[continued from Into the kingdom of waterfalls: The Routeburn track]
After a troubled night’s sleep I woke up early, had breakfast and packed away rest of my gear. Now the overnight rains had made my tent wet and packing it was a real pain since it wouldn’t dry up in this cold weather. I somehow stowed it away and restarted my walk, excited to see the rest of the track having heard so much about the Hollyford valley. I was in a hurry since the ranger had informed that it might start raining at higher altitudes by noon.
Heading back towards lake Mackenzie hut, I rejoined the track from where I had left off yesterday. The air was crisp and fresh and the atmosphere was surreal with fresh snow-covered peaks towering over lake Mackenzie. I went through forests surrounding lake Mackenzie and climbed up through huge boulders and rocks. On my way up, I came across many fantails and robins, which are native to Fiordland NP and were quite beautiful.
Ascending quite steeply, within 45 mins I had crossed the tree line and was standing with a clear view of the landscape.
Looking down, I saw lake Mackenzie glistening in early morning sunshine occasionally draped by low hanging clouds. The snowcapped mountains around stood tall and fresh with deep glacial u-valleys separating them near the lake shore.
I continued walking higher up, occasionally glancing back to the beautiful lake Mackenzie which was now just a tiny waterbody from high above. After about an hour, the track reached the top and winded around the mountain to take me to the other side of the valley.
I was now looking down over Hollyford valley and staring right into the Darran mountains. The Hollyford valley for most part was engulfed in clouds and it gave me a feeling of walking high up in the sky like I was in some kind of paradise. The track was wet with occasional waterfalls, and the air was quite chilly around here.
Occasionally, layers of clouds would engulf entire track around me and I was left walking in white blindness, only for the fog to depart moments later and reveal a whole new scenery all over again. I kept walking for the next hour, playing this little game of hide and seek with the nature, hoping for one little glimpse of the Hollyford valley below.
Nature truly rewards patience and after about an hour, the clouds below dissipated to reveal the valley. The landscape was surreal, with surrounding mountains and lush green valley hanging between them. The track now levelled out till I reached the junction of Harris Saddle and Hollyford valley track. From here it climbed up towards Harris Saddle which is the highest point of Routeburn track at 1277m above sea level.
By now it had started to rain and I luckily made it to Harris saddle emergency shelter without getting too wet. There were other trampers at the shelter taking a break from the rain. I sat down amongst them deciding to have some refreshments and keep myself dry. I left the shelter after 30mins, hoping to reach Routeburn falls hut without getting too wet. From the emergency shelter was a side trip to conical hill, which I decided against owing to the bleak weather.
It was still drizzling when I left, and flakes of snow could be seen slowly coming down on the track. It was an amazing feeling to walk in such a weather, cold and wet yet so elegant and charming. On the way I passed Lake Harris which was surrounded on its other end by 2 mountains and a third faraway mountain with narrow strip of waterfall flowing down its face. The atmosphere was invigorating and it actually felt as if nature was showing its beautiful aspects in a very wild way.
Past the lake, the track started descending into the Routeburn valley. The valley looked amazing, covered in yellow brown tussocks, it had a huge stream winding down through it and occasionally dropping into waterfalls which were now gushing overflow. The mountains around the valley were veiled in mist and looked immensely beautiful. I admired the display put forth my eyes and was spellbound by its beauty. I kept walking for now the rain had turned into a proper downpour.
The track itself had now become a mini stream and I was trying hard to keep myself dry but in vain. I hopped and skipped huge stones on the track trying hard not to soak my feet in stream filled track and even took shelter under a huge rock to clean my glasses which were covered with water droplets. After about an hour I passed the Routeburn falls which were roaring down into the valley and reached The Routeburn falls hut.
I was shivering when I entered the hut. All my gear was wet and so were all my clothes. I hung them up to dry, changed into a fresh pair and made myself comfortable in the hut common room, which was warm. I sat down on a table to eat my lunch of cherry tomatoes and boiled potatoes and immediately started talking to a charming Danish couple. We were soon joined by an elderly north Irish couple and another young man named Joseph from USA. The common room slowly filled up with other weary trampers. In the evening, the hut ranger made us play a game where everyone had to try and identify at least 20 different languages on a huge wall tapestry that was filled with greetings from all around the world. Quite some fun. It had been a tiring but amazing day, and after dinner, I retired into my bunk bed ready to sleep.
Next morning, I got up lazily since it was my last day on the track and I had to walk only few hours down into the valley. The weather outside was stunning. Bright sunshine tore down into the valley and the surrounding mountains which till yesterday were covered in fog were now revealed boasting fresh snow-capped tops. I stood on the hut balcony with couple of other trampers basking in the early morning sun and savoring the stunning view. I had a light breakfast and packed my gear which was still wet. After bidding goodbye to my new friends and chatting a little bit with the hut ranger, I left the hut for my last foray on the great walk.
Initially, I went back up on the track to take a better look at the Routeburn falls, which I had left in hurry yesterday. Still roaring and tumultuous, the falls were majestic after such a wild weather. I slowly walked down the track now towards Routeburn shelter. Every now and then I stopped to enjoy the beautiful landscape of Routeburn valley which was made even more amazing by the calm weather.
I bumped into the Routeburn track guided group again and chatted with Hannah about their adventure on the track yesterday. Soon I left them behind and walked down for next couple of hours till I nearly reached the Routeburn shelter. I had booked a bus to pick me up from the shelter at around 2pm, and since there was time to spare, I did a small nature walk as a side trip on the track. I reached the Routeburn shelter at around 12.30pm and settled down cleaning my gear and reminiscing my last few days.
Last 7 days had indeed been quite an adventure, from walking in sunshine on Kepler track, to running from the rains on Routeburn track. It was a tremendous experience that shaped me as a person and looking back now from the bus which is about to take me away, I can see the snow-capped mountains and lush green forests calling me back!
Until next time…