Saturday, January 26, 2008

Routeburn Track

Okay, so I did my first "Great Walk" here in NZ. I just have to say it's very different than any camping trip that you would have in the US.

There are man-made huts out in the middle of nowhere that have flush toilets, gas stoves in the kitchens, and sometimes even electricity/lighting. It makes multi-day "tramping" trips very different than "backpacking" in the States because you don't have to bring as much gear (stove, tent, sleeping pad, warm clothes, extra medical supplies, etc.) Kinda makes me bummed I brought all that with me. The good news is that I can save money by pitching my tent right next to the hut, using the facilities, and only paying $10 per night rather than $40 as some of the huts charge for a bunk.

I learned that I walk at roughly half the slowest pace of people walking the "Great Walks." The Kiwis are weird in that they measure all hiking distances in units of time. Totally worthless. So if a sign says "Car Park to Mt. Doom: 3-5 hours" then I can safely bank on about 2 hours of hiking. Not sure why they don't just say the distances and difficulty. The folks here are very outdoorsy, so I would think that they would know how long a few kms took to hike. C'est la vie.

This picture is looking northward in the Hollyford Valley. Pilots, you'll notice an airstrip about halfway up the valley, a vertical white line, heading directly away from the camera.

The Routeburn Track was basically paved, or as a guy in an outdoors shop remarked "All the Great Walks are just short of wheelchair accessible." Odd, because of the other "trails" that I've been on so far have been nearly impossible to navigate and it takes a lot of trailfinding to even stay going the right way.

More on the huts: here's a view from the hut, and a view of the hut. We're roughly 10 miles from a dirt road. These Kiwis use helicopters for everything, including plopping buildings in the middle of nowhere.

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