Wednesday, 21 March 2012

E is for Earland Falls and Emily Creek (continuing wtih the alphabet challenge)

I was starting to get a bit worried about finding E, as it turns out nowhere in New Zealand begins with this pesky letter. (Ok to clarify, before everyone emails me with places that do, nowhere I visited begins with an E.) But then suddenly, like buses, two came along at once on the Routeburn Track.

I'd once again donned my hiking boots -seriously I'm getting quite attached to them and may actually find it hard to ditch them for the heels when I get back - and was taking part in a three-day trek. I'd been told by an Israeli girl that the Routeburn was worth doing and when you get a recommendation from an Israeli you take their advice - they know their tramping.

I'm getting quote good at this trekking malarkey now. Whereas it used to take me hours to prepare for a trip I can now throw some waterproofs and thermals into a bag and I'm ready to go. The same with the food: dried pasta, porridge oats and teabags. Done.

I also quite like doing it by myself as it's one of the few times when you're backpacking that you're truly alone and you're not falling over someone else's bag; trying to avoid their dirty dishes or getting involved in random debates about which animal would win in a fight. With so much free time on its hands your mind goes a bit crazy and you start thinking about all sorts of things: people you haven't seen in years; secret ambitions and what on earth you're going to do when you finally get back home...

The Routeburn Track crosses the Southern Alps, linking Mount Aspiring with Fiordland National Park so the scenery basically switches from beech forests to mountain tops - so pretty good views all round. The first day of my walk was 12km, as well as an additional side walk to Key Summit which, as well as providing me with my first snow of the year, also had fantastic views over the Humboldt and Darren Mountains.

Surrounded by mountains...

...everywhere...
...you look.
 The highlight of the day was rounding a corner and suddenly being confronted by Earland Falls - a 174m high waterfall. The path crosses quite close to the falls and as the wind blew the spray into my face it felt almost spooky to be there completely alone. It sounds cheesy but when you are stood that close to something so awesome it really does make you realise how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things.

An absolutely awesome sight.
My hut that night was next to Lake Mackenzie and watching the sun set over it was a perfect way to end the day. I love staying in the huts as it's a chance to meet people of all different ages from all over the world. Everyone is tired and hungry but happy with their day so there is always a good atmosphere until lights out at 10pm, when everyone is so exhausted they crash out. In one of those crazy travel moments I also bumped into a retired school principal from Holland who I'd first met about a month ago on another trek so it was lovely to catch up.

Not a bad spot to spend the night.
The next day was another 11km walk, with a few steep climbs but the weather was gorgeous which meant amazing views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. I also took another side trip up Conical Hill which provided the best views of my entire trip - 360 degrees of mountains. I tried to remember my old geography teacher's tips for taking panoramic photos but think I failed miserably to do the views justice.

So you just keep turning round in a circle, right?


Rocking that raincoat.
After another cosy night in a hut it was just one more 9km walk out. The views back down into the valley were as beautiful as ever and despite being warned it was going to rain, the sun continued to shine. The water in all of the streams and lakes was perfectly clear and you could see right to the bottom, no matter how deep they were. On the way there were a number of swingbridges to cross, never my favourite as they bounce over the water, but I was happy when I discovered one called Emily Creek Bridge and amused a few other trekkers by getting a bit over-excited. Obviously a sign I'd been away from civilisation for far too long...
This much excitement means it's probably time for home.

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