One of the reasons we decided to head to New Zealand was to take on a few tramps. And I'm not talking about the bloke you see in the subway on the way to Tesco's with the left overs of a bottle of whiskey in is hand. I'm talking about some of the excellent hiking to be found in New Zealand, except here you don't go hiking, you go tramping. So after a few day tramps litter over the North and South Islands, we saved the best for last with a multi-day tramp on the Routeburn which is one of New Zealands great walks.
The Routeburn is pretty famous as tramps go, in fact its one of the most popular tramps in New Zealand, certainly amongst foreigners, meaning you've got about as much chance of getting a reservation in a hut as you have of meeting Billy Connelly. Thankfully we booked the huts well in advance, in september and even then we only managed to get a bed in our second choice of huts, meaning a long days tramping on our second day. Its popular for good reason, as it crosses the alpine divide between Fiordland and Queenstown, crossing over some of the most stunning Alpine scenery going. Its was a mouthwatering prospect and I had high hopes.
Start of the Routeburn
Our Journey to the start of the Routeburn in Fiordland was just as impressive as Milford Sound with scenery straight out of a video game. Note to self: must come back and experience this on a Motorbike (best pass my licence then). Our first day on the tramp however, turned out to be entirely different, when we got a sharp reminder that Fiordland is one of the wettest places on earth. Yes, It pissed it down. And ti was not just your average British drizzle, it was like having a bucket of water thrown over your head every minute. It was so wet that even a flood bypass around a waterfall was under a foot of water. After four hours of bucket drenching rain, we arrived in our first hut and spent the rest of the evening trying to dry ourselves and then our belongings. But it was worth it ... we were lucky to wake to a perfect blue sky day the following morning, leaving the best part of the walk to the best of weather.
Alpine Scenery on the RouteBurn
The tramp was every bit as spectacular as i was expecting. The scenery was straight from a New Zealand coffee table book, with jaw dropping scenery in every direction including some spectacular Alpine lakes with snow capped peaks as a perfect the backdrop. Three days later, we were back on the valley floor with Queenstown now only a short distance away. By then the climate had changed considerably; at the start of the tramp every crevice was spouting new ferns and trees while everything else, including mature trees was was covered in lichens and mosses. Arriving in the Glenorchy valley near Queenstown, we were in a scene more reminiscent of an African Savannah, with parched grass in every direction.
Arriving in Glenorchy
After a brief stop in the Pub, Sarah travelled onto Queenstown and I returned to pick up our car via the Caples track up the Caples valley. The Caples does not see the traffic that the Routeburn does and was an entirely different experience. Most of the time was spent dodging tree roots on a rugged track, while some sections involved wading waist deep in swampy mud. It was worth it though, as the Caples valley is an area where the Department of Conservation has been trapping stoats (a predator to the native New Zealand birds) for some time. You could really notice the difference in bird life with a cacophony of song at every moment.I have to say that Tramping in New Zealand is a exceptional experience. There are thousands of Huts all over the national parks of New Zealand and you can stay in a hut for as little as NZ$5 a night. Thats exceptional value at £2 a night. Its a treasure the Kiwi's are or should be proud of. Oh and we just drove past Billy Connelly.