that day. And we ended up putting on extra layers on the bus hahahaha.
After 4.5hrs later, we reached our destination. I didn’t take any photos but basically it just looked like a normal entrance of any nature reserve in Singapore. Our very kind looking bus driver sent us off with well wishes and promises that we would enjoy ourselves, and that the views were amazing. He wasn’t wrong!
We started our journey from The Divide, which was the less taken direction for the track. I can’t recall which slopes will be steeper/less steep but basically the direction we took was easier. And the views were supposed to be better. Many thanks to my friends who did extensive research on the track beforehand. So we went on our way with much trepidation up the forested path. I guess it was some kind of comfort seeing other people going solo. Without a stick. Unlike us haha.
The start was like deja vu cos it reminded me of Roy’s Peak. But it was slightly better cos it was a forested area. We decided to give Key Summit a miss (which thinking back is kinda a pity) cos we were afraid that it’ll be too late by the time we reached our hut. It was a challenge for my coronary arteries but we made it to our first checkpoint at Lake Howden.
After a short break it was time to move on. The first glimpse of a mountain range close up while walking got me squealing like a mad woman.
We ended up back in the forested area and the next big stop was supposed to be Earland Falls. Oh and we were conscientiously keeping track of time hahaha. And glad to say, we were always on time. Along the way we could hear waters rushing down and we kept wondering if we were approaching the legendary Earland Falls.
Every time it turns out to be a ok-ish fall, we’ll be thinking if we have missed/ are looking at Earland Falls. I mean, they were pretty, but now that I know what Earland Falls is, it’s like nothing can ever compare. My camera wasn’t able to contain the entire Earland Falls in one shot. Neither of us could contain our gasps when we first saw it either.
It felt like we could stay there forever. But of course we can’t. Can’t really recall if there were any great pit stops anymore for the first day. The terrain definitely got better though.
Through the shrubs and the trees, we found our destination for the day. Lake Mackenzie hut. 🙂 We were on time based on our schedule, but by then the hut was pretty packed. There were no more double decked beds. Managed to chope a nice corner with our sleeping bags and we went off to cook dinner.
Hahaha we were noobs at this. Some people were whipping up a feast with fresh vegetables. Ours were… dried preserved food. Just boil water and throw it in and you’re done. I think this was beef stew? It fills you up quickly, but you also feel empty really quickly after. I’m glad Spouse and I have similar eating ethics. We function on the same principles – minimizing the cleaning later. She is even more extreme than me. I used 1 extra spoon.
So being very typical Singaporeans, we chop chop finished everything relatively fast. We even planned how to expedite the whole washing up and brushing teeth after dinner, once the hut talk and checking of tickets is done. So we waited, and waited, and waited. Much to our annoyance, the hut talk started much later than expected.
The hut talk was surprisingly good though! The ranger giving the talk was super engaging and we were super impressed by his talk. It was really educational to learn about the Moars, the Haast eagles, how the pests came about, how the eco life is diminishing through the years. No regrets listening to the talk. Only small regret is not taking in the night sky at Mackenzie Lake. Who knew we wouldn’t be able to catch a starlit sky after that day.
Here’s how our hut looked like in the morning. The lake can soar to great heights, even up to the hut! Thankfully, that wasn’t the case during our trip. We were blessed with very very good weather for all 3 days.
According to the ranger talk, if you stand at a particular point in the hut and you can see the tip of the mountains clearly, there is a chance of rain. If you can’t see it, it will rain. Basically the point to take away was to be prepared for rain at all times. As you can see, we were lucky to set off with “a chance of rain”.
We left Lake Mackenzie behind and as what a fellow traveller had predicted, the path ahead was tough. Apparently there was a famed Split Rock nearby but being kiasu Singaporeans, we opted to just do the main track cos the second day is supposed to be more tiring and it seemed wiser to conserve our energy for the day. The French couple who had set off later than us soon overtook us. We took quite a lot of breaks on the way up and tried our best to listen to the fauna.
It was tough but we made it! So this was what it feels like to look at mountain ranges at eye level. It was an amazing feeling. I remember marvelling at how this would have been an Instagram hotspot and crowded with people if it was easily accessible. Thankfully, it was not haha. It was an incredulous view.
That was the cliff walk I was worried about. Here’s a small friend for scale. It wasn’t that bad! I guess Caucasians are bigger so the walk looked really small and narrow. But it is definitely meant to be a one-way only thing.
