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Published: February 27th 2016
Routeburn TrackThu: Routeburn Track ~Milford from above
Early in the track
Fergbaker was going to be open until 4:30am, really, not a typo. I couldn't believe it because store hours everywhere in NZ have been super short so far. For whom do they need to be open all night? Ah, carnival town, right. We got up slightly before 4am so we can get breakfast. Drunk kids were flocking Fergbaker AND Fergburger. They serve breakfast burger. That place is seriously non-stop. This wee hour probably is the best time to get it. There wasn't much left at the bakery. V got his Boston cream donut (more like fried bread :p), brownie for me and a loaf of ciabatta for the road.
On-time 5am start to Glenorchy. We're picking up the key locker from Trackhopper
who will move our car from start to finish during our hike. That way, when we finish, we can drive a short 30 minutes to Milford Sound. Here is the crazy fact I didn't realize until the day before. We'll walk 32km point-to-point path from Queenstown side to Milford sound. But to do that in a car, you'd have to drive 4.5hrs through the road far down south!! That's the only
way. So Trackhopper will take our car from the starting trailhead, drive 4.5hrs to the finish, and bring themselves back to Glenorchy somehow. They'll even fill up the tank for us. Good thing that the owners, Mike and Kiyomi are avid runners so they can run back. But it's still rugged 32km. When we got to their office in Glenorchy before 6am, Kiyomi was waiting for us. We took care of the paperwork there because this would be the last time we physically see each other. They are very thorough and professional. They have their own insurance and even call our rental company to add themselves as the official driver. Kiyomi came with us to the trailhead and took off with our rental car. We knew we were in good hands and could just focus on the hike.
It was dawn at 6:30am at the trailhead. The moment I got out of the car to get ready, these oversized gnats flocked on my calves which were exposed from my capris. I sprayed insect repellant right away but didn't think much of them either. Gnats don't bite right? Oh they weren't gnats alright. Sun came up higher and found bunch
5 person max!
of bloody and red spots, ew! Damn bugs were chowing on my legs!! They were itchy :'(. Let it not be too potent please.
First 6miles or so was in the forest, crossing rivers on the hanging bridges overlooking the waterfalls. After the first hut at Flats, the trail climbed sharply. Incline continued to the Falls hut. From there, the trail opened up to a vast grassy field with the mountains in the backdrop. Trail picked up on the climb again and this is when the views become crazy! As we went higher, the view of the grassy area we were walking through became this beautiful valley surrounded by the mountains. Stream was snaking through it. It was an ever-changing view! Just when I thought I melted the valley with my gazillion shots, a lake popped up on the other side! Lake surrounded by the rocky mountains was absolutely gorgeous! We lucked out on the weather and watercolor was deep under the sunlight.
After leaving the lake behind, trail wound along the mountainside high up. We had the view of the range across the valley. Trail eventually dropped into the forest, then to the Fall. There are a
lot of stream along this hike. Kiyomi said we could drink from them. At the fall, our Tarawera shirts were spotted by a fellow runner. Small world 😊.
6 more miles of hike took us through the forest carpeted with thick green moss. Magical! Finally, we made it to the Divide! My GPS registered 32km hike as 22.5 miles. The last section felt that much longer. And literally the moment we reached the trailhead, it started dumping! We just beat the forecasted afternoon rain. Thanks to Trackhopper, our car was waiting for us. So spoiled. In 30min, we were in Milford Sound. Milford Sound Lodge was hustling and bustling. Especially in the kitchen in the midst of peak dinner time. Too many chefs in a kitchen, literally. There are families and not cooking up a storm, including a pot full of rice and slabs of steak! Dang, we missed the invite or what? We anticipated remoteness of this place and brought soup cans from Queenstown. Between kitchen and cafe, there was zero place to sit. Somehow we survived this storm. We also had no bed choice as there were only 2 left. Fri: Kayak the sound ~Milford from
Lodge regained its calm at 7am. We were able to enjoy a cup of coffee 😊. We went to check out the lookout before reporting to 9am meeting time for a kayak trip. Prep and briefing took a full 1hr. They also had everything from top to bottom, inside and out, sweet! We were all in their funny pants :D. The guide Adam was super fun. 4 kayaks for 8 of us were loaded onto a boat and it took us out pretty far. We got on the kayak offshore and off we went. 3h30min trip back for 8 miles. We went through waterfalls, seals viewing and Adam told us a lot about the nature in this region...tree avalanche, on sound vs fjord etc. It was overcast with low clouds crawling the mountain faces. Very fitting and picturesque!! Lucked out on weather again!
It was 3:30pm after all said and done. We have a few hours of drive yet to Te Anau. Te Anau was a tiny town. We just swung by the supermarket and moved on to our lodging 9km further south. Sat: Taste of Kepler challenge
Since I just realize few days
ago that the only way to drive between Milford and Queenstown was 4-hr route through Te Anau, we made a quick itinerary change and booked a room at Barnyard Backpackers in Te Anau. It's a bit out of the way from the center but cute fancy yet affordable barnyard theme place with a view!! Kepler track, one of 3 Milford's greatest hikes, loops around 60km from Te Anau. We have until noon when we must head out to catch the flight in Queenstown. We projected to be able to reach Luxmore hut and back, ~15mile. Let's do this!
At 6:30am, it was still dark enough for a headlamp. First 3miles along the lake was flat and well groomed. So runnable. After the first hut, trail turned sharply and started ascending. Terrain is still very groomed and runnable. At mile 6, things get a little more interesting with roots and stairs. At mile 8, the view suddenly opened up. Amazing view of cloud rolling in between the mountains. Luxmore hut was 0.5 miles further along the ridge. When we reached the hut, it was over our planned time at 3h30 into it. Granted return will be mostly downhill, it ate
more than half of the allotted 6hrs. After a quick potty and snack, we began our way back. When we got to the downhill section, V started running, rolling down the slope!! Wee! SLR was uncomfortably weighing on my back but it felt good to run these trails. Even with walking the last flat section, we made it back ahead of schedule at 11:30am. Good job.
2 legs of flights took us to Nelson. No security scan whatsoever, like riding a train! At 7:30pm, we seemed to be the last flight of the day in Nelson. Airport cleaners were working on the carpet. Let's see what Nelson brings us. Let the new adventure begin!
Tot: 3.104s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 26; qc: 78; dbt: 0.0566s; 3; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.5mb