The weather is fine - there's a large high pressure system sitting on top of the South Island of New Zealand and sun is forecast for the foreseeable future. At least that means the Harris Saddle alpine pass will be open (damn, I fancied a helicopter ride for $95 even if it was only 5 minutes of flight over the snowy section).
Routeburn Shelter is our drop off spot and we clamber out, adjust our packs (mine is a new Aarn featherlight pack - it's already proving to be wonderfully light and I think I'm carrying 8kgs in total) and our walking poles and head off across the first bridge.
The following photos are taken on the Track, heading towards Routeburn Falls hut where we spend our first night. We walk along mossy-banked paths, seeing few fellow walkers. It's quiet, shady and the only sounds are rushing waterfalls or occasional birds. Sadly the bird population has been depleted significantly by the stoats that were introduced in the late 19th century to control the rabbits. A massive failure of gargantuan proportions. But we see lots of small, rectangular wooden boxes along the way, filled with an egg and some raw mince - the stoats and rats are enticed in and killed instantly by a trap inside.
The track slopes very gently upwards - we hardly notice the incline and I'm lulled into a false sense of security.
We walk for about three hours, stopping for photos, snacks and just looking at the scenery as we pass by.
A sign to Routeburn Flat Hut appears, alongside one pointing to Routeburn Falls Hut. We take the Falls track and suddenly we're climbing up a zig-zag path, just like the one on the first day of the Kepler Track. Oh no!
But with scenery like these falls we pass, I'm not complaining, nor are my legs. We reach the Routeburn Falls Hut around 3pm and select our bunks, register ourselves on the log book and look outside across the tree tops to where we've just walked up from.
The Hut is full - lots of visitors from North America, Asia and a smattering (us) from Australia. Not many Kiwis.
Day 2 - Routeburn Falls Hut, across Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie Hut
I've slept well, so has Richard who had the bottom bunk. I chose the top because there was a window I kept open for fresh air. Breakfast (porridge and tea) dispatched, boots laced up and poles at the ready, we head off up the Track, with a very steep rise ahead of us. The Route Burn Falls are directly behind the hut.
I quickly remove my thermal jumper as the weather warms up as we climb. It's so beautiful here and once we reach the plateau, it's a pleasant stroll across to Harris Saddle (the alpine pass that was blocked with snow last week).