From Lake MacKenzie Lodge to Routeburn Falls (about 9 miles)
12.29.2010 - 12.29.2010 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.