This was how being above the tree line was like. Bewildering. And scorching. After what felt like forever and more upslopes, we reached the next checkpoint! Harris Saddle. That is also the point where 2 national parks meet. I would have taken a photo… to show that I was at 2 places at 1 point in time. But I was drained and burnt already. The funny thing about being up there is that you can be so heated up at one point, and a few minutes after cooling off in the shade you start feeling cold. Lunch was bread and peanut butter/jam as usual. Weird how you don’t really need to have variety in terms of food when you are out there.
While resting there, I made some small talk with some Canadians who came from the other end. There was some language barrier but I learnt from one of them that there were beautiful views beyond Harris Saddle. I remember thinking, ok sure, what can be up here other than the mountain ranges? I have been seeing brown grass, stoned tracks for the past hour or so. When we moved on, we saw a couple of puddles and it’s like woah nice, there’s water. Then suddenly there was this huge basin of water shimmering under the sunlight! Like woah, that escalated quickly! And that is how I found my favourite lake – Lake Harris. 🙂
The road ahead was generally ok. It was like ok for a while with the well laid out steps, but sometimes there will be big rocks here to climb down. Thankfully the aim was to walk down. Watching other people climb up the rocks was no joke.
Here’s one small human and one big rock. I quite like this part too heh. How on earth did these big rocks come about? Did they tumble down from somewhere?
After that was a bunch of big rocks and big steps and cowardice so I didn’t capture anything on my phone haha. I didn’t even really take the time to admire what surrounded Routeburn Falls hut. But in any case, we got there super duper early hahaha. But that also meant that we got to choose our bunk! And all the beds at that hut were double decker beds. We demolished another pack of dried veg/rice before stationing ourselves at the lower decks of the bunk beds while watching Running Man. I guess unintentionally that led to no one occupying the upper decks, so we had all 4 beds to ourselves!
By night time we demolished the tomyam maggie which tasted heavenly. One of the most memorable moments was the HTHT at the ?balcony of the hut. We were scouring for stars and trying to keep ourselves warm with the heat packs and water bottles with hot water and listening to Spouse’s unknown but nice mellow playlist. We both agreed that it felt alright if the trip was to end right after Routeburn. It felt complete. Then we moved on to talk about other things in life, which is always nice. How strange that we could open up to each other easily but there’s no real need for a promise to keep all those conversations to ourselves. That day was the most draining but most rewarding day up at Routeburn track. 🙂
Come daybreak and it was time to finish up the track! We knew we could take our time today. The remaining track was downhill and we just have to reach the bus stop by 2pm.
We decided to do the side tracks that day since we had so much time. And on the way down, we bumped into our Canadian friends (who hitched a ride from us previously at Roy’s Peak). Small world haha.
This part of the track was lovely. If you are looking for a day hike, it’s wise to hike from the other side to reach this part.
Going further, we reached this place which I cannot recall the name, where the waters were a pretty azure blue. It’s like Haast Pass water but more steady and less hyped up about. So you secretly feel happy that you found this place that no one really talks about haha.
The waters were perishingly cold but there were still some young chaps jumping into it. Must feel good, now that I am feeling the heatwave in Singapore.
There was a moment of panic (for me) that we might still have a long long way to go till the bus stop so I suddenly started walking much faster hahaha. My FOMB (fear of missing bus) is unbeatable.
We managed to reach the bus stop in time of course. Managed to snap some pictures at eh end of the track as well. The bus driver had to go around looking for the passengers though. I was expecting a big tourist coach like the one we had taken to the start of the track. But nope, this time round it was a mini bus with a handful of passengers.
It felt weird walking on flat ground and being on a vehicle for a while. Air con never felt better. One of the pit stops on the way back was Glenorchy. So we got to enjoy some junk food while enjoying the views there. But seriously, it has gotten to my point where my eyes cannot bring itself to ooh and ahh anymore hahaha. I seemed so discriminatory of the other views now that I have seen the best of Routeburn. We did not realise this at that point in that, but we were already enjoying the Glenorchy Scenic Drive.
I had to reward myself with the famous Ferg burger. It’s so so so good. How can a burger be so beautiful!! In the meantime, the duo also managed to reunite with the uno. 🙂
That marked the end of 3D2N on Routeburn Track. Girl power!!! And amazing Ferg burger to reward myself. I think I will continue writing about the trip another day haha.