I awoke on the third morning once again trusting my instincts that I had actually slept the previous night. It was somehow more uncomfortable than the first night, but I figure if I hang in there long enough I’ll get used to it. It’s kind of like sleeping on an airplane. I have a really hard time doing it unless I’m completely exhausted. Though if I wasn’t completely exhausted after seven hours of tough hiking yesterday I’m not sure what it will take to get me to konk out in the tent. Now don’t get me wrong. I know I’m making a big fuss about the ground being uncomfortable and all, but in the grand scheme of the trip it hardly even factors in to the overall awesomeness of the experience. If you’re on the fence about going because you’re worried about the sleeping conditions, just go for it.
I woke up at around 6:00 and rolled around until 7:00 when I was forced to give up. I was still really tired, but the thought of getting up and moving around seemed more comfortable than the struggle for more sleep. Alana somehow managed to stay asleep while I ate breakfast (I really am envious of her sleeping abilities), but eventually she began to stir from her unfathomably deep slumber. I began packing up my things as Alana labored through her breakfast. After a seemingly interminable amount of time she was finished, and we took down and packed up the tent. Thanks to our improved setup the night before we didn’t have nearly as much condensation to deal with.
There was a 30 minute side trip to a place called split rock from the campsite, but with rain in the forecast and the mountains we had passed through yesterday already obscured in clouds, we decided to skip it. We set off from the campsite at a pretty quick pace (bad weather = good motivation), but that slowed pretty quick as the first section of trail for the day turned into a pretty steep uphill climb. I had put on my rain jacket, but decided to take it off again. It was only really misting and I was starting to sweat. If anything, the cool air and slight spritz felt refreshing.
The trail was mostly forested, but eventually we came out of the trees to some cool partial mountain views. The cloud cover was pretty thick but we could still see bits and pieces of snow covered rock sticking out here and there. Even in bad weather these walks are undeniably scenic. It’s just a different feeling.
The trail had some slight ups and downs, but nothing quite as bad as the first section. The semi-mountainous scenery continued. We eventually reached a really beautiful waterfall surrounded by a jumble of boulders. As we stood admiring it, the wind picked up and we took a blast of icy spray head on. I’m sure it would have been a great spot to stop and relax on a hot sunny day, but, now colder and wetter, we moved on in a hurry.
We made it to the next hut in a little over two hours. Just as we were arriving the mist grew into a heavier rain, so we stopped under the shelter for a morning snack. There was only about an hour left in the hike, and our pickup wasn’t until 2:00. We were pretty well ahead of schedule, so we could afford to rest and wait out this increase in precipitation. Now that we weren’t moving I was starting to get a little chilly (also there were plenty of sandflies around the hut and layers make for good protection), so I put my jacket back on. After about twenty minutes or so we set out again. We got lucky and the rain let up a bit, but we had a final uphill burst (more sweating, jacket off) to push through before we made our descent to the end of the trail. It was a just a 15minute struggle getting up that last hill, and after that it was a breeze. Soon the road was in sight and we passed the finish line!
We sat in the bus shelter out of the rain, which had started up again. Of course all of the sandflies were also hiding from the rain in the bus shelter. Fortunately everyone in our van had arrived early so we set off on the three and a half hour ride back to Queenstown. If you’re looking for transport to and from a hiking trail, we had a really great experience with Buckley Transport. We snoozed for a while until we stopped for cake and coffee about half way which helped us both perk up a bit.
Back in Queenstown we grabbed dinner at Devil Burger (not recommended). If you want a burger in Queenstown I’d stick with Fergburger. You can’t miss the queue going down the block. After such a long day and big meal I was ready for bed, but we still had a three hour drive to Dunedin, where we’d be spending the next week. We made a quick stop at PAK’nSAVE (New Zealand supermarket chain with relatively good gas prices) for gas and more coffee.
It was a long torturous evening in the car (thank goodness for audiobooks). We made it to Dunedin just before 11:00. The last portion of the drive had been dark and rainy and we were both beat. I had to force myself to sit down and write out the days events before taking a shower or plugging in my phone, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have and this post would have been much less detailed!
P.S. For more info about the Routeburn Track check out the DOC website. We’re walking the Kepler Track over Christmas, so stay tuned for more exciting trail tales!