February 1 Routeburn Track (Day 127)

Today started our 3 day hiking experience with Trips & Tramps based in Te Anau, South Island. We opted for the “Fiordland Great Walk 3-Day Package” encompassing parts of 3 of the currently 10 Great Walks of NZ. I guess we’ll just have to come back to do parts of the 7 other tracks! We woke to a misty, foggy morning with looming clouds. After the hotel buffet breakfast we met our guide in the lobby at 8am for a briefing about the 3 hikes ahead of us. Today is the Routeburn Track, just a tiny section of the 2-3 day, 20.5 mile route. We climbed into the Trips & Tramps van and proceeded to pick up several more hikers at 2 other locations around town. We drove the 1 hour along the Milford Road to our starting point, stopping at viewpoints (and a coffee cart) on the way.

Mirror Lakes reflected only the cloudy sky, but it wasn’t raining!

As we hiked through the beech forest interspersed with flowering lacebark and huge papery-barked fuschia trees we were lucky to spot a pair of Keruru (NZ huge pigeons) and a parrot pulling moss off a tree looking for bugs. It might be a Kaka parrot, but this is the habitat for Kea! We also passed a few waterfalls.

As we climbed a gradual incline we got some glimpses of snow dappled mountain tops through the shifting mists.

As we approached the summit, the terrain leveled out and we encountered alpine tarns, ponds or lakes excavated by glaciers.

A beautiful metal marker at the summit identifies the surrounding mountains and describes the 3 directions of water that flows from this spot, one south to the Great Southern Ocean, one west to the Tasman Sea and one east to the Pacific!

As we ate our lunch at the summit the wind blew off most of the remaining mist and clouds and we had wonderful views of the mountains!

Looking down on little Lake Marian in the hanging valley across from Key Summit.

Looking down to Hollyford Valley, the river route to the west.

A last view of the peaks as we descended through the moss and lichen draped beech forest.

We hiked 5 miles total over a 4.5 hour time period, stopping for picture taking, watching birds, informative information from our guide, and eating the delicious lunch provided, along with a hot drink too! The drive back to Te Anau had a few more sightseeing stops.

A stop at Gunn Lake where we have some mountain reflection, and Eglinton Valley, a scenic spot along Milford Road.

A great day of hiking in improving weather and a good start to our 3 days of hiking!

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