Thursday, 23 November 2017
Routeburn Track 21 - 22 November
Farewell Howden Hut - its lake has brown trout apparently but we only see fingerlings. This is the section where the Greenstone track starts from and several walkers march off briskly at the same time as us, but they have another four days of walking ahead of them.
It's worth a mention about the age of the walkers because we are clearly not the youngest. But on Day 1 we chatted with a young Canadian girl walking the track and she asked, very politely, my age. I told her 64 (just) and she was amazed that anyone that old could be on such an active holiday. It made my day! I assured her that thinking about age was a mistake because it typecasts one. However, it's fair to say my calves and knees are not happy today, even getting downstairs to the kitchen hurts.
The last porridge for a few days! I had pre-mixed milk powder and a spoon of sugar into individual serves of oats so breakfast is quick and we're on the track before 8am. The mist clears rapidly off the lake and I nearly miss the photo op. It's a steep climb away from the hut and we consider climbing to the Summit Hill to see the confluence (supposedly) of three rivers (Hollyford, Routeburn and Eglington). My knees and calves say don't do it, even without a pack and we return to the main track. The views are still stunning no matter where you stand, snow capping all the peaks but none on the track.
This section of the Track is renowned for the native fuschia tree. I despair because we have walked for nearly an hour and none appear. Then suddenly we stop to listen for a strange, raucous bird call (it is a kea). I look up and see hundreds of tiny flowers, many spent, many still to appear, on what seems to be an Australian paper bark tree... I'm wrong of course, it is the native fuschia, with keas greedily eating all the flower heads for some small part, the rest cascading to the ground for us to walk over.
We reach The Divide and catch up with Michelle and Mitch, young walkers from Canada we've been chatting with along the way. They are heading for the Kepler, so we tell them to watch out for the kea on the top ridge!
Our transfer arrives on time, but we discover it'll take nearly four hours to reach Queenstown, which is disappointing. Oh well, a stop off at Mossburn for a venison pie makes amends and we're back at Lakeside YHA before we know it. Tonight we eat at Fishbone, an excellent fish restaurant. We indulge in squid salad followed by flounder (for me) and turbot for Richard. Richard then squeezes in another icecream from Patagonia but I resist. What a brilliant finale to our stay in Queenstown - we will be back.