Queenstown Journals

Tramping the Routeburn...one of NZ's Great Walks

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A February 2003 trip to Queenstown by wanderluster

Routeburn Track Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand More Photos
Quote: Wandering around Tolkien's Middle-earth, turquoise rivers, jagged mountains, bogs, dark tarns and eerie moss-encrusted rainforests overwhelmed us each step of the breathtaking journey on foot through New Zealand's Southern Alps.

Tramping the Routeburn...one of NZ's Great Walks

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Overview

Routeburn Track Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
Sure I'd seen Lord of the Rings and noticed the spectacular scenery. But I didn't think of traveling there until I saw blue's magazine article featuring World's 7 Best Trails. Intriguing photos of a boardwalk winding through a misty rainforest with waterfalls propelled me toward the computer to plan my next hiking holiday . . . to NZ! New Zealand truly IS a tramping paradise. Thousands of Kiwis–including Hillary, the first man to ascend Mt. Everest–regularly hike through the country's magnificent alpine, rainforest and coastal scenery. An extensive track and hut system makes multi-day tramps simple and hassle-free. Of the 50-odd tracks, 8 are designated Great Walks...Read More

Thomas Hotel

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Hotel

Thomas Hotel Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
The location was superb. Smack in the heart of Queenstown on the edge of Lake Wakatipu with snow-capped Remarkables mountain range in the scenic backdrop. The hotel is steps away from a pleasant wharf, numerous restaurants and shops. The friendly office staff will arrange any of the available tours or adventure activities (bungy jumping and jet boating originated in this area), and most tour operators will conveniently pick you up from the front door. Ensuite rooms range from shared bunks in a dorm (NZ$20) to deluxe doubles overlooking the lake (NZ$119). We splurged on the latter (US$65) which included a continental breakfast at the adjoining Fat Gingers Café. We arrived a...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 2, 2003

Thomas Hotel
50 Beach Street
Queenstown, New Zealand
442-7180

Routeburn Track

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Attraction | "Routeburn Track...Day 1"

Routeburn Track Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
Day One was a moderate hike with some tough inclines up rocky paths with steep overhangs. The six mile distance took us three hours, 10 minutes actual moving time. Elevation increased from 1600' to 3185'. Most of today's hike followed the Routeburn River. The beautifully colored aquamarine water vibrantly contrasted against vivid white limestone rocks in the river bed and lush, green giant ferns in the beech forest. Gorgeous! Along the way we crossed five swing bridges, which were a bit unnerving at first. The two narrow planks that make up the bridge do swing, and it's hard to stay balanced with bulky backpacks swaying side to side with each tentative step. It was fun to ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 2, 2003

Routeburn Track
Mount Aspiring National Park
Queenstown, New Zealand

Routeburn Track

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Attraction | "Routeburn Track...Day 2"

Routeburn Track Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
Slept like a rock. Routeburn Falls bunkhouse was tomb-like, except when headlamp lights pierced the darkness and shone in our faces as oblivious owners noisily rummaged through their backpacks in the wee hours of the night. Those who preferred to stay up late did so in the communal dining area nicely separated from the 48 bed bunkhouse. It was the perfect place for an entertaining group of 12 Kiwi women to catch up on each other's lives on their annual pilgrimage hooting it up with loud laughter, wine and warm camaraderie. I admired their spirit and ambition to hike a different Great Walk together each year. What a great idea! Everyone was up by 7am, although some left at 5am t...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 2, 2003

Routeburn Track
Mount Aspiring National Park
Queenstown, New Zealand

Routeburn Track

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Attraction | "Routeburn Track...Day 3"

Routeburn Track Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
The final day on the Routeburn was the easiest. A simple four-hour hike. We awoke to a steady downpour. Socks and boots outside the hut were wet, and people grumbled as they collected soggy clothes hanging outside to dry. It had been a quiet night and quite comfortable in Mackenzie hut, despite sleeping nose to nose with perfect strangers. Rather than individual bunks, up to 8 people shared flat padded surfaces on upper or lower bunks. Luckily, the French couple next to us didn't snore, wear headlamps or rustle noisy wrappers in the night, and a wall was on our other side. We dug out protective rain covers for our backpacks, and ate breakfast on the trail as we beg...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 2, 2003

Routeburn Track
Mount Aspiring National Park
Queenstown, New Zealand

Milford Sound

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Attraction | "Overnight on Milford Sound's Wanderer ship"

Milford Sound Photo, South Island, New Zealand
Quote:
Peer closely through misty fog and you will see ribbons of water trickling down steep 4,000 ft. rock faces, splashing into Tasman Sea. These mighty mounts loom oppressively over tiny ships in the fjord, waiting to swallow them in a calculated feeding spree, to keep this pristine wilderness people-free. Or so it seems. Touted as the premiere day trip from Queenstown (5 hours away), hoards of tourists visit moody Milford Sound taking hour-long cruises and peeking inside luxuriant rainforests edging up to the glaciers. Some explore deeper, sampling the canopy of moss-laden trees and giant ferns representative of nearby Great Walks on Milford, Routeburn, Greenstone and Hollyford Tracks. ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 2, 2003

Milford Sound
SW of South Island Within Fiordland National Park
South Island, New Zealand

Lord of the Rings Tour

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Attraction | "Lord of the Rings Tour"

Lord of the Rings Tour Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
Every element of Middle-earth is contained in New Zealand . . . Frodo's Elijah Wood. When Peter Jackson was 18 years old traveling through New Zealand on a train, he read Tolkien for the first time. He noticed then how the landscape resembled Middle Earth but waited 20 years to share his vision with moviegoers. Since the film's release, three operators in Queenstown area created tours to visit magical landscapes where scenes were shot: * Nomad Safaris offer half day tours (NZ$120) leaving Queenstown at 8:30am or 1:30pm. We chose Wakatipu (Misty Mountains, Pillar of Kings, Ford of Bruinen, Road to Mordor) over Glenorchy sites (Seat of S...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 2, 2003

Lord of the Rings Tour
Surrounding Queenstown, Arrowtown, Glenorchy
Queenstown, New Zealand

Tips for tramping on the Routeburn

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Story/Tip

A Kiwi wearing traditional tramping clothes Photo, Queenstown, New Zealand
Quote:
When to hike: February! Driest, warmest, quietest summer month. Tramping season is from mid-November to mid-April. Equipment: Rent sleeping bags, poles, eating utensils from Info and Track Centre in Queenstown. Can reserve gear in advance over the Internet. Everything was clean, inexpensive and top-notch. Pack: Ziploc baggies galore. Handy for smelly socks, trash, film, leftover food. Yes, you have to carry out your trash. So bring only what you know you'll eat. Backpack: Reduce the amount! Keep weight under 20 lbs per pack including sleeping bag, clothes, food and water. A simple hike can become strenuous...Read More