“Don’t worry; it’s just like a walk”
Those were the encouraging words of my boyfriend, a week before we flew thousands of miles across the globe to embark on a three-day hike along the Routeburn Track. He had already hiked the Milford Track the year before (probably the most popular track in New Zealand, which was overbooked this time), but my experience was limited to easy, day-long hikes. I worried about carrying my 30-pound load (backpack, food, sleeping bag, etc.) so I exercised for two months before the hike. I took the trip pretty seriously.
Kiwis also take their hiking (or as they call it “tramping”) pretty seriously. New Zealand has a total of nine “Great Walks” which are managed by the DOC (Department of Conservation). The organization is responsible for the preservation of the environment, and it maintains around 9.000 miles of hiking trails across the country.
Preparing for the Hike
While I was worried about my endurance, I was even more concerned about where we were going to stay. This was an adventure after all, so we decided to ditch the idea of a fancy cottage, and to share a room with some other hikers. Thankfully, we live in the age of the Internet, so finding share accommodation was even simpler than I thought it would be. While it was strange sleeping in the room with three more strangers, the room was fairly cheap (NZ $280, which is around US $200) and the shower was actually fairly clean.
The Routeburn Track passes through both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national park offers a little bit of everything: glacier lakes, beech forests, waterfalls and a number of endemic animal species. The trail is 13 miles shorter than the Milford Track and is made for newbies like me. In spite of this, I was still visibly nervous from excitement. Tomorrow, after eight full hours of sleep and a two-hour shuttle ride from our place we arrived at the trail. The game was on.
Finally: The first Tramping Experience
The first few miles felt like a walk in the park; we were walking fairly and after an hour, we paused to take in the scenery. After a few more miles, the trail was getting steeper and the straps of my backpack started rubbing uncomfortably against my shoulders. Also, I was out of breath. I was wondering how the hike would feel without those extra gym sessions. Even though we walked in the shade, the temperature was high, my forehead was dripping with sweat and my shirt was soaked. Every now and then, I looked at my boyfriend and thought: “It’s just a walk”.
As we reached the Routeburn Falls Hut where we were supposed to spend our night, I finally felt relaxed and much more comfortable. I was even too tired to care I was sleeping in a room with a dozen of unfamiliar people and I instantly fell asleep. The next morning, after breakfast, we continued upward and after four hours, we arrived at the highest part of the track – the Harris Saddle. The scenery was breathtaking, and words wouldn’t do it justice. As I stood there under the endless sky, I completely forgot about the pain in my shoulders and the weight of my backpack.
More than Just a Walk
Even though the hike was even more difficult than I imagined, after we sat on the plane, I realized I fell in love with the country and hiking. The nature in New Zealand is unique and intact, and the conditions are perfect. The Routeburn Track is only one of the nine “Great Walks”, and I plan to go back to the country again and again, until I cross the other eight of my list. The bottom line is, you cannot go wrong with New Zealand, after all, they the only country in the world with a government –appointed wizard.
About the author
Marie Nieves, a lifestyle blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. As she always loved to travel, she really loves to talk about her experiences. On her journeys she likes to read poetry and prose and loves to surf the Internet. She is an avid lover of photography and regular author at several blogs. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and G+.