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Short Circuit – Routeburn Track NZ

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by Daisy Wheel (subscribe)
By day a Business Consultant in a black suit. By night a writer incognito, pink slippers and cat fluff tracky dacks.
Published July 21st 2012
Short Circuit – Routeburn Track NZ

At home is our fridge or in reality a canvas for our expanding collection of fridge magnets. Missing from this travel tapestry is a memento from southern New Zealand. A couple of days on a remote track framed with postcard views. No fridge magnet required.

View from Harris Saddle


The Routeburn track is an attractive option as it is challenging without being downright scary. The track itself is well maintained and even though you may not see a soul for hours assistance is not too far away. There are also cross over points linking to other tracks in the region to allow for spontaneous exploration. The entire circuit is only 32 km. This is ideal for a long weekend or a short weekend as several Nike clad runners eagerly demonstrated.

You could always spend your break buying gifts that sit in your friend's sock drawer. If so don't forget your fridge magnets. On the other hand you could take a walk in the wilds of New Zealand.

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut

We started our walk from Routeburn Shelter but you can walk with the clock or against it if preferred. At first you could be mistaken for taking a stroll through a tree lined avenue. Eight hundred metres skyward will right the perspective though.

The Best Bits
Sugarloaf Stream
Bridal Veil Waterfall
Holding hands to cross a wash away (first day trepidation)
Morning views from Routeburn shelter


The Digs
The most modern accommodation on the walk equipped well with separate sleeping quarters, kitchen, dining area, and stunning views. This is trekking however so there are no showers or en suites containing miniature cosmetics. Get this. The toilets flush!

9/10

Drying Gear - Routeburn Falls Hut


Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Start off through some scrubby, rocky stuff, over another bridge and up to the highest point on the track. It's worth spending some time here as the views are knee shuddering impressive. You can veer off the main highway at well designated intersections. Discuss detours first with your fellow trek partners. An extra hundred vertical metres does not suit all.

Harris Saddle does have a shelter. This is a bit like a service station and not at all like a bed and breakfast. Allow time for plenty of window shopping and reaching the endpoint.

A few hundred metres from home is the area affectionately known as the 'zigzags'. This is a bit like skating down a vertical formula one circuit with your hand break on.

The Best Bits
Conicle Hill
Lake Harris
Panoramic mountain views

The Digs
Eating is for downstairs and upstairs is for sleeping. In the middle is for warm air insulation. It's bliss.

7/10

View from Conicle Hill


Lake Mackenzie Hut to Lake Howden Hut

Back strolling on the tree lined avenue again. Mostly this section is a steady descent to Lake Howden Hut. In this part of the track we first noticed the keas. They were a bit like a cross between a parrot, a Tasmanian devil and a kitten.

The Best Bits
Lake Mackenzie (an inverted snow dome)
Keas
Intricate mosses

The Digs
This is a little cosier than the other huts and has a great collection of antique Readers Digests. It also has armies of resident sand flies and they are hungry. A dose of Deet normally does the trick but it is recommended to leave your shoes on outdoors. They are willing to brave the aroma of well-travelled boots to dine at the buffet.

6/10

Mackenzie Hut


Don't Forget to Pack

Thermals. Good for walking in and able to be peeled off when the conditions improve.
Waterproof jacket. It rains here most days so expect the expected.
Gloves and thick socks.Sleeping bag. Bunks are provided but it's just the bed.
Bug repellent.
Hike pack and pack cover (observations tell us your school bag will not last the distance).
Food. We did pack fresh meat which you can get away with in cold conditions. Little cans of tuna, cheese and biscuits, cherry tomatoes, bananas. A bit of chocolate is great if you get sooky.
Hike boots. Sneakers are okay in Australia but in this part of the world there is real rain. If you don't want mini spas accompanying each step waterproof boots are essential.
Liquids. You don't need to pack all your water, so this can be substituted with a small bottle of wine. Great for winning friends at the pit stops.
Camera. Just clicking away randomly is bound to get you a shot for National Geographic.

WEN Tips

You can helicopter in and stay in modern accommodation with showers and stuff. This would be slightly more comfortable but mostly boring and definitely soft.

If you decide to walk do some training first to build some fitness. It is a good idea to spend a few Sundays walking up and down some hills with your pack on.

Nearby attractions include; luge and gondola ride, TSS Earnslaw, Jet boating, Bungy jump all in Queenstown, Mirror Lakes, Milford Sounds, Hollyford and Milford Tracks, Fiordland National Park.
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Why? It’s cost effective, healthy and provides a great sense of achievement.
When: During the summer months only (November to April).
Where: Travel to Te Anau, Queenstown or Glenorchy and bus to the entrance.
Cost: Check with Department of Conservation. A Great Walks Pass is required but fees are minimal. Booking before walking and signing in is required.
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