Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, Shopping!, Spectacular Glenorchy Views, Routeburn Track, Fallen Trees, Alone in the Hut, Snowfall, LOTR, Fergburgers, Boogie @ Subculture
We drove along the scenic route to Queenstown, which involved going past one of the roads to the skifields, and we stopped off along the way to check out the view and take a few pics. After finding a place to stay, and after having some lunch (still on the cheese and pickle sandwiches of course) wandered into the town centre. We wandered along Lake Wakatipu, and checked out some of the sights in town, and the sales in the shops. There were some nice clothes and accesories, and I bought a pair of sunnies that came witha very nice case (my cheapo primark sunnies had died a death in South America) and Ajay bought a pair of jeans. We also popped into the local DOC office to find out if we could walk part of the famous Routeburn Track (another of NZ's great walks) and booked a night to stay in one of the huts along the track. We also picked up a map of the route- we were adivsed not to go further than the Falls Hut on the route as we didn't have the right gear and there was still quite a bit of snow.
In the evening we prepared for the trek- we had gone on a food shop on the way back, and bought extra food including cereal bars and other snacks, and made plenty of tuna pasta and sandwiches.
The next day we drove from Queenstown to Glenorchy- and the views were stunning. The weather was clear (yesterday had been cloudy) and the lakes, mountains, and the refelction of the scenery in the lake was amazing.
We stopped in Glenorchy for lunch, and then after getting a bit lost (and driving along a bumpy, unsealed road- which including driving though some small streams) we managed to find out where we had taken a wrong turn and found our way to the car park and the start of the track. Needless to say, the walk and views were fantastic, and it was perfect trekking weather. We had been warned about some of the track needing to be upgraded and that there were some trees blocking some parts of the path- but I don't think we were expecting so many trees to have fallen down! Most people walk the 32km track over 3-4 days (it passes through the Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks), and stay in the huts or camp along the way. If you start from Glenorchy, the track takes you to the Divide- towards Milford Sound where you can continue on to Milford Sound, or you can make your way back to Queenstown. As its not a very long track, day walkers can do some of the walks too. It becomes very popular in the high season though- luckily we were not in the peak season yet so only paid $15 NZ each to stay in the huts. Otherwise the rates can set you back $51 NZ per night spent in a hut- and bear in mind, this does not include bedding or a shower!
We would have loved to have done the whole track, but due to the snowy conditions on part of the track, we settled for seeing part of the track. We made it to the Routeburn Flats Hut no problem, and thought about staying there and walking up to the Falls Hut and then walking back. We decided to walk up to the Routeburn Falls Hut and then make a decision. The walk up to the Falls Hut was steeper and took us through an area that had suffered a huge landslide- of which you can still see the after effects. Around the falls hut, and further on was covered in snow- but we had a look around and deicded to stay in the Falls Hut- and some how we had the 48 bedded hut to ourselves! However, as we were there in the low season there was no heating or electricity (we had brought candles but forgotten the matches- d'oh!). This meant we had no light, and couldn't light a fire either- boo. So we ate our dinner whilst looking out onto the amazing snow capped mountian view and then stayed up for a while by torchlight before getting ready for bed, layering up and choosing where to sleep from all the beds available.
I didn't get a lot of sleep as it was a cold night and the wind picked up during the night and was howling for hours on end. At 7.30 am I went to check outside- and saw that it had started to snow and the weather looked like it was turning for the worse. I went and woke Ajay up, we ate our breakfast quickly and then began to walk down at a quick pace. As we descended the snow turned to torrential rain and we both got soaked, although we had warmed up a bit at least. By the time we got to the Flats Hut, the rain had stopped and we had a break and a snack. We continued the walk back to the car, clambering over what seemed like even more trees that may have fallen in the wind during the night, and made it back to Boba safe and sound.
We drove back to Queenstown and had a hot shower before settling down to a late lunch and rested our legs after our 20km walk. The rest included tea and ginger biscuits whilst watching the first installment of LOTR! The scenes at Isengard are apparently filmed by the Dart River near Queenstown and Glenorchy. We then headed into town for some burger action at the legendary Fergburger- I had a classic burger- and then went to a local bar to see the All Blacks vs. France match. Wanting the night to continue, we went to Subculture, a basement club in town, and had boogie to some jungle and dnb. We then walked home and switched Boba's engine on to warm him up whilst getting changed into my pj's in the back of a chilly van! Luckily, Boba had a good heater, and it was soon warm and cozy- it was time to rest my limbs and finally sleep.
