A Travellerspoint blog

Routeburn Track - Day 2

From Lake MacKenzie Lodge to Routeburn Falls (about 9 miles)

all seasons in one day 55 °F

The day started rather early. Kari and I woke up independently near 6:30 AM. We took in the views from the lodge and had a cup of coffee before breakfast was served. Today’s breakfast was eggs benedict. This was our introduction in to how the Kiwi’s like their breakfasts…heavy and filling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

After breakfast we packed our gear and prepped ourselves for another day in the rain. The rain had not let up overnight so our spirits were a little fragile. The original route out of the lodge and around Lake Mackenzie was flooded so we made our own route through the forest. Of course our feet were soaked within the first 20 minutes of the walk. But that was a precursor as to what was to come.

After about 60-90 minutes of an inclined hike, our path took us up the mountain to a rather grand view of the Lake Mackenzie Lodge. The rain had stopped at this point and we began to think the weather was turning in our favor. Today’s journey was set to provide some of the grandest views in New Zealand. Yes!

How very wrong we were. As we reached the point were we should've been able to see into the Hollyford Valley and the Tasman Sea, we stopped for a chocolate break. The guide mentioned that this was a good place to put on an extra layer, because the weather can change quickly along the other side of the mountain. We could see that she was right as the clouds began to collect and restrict any view of the valley and sea. After our brief stop, we got back on the trail.

Shortly after the break, the winds began to increase and the clouds restricted the warm sunlight from increasing the temperature. But it was not until we reached the last waterfall before our lunch break that our New Zealand vacation began to feel Siberian. Just on the other side of the waterfall, the wind and rain increased to near intolerable conditions (well, at least for a honeymoon). We trudged through the cold wind and frigid rain along the inclined trail to our lunch stop at Harris Saddle.

We left our packs outside of the wooden sloped-ceiling huts, and stepped inside for brief respit from the less than ideal conditions. We enjoyed hot-water bottles, hot instant soup, hot coffee, hot tea and the sandwiches we made. All good things must pass and after about a 25-30 lunch break we went back into the elements for the rest of the hike. But now a new element entered the frey…snow! The flakes were large and plentiful. Thankfully, the snow lasted for only another 15 minutes, and by the end of the day’s hike we would be treated to some fantastic weather.

We literally experienced every season on this day. The guidebooks are correct when they say to pack for all seasons any time of the year, and luckily we listened and planned accordingly.

The accommodations at the Routeburn Falls Lodge were great! Our lodge was situated at the bottom of the infamous Routeburn Falls and with all the rain they were pretty magnificent. The sun came out and we were able to climb the rocks to take in the views of the falls and mountains. That evening we enjoyed a great three course dinner with the guides and the rest of our hike mates. The Ultimate Hikes crew forced us to work for our dessert by game. The guides tossed pancakes from pans over their heads, and the walkers were supposed to catch the pancakes with their plates. Of course, in Kiwi fashion, a little fun was had at our expense. The guides would toss the pancakes off count, toss them in a criss-cross manner, toss two at a time, etc. Cheeky buggers!

Finally, the great weather we were expecting when planning our “summer” trip out of Chicago’s nasty winters. The evening’s weather was just a tip of what a grand day we would get on our last day on the Routeburn.

Posted by karijo88 06:58 Archived in New Zealand Tagged track routeburn Comments (0)

New Zealand - Day 3

We start our 3-day Hike on the Routeburn Track through Ulitmate Hikes

rain 55 °F

The alarm went off all too early and we had to quickly repack our bags for our 3 day hike. The hotel was gracious enough to hold our luggage for us while we were away, so we had to pack our 40-liter backpacks for our journey through the mountains and rainforest. All packed up, our guesstimate was an extra 15 lbs was added by our packs. I was already getting tired on our walk down the hills to the Ultimate Hike check-in!

We met up with our three guides, Chloe, Ingrid & Marky and about 22 other hikers from all over the world. We boarded our bus and headed out to fjiordland while stopping for breakfast along the way. There are a handful of highways throughout New Zealand, so getting places takes longer than you would think due to having to travel around vast lakes and through the mountains. It took us 3 hours total to drive from Queenstown, a stop in Te Anau and on to The Divide where our hike would begin.

We were warned that rain was in the forecast, and in fact, a big storm possible. Of course, as we unload the bus, it starts raining, and that was just the beginning! The first day we hiked a steady climb for roughly 5-6 hours traveling 9.8 miles. The terrain was rocky and steep all while raining heavy with high winds at times. Jonathan and I were wondering at times what we had gotten ourselves into. We were hiking up a mountain, but due to weather conditions we couldn't see anything around us, were cold and quickly feeling our age in our knees and backs. We kept saying to each other "Happy Honeymoon!" to keep things in a positive light when parts became a bit grueling.

The tradeoff for all the rain, were the beautiful and frequent waterfalls! This was exciting at first, until you had to trek through these waterfalls getting your feet wet (and at this point, the only thing that remained dry on the way up). We approached the largest waterfall, Earland Falls, and you could see the wind and spray shooting off the mountain and we were expected to basically walk in front of this waterfall, on rocky terrain, with our packs on our back in the high winds! It was pretty terrifying, and after a quick fall in the middle of the cross by me, Jonathan and I both made it safely across. This definitely added some excitement to our day. Since it was a downpour the entire day, we couldn't take too many photos, but here is one to show the poor visibility.

