Routeburn Trek Day 1
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016
By Erin
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Hiking in New Zealand is called tramping.  My friend planned our tramping adventure by finding a very beautiful looking hike that screamed of the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings.  The hike is 32 km and most of the people that do this hike complete it within three days.  The two nights are spent either camping in tents at certain campsites or at a hut alongside other trampers.  We were going to do the trail, or trek as it is called there, in three days as well but the huts were all booked up for an additional night.  


My friend, Vu, planned everything and I won't tell him but he actually did a very good job at getting everything booked and set up correctly for us.  We were picked up with several other hikers in Queenstown and the driver gave us some fun facts about New Zealand and even stopped two times for a few photography stops.  


The first stop was just an amazing few of the water.  I have always been obsessed with water and the water in New Zealand was stunning and it actually got prettier at almost every turn.  



The second place we stopped was at one of the most photographed spots around New Zealand according to our driver.  Of course I had to run over and take a quick photo (pictured above) while some of the people we were with were off for a bathroom break.  


Right before we got to our drop off point, there was a mist that started coming down.  We knew rain was in the forecast but you cannot just change a hike like this when rain is involved.  


Everyone pulled out there rain gear and put it on.  Most people had a cover for their backpack that they were carrying but I did not have one and the night before the hike we completely forgot to look for one until the stores were closed.  This would end up being a big regret of mine on the hike.


We started off with a photo of where we started because the 32 km hike ended at a completely different spot and we were going to be picked up by someone at a certain time.  We had a time limit on this hike, which was neither good or bad.  



The first day was going to be our longest day because it had the majority of the hiking to get through that day.  Vu decided it was easier to get the hardest part done with, which was fine with me.  


We took off and the rain started to come down a little more but we were still able to stop and snap photos along the way.  There was a river running "beside" the trail for awhile but there was a steep decline to actually reach the river, which was horribly unsafe to get any closer.  The water was a turquoise color and hard to believe was real.  We were sheltered mostly from the rain from the trees and the hike consisted of a small grade uphill and bridges over rushing water.  It seemed the terrain would change often and there was always a new view.  Waterfalls appeared to be everywhere we looked and we were in awe and didn't seem to even mind the rain that was coming down lightly.  



This hike can be done in the winter too but I am not sure how.  There is snow everywhere and warning signs for avalanches.  The bridges they informed us are taken down for the winter so that they do not get carried away with any avalanche and make it more dangerous than they already are.  The huts we stayed have no running water in the winter and I am not sure if anyone actually runs them, so while I am sure this hike would be insanely gorgeous in the winter months of New Zealand, I do not think that I would be able to handle something so hardcore.  This in fact was the most hardcore hike that I had done at this point in my life.  


We had an idea for how much time it should take us till each "marker" on the hike and I think we did a good job keeping pace with that and even making up for it in a spot or two.  I actually think if the weather had been nicer it would have slowed us down a lot more due to the increase in the amount of photos we would be taking at each stop.  That part we did not account for during the hike, so it was a little plus that the weather was not perfect if you are thinking of it from a timed situation.  We got to the first set of huts where we took a break, used the restrooms and ate a little bit of the food we had and then we headed back out on the trek.  This was the point of the hike where things started to go not quite so smoothly. 


As soon as we started walking away from the hut, we were in the open. There were no trees to shield us from the rain anymore and I am not sure if it had been windy the entire time or if this part of the hike just became so much windier.  Immediately I was cold.  I had my rain jacket over the top of my backpack to prevent the backpack from getting soaking wet. Because I chose to have my rain jacket over my bag, I could not zip up my jacket so I just had to hold it closed at the time the best I could, which left my hands wet and cold.  The waterfalls seemed to pick up speed with the amount of gushing water they were producing or maybe that was my imagination.  


This was the point when things started to look like the Lord of the Rings for us.  There were open fields and boulders scattered around with a foggy mist from all the rain.  We kept walking on and on.  At one point there was an incline again and it went on for quite some time.  The trail portion made me laugh and I had to take a photo of it because it looked just like a stream…. a stream in the middle of a mountain, just flowing downward, when in fact this stream was our trail.  We tried for the longest time to keep our feet as dry as possible but walking uphill through a free flowing stream there was not any chance of keeping our feet from becoming soaking wet messes.  We made little stops along the way to take breaks, eat jerky and take a quick (and I mean quick) photo opportunity.  



Our hands were shaking messes and we couldn't even open one of the bags of snacks that we brought because our hands were so cold.  I think Vu was getting really worried about our body temperature at that point.  He made us stop and we tried to help each other to put on an extra layer of clothes that we had taken off at that first hut because we were hot.  Now we were shaking and could barely put on our fleeces over our other clothes.  We walked just a little bit farther and found a shelter.  A shelter! If we had known there was a shelter just a few minutes away we would have put our fleeces on there to at least protect us from the brutal wind.  


We met a couple that was headed to the same area we were headed but they were going to the campsite.  The campsite sounded dreadful to me.  I don't think I could put a tent up in that awful weather and shivering to death (trust me, that didn't seem too dramatic at the time).  


We left the hut because we were ready to get to our stopping point for the night, which was still a ways away.  Along our path there was miniature waterfalls that were coming down from the mountain across our path.  One in particular was actually a very strong waterfall and luckily there were quite large rocks to maneuver across this strong current of water.  I actually almost lost my balance on one of the rocks which would have been awful, considering I am positive that the current would have taken me downwards quite some distance.  Thankfully we made it safely across and we were crossing over bridges now with waterfalls and barely looking at them, let alone taking photos of them.  At that point we were so cold and ready to get to the hut we would laugh and say "Oh great, another waterfall" sarcastically.  


I am actually sad it was so rainy during this part of the hike because the view I am sure was quite beautiful if the sky was not so cloudy.  I know though it is possible we could have arrived to the hut hours later because of the photos we would have been taking.  



Finally!  We could see the hut…off in the distance…  It might be visible in the panoramic photo.  At first I thought that there were lots of people standing on the front porch but later realized that it was all the wet clothes hanging out to dry.  

The hut gave us a lot of hope but it still took over an hour to get to it because we had to take a few switchbacks down the mountain and then we ended up in a rain forest looking area.  The terrain constantly changed which was pretty remarkable.  By the time we made it to the hut, it was actually sunny out but we were frigid.  There were no showers here just smelly bunks.  Taking off the wet cold clothes was the worst part.  

Since most people don't do as much as we did in one day, everyone had pretty much taken all the spots to hang clothes from.  The one little fire burning stove was not putting out much heat but we tried to shove a few things near it anyways.  We made our freeze dried food, which was the most delicious thing ever (or so it seemed at the time).  

Lucky me, my sleeping bag had gotten quite damp with all the rain.  I used my fleece for a pillow, which was wet in the morning since my hair was completely soaked when we got in.  It was not my best night of sleep but before we went to bed I said that if we had it all over to do again, hands down, no question I would do it again!  

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