Since we'd had a late night, a lie in was in order. We had breakfast, did some internet jobs (which included appying for our Australia e-visa!) and then went into town to have another Fergburger- this time it was Fiordland deer (called Little Bambi) with some amazing thai plum sauce. After booking our ticket for the Milford Sound cruise for the following day, and doing a food shop we drove to Te Anau. We stopped off at a few veiwpoints on the way and made it to our campsite in good time. The gas cooker we had previously was a a dud, so we had swapped it at the Spaceships dealer in Queenstown for a new one. Anyway, this was the litmus test- and it worked! Had some chicken soup and bread, whilst looking out over another beautiful lake. After taking some pics down by the lake we had an early night as we had to drive another a couple of hours to Milford Sound in the morning.
The following day we drove to Queenstown, the high octane capital of the South Island, and spent the day relaxing and wandering around the town which is on the shoulder of Lake Wakatipu and checking out some of the sales at the various boutique shops. Am bought some sunglasses and I splashed out on a pair of jeans - man, it felt so good to wear a new piece of clothing after five months of wearing the same set of clothes!
We also popped into the DOC office to obtain some information about the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's most famous tramping routes which traverses 32 kilometres of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, and to book a hut for an overnight stay on the trail.
Unfortunately for us, heavy recent snowfall in the alpine section of the track between Routeburn Falls Hut and Mackenzie Hut (across Lake Harris and Lake Mackenzie) made that section of the track impassable so we were advised not to attempt to complete the full track but that didn't stop us from enjoying two days of walking upto Routeburn Falls Hut and back.
The next day we headed out to the Routeburn Track via Glenorchy and the scenery along the way was stunning. We lunched at Glenorchy and then continued onto the entry point for the Routeburn Track.
After missing our turning and getting a little bit lost, we finally made it to start point of the track. The weather was ideal for trekking and the walk through the rainforest was really good although a few sections of the track were littered with fallen trees that we had to scramble over.
After roughly ten kilometers of meandering trails through lush forest, over swingbridges and plenty of fallen trees and up a steep mountain we arrived at our camp for the night, the Routeburn Falls Hut.
The hut, perched on stilits on the slope of a mountain, was deserted and we had the whole place, consisting of 48 beds, to ourselves. Outside we could see snow draped over the surrounding mountainside - it was a quite a view! However, a schoolboy error from us - we had forgotten the matches back at Boba, meant that we were unable to light a fire at the hut to keep us warm and so, after dinner as soon as the sun started setting, we put on all of our layers and wrapped ourselves in our sleeping bags for an early night.
It was a cold night and in the morning it began to sleet and rain and the winds had started to pick up too. We decided to make an early start on the return walk back just in case the weather got really bad. Within two and a half hours we were back at Boba and starting on our way back to Queenstown.
Back at our holiday park, we showered up, and then settled back and watched, as you do when you're in New Zealand, the first part of the LOTR Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring) with tea and ginger biscuits. In the evening we headed out for food and drinks: the Little Lamby at Fergburger was delicious - quite possibly the best burger in the southern hemisphere! We then had drinks at a bar called Surreal whilst watching France get mullered by the All Blacks (who were looking good for the final) and then ended up at a cool underground club called Subculture for a bit of a boogie to some beats, jungle and drum'n'bass.
The next morning we woke up, after our latest night out for ages, and migrated back to Fergburger for a hangover lunch: the Fiordland deer burger with its sweet plum sauce was delectable. After booking tickets for our Milford Sound ferry cruise we bade farewell to Queenstown and hit the road to Te Anau. That night we camped at a DOC site near the beautiful lake a couple of hours shy from Te Anau and enjoyed some steaming hot chicken soup (and not a cheese and pickle sandwich in sight!) using our new gas cooker which we had swapped with our faulty gas cooker at the Spaceships office back in Queenstown.