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New Zealand Milford and Routeburn tracks

John B

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I have wanted to get to New Zealand for 15 years or more, and it always seemed to get put off. Sold a townhome for more than expected last July, and decided that this was the year! Signed up for a guided trek of the Milford and Routeburn tracks shortly after. After a few bumps in the road, just got back on Thursday. I was scheduled to leave on the trip on February 7. February 6, my neighbor called to tell me that my house was on fire! It was a total loss, but was able to salvage some personal property, most importantly all of my climbing and hiking gear. After some scrambling that night, I was able to reschedule my trip for minimal cost (just the airline change fee of $150--everyone else waived fees--that's the airlines for you!). Left DIA (Denver) on Sunday, March 1, arrived in Queenstown NZ on March 3 (remember the international date line)--I think the hardest part of the trip was the 12 hour transpacific flights both coming and going. Stayed in hotel in Queenstown that night, and attended a pre-trip meeting with Ultimate Hikes New Zealand. I don't normally do guided trips, usually just plan and execute my own but I decided to pamper myself. It truly was a turn key experience--just went where they told me, stayed in a lodge with bed and shower every night, and got fed amazing food to boot!

Here's the agenda:

Day 2 (March 4 there): walked the two blocks from my hotel to Ultimate Hikes office, got put on a bus from Queenstown to Te Anau Downs, where we went by boat to the northern end of Lake Te Anau to the start of our walk (or as they say in NZ, tramp).post-788-143508723893_thumb.jpg

Had a short (1 mile) walk to our first nights stay at glade house. 2 mile nature walk after that where guides gave us much interesting info on flora and fauna of NZ.

Day 3 (March 5): 9 mile walk up the clinton river to Pompolona hut. Some typical scenery:


Day 4 (March 6): 10 miles up and over the high point on this trek (Mackinnon pass) to Quinton Hut. Took 2 mile side trip to Sutherland Falls (at 580 meters/1902 feet) it's the highest falls in NZ and one of the highest in the world:


Day 5 (March 7): 13 mile walk down the arthur river to sandfly point (the sandflies weren't as bad as I had heard). Took short boat ride to lodge at the head of milford sound. Here's the view we had (of Milford sound and Mitre peak):


Day 6 (March 8): We all got a boat ride up Milford sound to the mouth of the ocean (Tasman sea), and got bused back to town of Te Anau afterwards, where most of my fellow hikers went on back to Queenstown. I stayed in a hotel in Te Anau that night (part of my package deal since I was also doing the Routeburn walk). Some sights from Milford sound:


Day 7 (March 9): I and 4 others from the Milford walk met another 23 trekkers being bused from Queenstown--we then continued to the trailhead for the Routeburn track at a place called Divide, walked 7 miles to our first lodge (Lake Mackenzie lodge). Here's a sample of the lodges we stayed in, so you can see why I say I felt pampered:


Day 8 (March 10): walked 8 miles up and over Harris saddle (highpoint of this walk at a whopping 1250 meters). Some pictures:


Day 9 (March 11): another 7 miles to the end of the track. Did 60 miles in 8 days of walking and had a totally awesome time. Stayed the night in hotel in Queenstown, then flew back on the 12th, arriving back in Denver on the 12th at 7pm (remember that international date line!). For those who are interested, here are links to all of the pictures (there are a lot!). Hope you enjoy.















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Thanks. I can only say that the trip was all I expected. While I chose the guided route, these trips can also be done "on your own"--with the limitation that you will be required to stay in designated huts each night. These huts are different from the ones used by the guide service (which are pictured above), so I can't speak to the amenities they have (I think they do have showers and bunks).

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Nice pics, What an exciting start "My house burned down". I did the Routeburn, Caples, Greenstone, and Kepler a few years ago. I just went there with no reservations and it worked. Your posting brought back some fine memories.


(1) You don't need a tent for the treks as huts are the preferred accommodations, but I used the tent at the "KOA's" in town (Te Annau) between trips. Hotels/motels are expensive. You can tent along the treks, but it rains so damned much the huts are the way to go.

(2) If you're flexible you do not need hut reservations beforehand. You can get them at the National Park offices. Especially easy if you are solo. there's always cancellations. You do not need reservations for the trek. You do need reservations for the huts.

(3) It's easy to get to and from the trailheads. There are fairly priced shuttles.

(4) It rains a lot.


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I recall a lot of your comments from your book. As I was playing with "found money" I decided to go the brainless route--let someone else do my thinking for me. While it cost more, for me at the time, it was the way to go. Yes, I agree: it rains a LOT in New Zealand. Having said that, the rains were fairly kind to me--only had rain on 3 of the 8 trekking days, and it quit by noon each of those days. I would agree that the shuttles/buses, etc from towns to trailheads appeared to be efficient and easy to use.

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John: Nice to hear from you. The most important thing is to buy that airplane ticket and go. As the Aussies say, "Good on you."

Thanks, again, for the posting.

All the best,

Trekkerman Ric

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