My friend from Brisbane, that I had met whilst we both were doing an 8 week contract at the Cooktown Hospital one winter, decided to come across to New Zealand and hike the famous Routeburn Track, of course I couldn’t let her do it alone.
We had had a great eight weeks together at Cooktown ‘Hash House Harriers’ where we plunged into the Australian bush, following pieces of toilet paper attached to trees, ending up at a fellow Harrier’s yard, whilst he/she stumbled off to rescue a pot of Cooktown stew and arrive back still jogging with it under his sweaty armpit.
We climbed Mt Cook, the highest Mountain in the region which saved me climbing ‘Mt Cook’ at home which is about 3300m higher than the Cooktown model. We hiked to isolated beaches, explored WW11 relics along the isolated coast line and enjoyed fun meals together.
We then planned to walk the Routeburn track together and established that Feb was the best time for weather, generally being settled at that time and warm enough for an Aussie to handle, me being a Kiwi I was used to diverse weather conditions. Her daughter and partner also decided to accompany her which was great, the only small problem being that these three delightful people didn’t eat anything that had been killed!!!!
Now here was a challenge, I was pretty excited about them coming to our lovely town and planned lots of sightseeing and fun places to explore before our 3 day 2 night hike. I sat in the sun and devoured vegan recipe books, jotted own menus, trialled vegan dishes on my carnivore shoot anything with 4 legs husband. In fact even the poor old shag that settled on a jetty pole above the lake in front of our house got plugged as they allegedly stole our fish. Wow – heavy stuff, it took a few years of convincing that the shags were more entitled to the fish than us.
Anyhow back to the Routeburn Track. Having walked it many times in soaring temperatures, snow, sleet, rain, and high winds, I launched into booking beds, coach trips to and from the track, organising dehydrated food and stocking my fridge with anything which was grain, pasta, had a root system or pips.
After decking out my friends with suitable senderismo en beanies, gloves and thermals that are simply not on the list of what you need to wear in Brisbane, departure day arrived, up early and boarded a bus to the ‘Divide’ (502m) on the Milford Road, the start of the Routeburn Track walking West to East.
The weather forecast was grim and sadly it never reads wrong, despite what the cynics say. Unfolding ourselves out of the bus we tugged our wet weather gear on and disappeared into the thick beech forest on a steadily up hill climb to Key Summit 980m, at Key Summit the general rule of thumb is to lounge around for hours drenched in 180degree mountains snapping off more photos than you need, of course we saw nothing. I didn’t even want to describe what they were missing as that was like rubbing salt into a wound.
On we trundled, stopping Lake Howden for lunch, and to kill a few million sand flies, 3 hours later we arrived at Lake McKenzie Hut on the shores of Lake McKenzie. The first time I ever arrived at this hut was in the 1960s, a new one has since been built, although my memories of the old one linger and are probably grander than it was, the lake was a scum of soap suds, true everyone went down to the lake washed their bodies, hair and clothes, and a fine dirty scum covered the whole mountain lake which has a very small outlet.