Poor visibility on Day 1

Poor visibility on Day 1

At about 4:00pm we arrived at our first overnight stay at Lake Mackenzie Lodge. We were greeted by friendly staff with snacks and drinks for us before showing us to our rooms and a tour of the property. Of course, it was still pouring rain (and continued through the night), so drying rooms they had on site to dry our clothes was a highlight. Each room slept four so we shared our room with a nice (and thankfully quiet) couple from Belarus. Here are a couple photos of the lodge.

Inside Mackenzie Lodge

Inside Mackenzie Lodge


Approaching Lake Mackenzie Lodge

Approaching Lake Mackenzie Lodge

They had books and games at the lodge, and also a bar where we could purchase wine and beer. Dinner was served, which was great and they laid out fixings for us to make our lunch to carry with us for Day 2. They also showed a slideshow of photos of the scenery we didn't see (such a tease) and outlined the track for the next day. The lodges are run on generators so lights out occurred at 10pm. We were exhausted and slept well until about 6:30am the next day. Gearing up for Day 2 and hoping that the rain stops.

Posted by karijo88 20:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Days 1 & 2

The Saurage's are missing Christmas!

sunny 23 °F

When planning our trip to New Zealand, the only daunting thought was the dreadful flight getting there. For both of us, we've only flown to Europe or Hawaii, topping out at 8 or 9 hour flights. We departed O'Hare International Airport at 5:00pm on Christmas Eve. Snow in Chicago had us worried that we may not get out on time, and while we had a 4 hour layover planned in Los Angeles before boarding our Quantas flight to Auckland, we prayed we wouldn't miss out connection as it would throw off our whole booked itinerary.

The flight from Chicago left about an hour late, so we had plenty of time to change gates at LAX to head to Auckland. This is a LONG flight, but the fact that we were flying over Christmas, our flight was nearly half empty and the airports empty, so traveling over the holiday worked out well for us. Here is a quick recap of our travel.

Chicago to Los Angeles - 4.5 hours
3 hour layover at LAX
Los Angeles to Auckland - 13.5 hours
2 hour layover in Auckland
1.5 hour flight to Queenstown

Thanks to Ambien (thank you Erin), we were able to get some sleep on the night flight over so we weren't too tired upon arrival to New Zealand. We left at 5:00pm on Christmas Eve and due to the date line change we arrived at 2:00pm on December 26th. So, no Christmas for us!! The flight attendants were wearing some holiday accessories but other than that, it was just an ordinary flight.

Arrival into Queenstown was breathtaking. There are mountains, lakes and rivers for as far as the eye can see, and everyone is extremely friendly to travellers. Our taxi driver stated he wasn't simply a taxi driver, but a tour guide and filled us in on some history and traveling tips on our 10 minute drive to our hotel, Browns Boutique Hotel.

Here are some pictures of the view overlooking Queenstown.

Queenstown - Homes in the Hills Around Town

Queenstown - Homes in the Hills Around Town

Queenstown Mountains & Lake Wakatipu from Shower

Queenstown Mountains & Lake Wakatipu from Shower

Queenstown View

Queenstown View

We quickly dropped our bags as we had to check in for our 3-day hike on the Routburn Track that begins on Day 2. We met with our guides and picked up our packs, sleep sheets and towel and went over details of what the 3 day hike entails and how to pack efficiently. The weather in the fjiordlands can change at any time, so they tell us to expect all four seasons in one day (and boy, were they right!).

Downtown Queenstown has many shops, restaurants, bars and excursion centers, so anything you want to do is just a couple blocks away. We were ambitious and went to a nice dinner after our hike orientation at Captain's. New Zealand is well known for venison and duo of lamb so we ordered just that. The best venison of my life and Jonathan enjoyed the lamb. We split a bottle of wine at dinner and midway through we hit our wall and headed to our hotel by 10:00pm since we had to be at Ulitmate Hikes at 7:00am.

Exhaustion set in and we slept like babies until the alarm went off at 6:00am! A long journey, but well worth it already.

Posted by karijo88 20:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged queenstown Comments (0)

We've started a travel journal

First Up - New Zealand for our honeymoon!

overcast 20 °F

It has been an exciting year for us, so planning this trip seems like eons ago, and it's almost here! Seeing the calendar officially turn to December and picking out a few essentials for our trip has made this dream feel like a reality.

Planning this trip has been part of the fun, so we are hoping our hard work of research proves successful in New Zealand. We have our main excursions booked and have some little things to book once there. One of my favorite things to do is drive in a different country and we are doing just that over our 17-day adventure. It was hard to narrow our trip locations over the span of our trip, but being our honeymoon we didn't want to be too rushed and after much debate, decided to only hit the South Island. Our trip is December 24th - January 9th and some highlights planned include:

  • 3-day hike through the Fiordlands of Routeburn Track
  • Overnight boat cruise on Doubtful Sound
  • Glacier heli-hike in Fox Glacier
  • Whitewater rafting in Murchison
  • Bike wine tour in Marlborough, the infamous wine country region of NZ
  • Spending New Years Eve in Queenstown
  • Paragliding in Nelson

We can't wait for this journey to begin...the countdown is on!

Posted by karijo88 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged queenstown honeymoon new chicago fox_glacier trip zealand nelson blenheim murchison Comments (0)

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