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Jan 23
2015

Tracks And Fergs

I miss my computer. I mean, I miss my family, my friends, the food and a whole lot of other things, but I guess it's obvious to miss those things. I didn't think I'll miss my computer. I'm enjoying the trip, Maya and I get to see all these beautiful places, meet people along the way, eat ice cream together without looking at the watch or knowning which day is it, and yet somehow I still miss it.

Well, it's not the computer I'm missing, but the control and easy access I used to have. Traveling today is different than it used to be, and really, I'm not that old. The smartphones and the tablet allows us to check the weather before going to a track, check restaurants rating before deciding where to eat and reserve a place to stay on our next destination. But it also binds us to the technology and the control we have back at home. So in one hand I have access to all the information and I get to pick photos directly from the camera and send them to my family without leaving bed, but at the same time it makes me miss the good softwares I used back home, the keyboard and mouse which could make this blog writing much faster and so on. It makes it hard to let go, but don't worry, a muddy long track can do that easily. For that, you'll have to wait a little longer, cause the Rees and Dart track deserves it's own post.

Queenstown is a lovely town, or maybe I should call it a city? We arrived when the weather was not that good so before starting all the activities and planned tracks we rested for a couple of days, eating ice cream of course, and also visiting Fergburger.

Queenstown Lake Queenstown Lake

Surely, it's a good burger, but there is much more to it than just a meal. It's the whole experience that makes you admire the way this little factory works. The place is small and the line is long, so long that sometimes people stand on the street for 15 minutes before getting to order their burger. Here's a nice trick, the line goes along Freg's bakery and gelato, so in case you missed the bakery before, which ranked 2 out of 191 resturants in Queenstown, you might get a taste of it while waiting in line. No, you don't have to buy anything, free cookies will come to you, just stay in line long enough. If that's not your thing I saw free chips served for those in line and also some cold water on a hot day. Whatever it takes to keep you waiting. The order is quick but hold your breath, you might need to wait up to 25 minutes before getting your first bite. My suggestion, get a beer and wait for a seat, we ate there 4 times and always got a seat. If you don't get one, the lake is just a 2 minutes walk away and you have plenty of places to eat outside if it's a nice day. You've heard enough, it wasn't the best burger I ate, but it sure made me come back for more a few times.

Fergburger, Queenstown Fergburger, Queenstown

Fergburger, Queenstown Fergburger, Queenstown

Two days after we arrived to Queenstown the sun came out. A sunny day could not be wasted, so we packed our little backpacks and did part of the Routeburn track. The Routerburn track is one of the 9 great walks, and as such, it's longer than a one day track. We managed to reserve the huts two weeks before, but then canceled it. First, we heard it's possible to do most of the track in two days from both sides. Second, the track is not circular, and getting from one end to another takes about 4-5 hours, so we'll have to get a ride, or get our car moved to the other end. Both options are expensive and we prefer day tracks anyway.

Doing the Routeburn track in one day is not that hard and you get to decide how much of it you'll see according to your fitness. It took us 1:15 to get to the first hut (Flat Hut) from the Routeburn shelter and another hour to the second hut (Routeburn Falls Hut) . This is when you get out of the bush and a few meters away are the falls. It's worth getting there early since the sun lights on them before noon, on our way back it was less beautiful to take a picture of the falls, but it seems that the stream was much stronger. The way from the Falls hut to Harris Saddle is beautiful, you cross the valley and climb to the saddle. The surrounding mountains and the landscape reminds me the great views of the Andes of South America. It took us 1:30 hours to get to the saddle. I can only estimate the distance between Falls Hut to Harris Saddle but according to the time it took us, the trail and the photo shoot stops I guess it's about 3 km.

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

Routeburn Falls - Routeburn Track Routeburn Falls - Routeburn Track

 Routeburn Falls - Routeburn Track Routeburn Falls - Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

We stopped for lunch and saw the Conical Hill side track sign. It says 1-2 hours return. While we were making our minds an israeli guy started talking to us, saying that another israeli guy told him it's an amazing view up there. It's a shame that we had to hear that from a guy who spoke with another guy, just by chance, because this 25 minutes climb is the highlight of the track, and should be included as part of the track. In my opinion you must not miss this one. Going up reveals stunning 360 panoramic view. Snowy picks can be seen everywhere you look and the lagoon we passed on our way to the saddle can be seen from above.

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

Conical Hill - Routeburn Track Conical Hill - Routeburn Track

We spent there only 1 hour, just because we had a long way back that day, but I could stay there much longer. I would say it's the most spectacular lookout I have been to in New Zealand so far. For my opinion it makes the Routeburn track second best after the Tongariro. The return from Conical Hill to the Routeburn shelter took us about 3:30 hours. In total, we walked about 26 km in 7:30 hours and another 1:30 hours of resting and eating lunch. We walked fast so if you're planning that one day track up to Conical Hill, make sure you start early.

Routeburn Track Routeburn Track

We had a few sunny days in a row and we thought of leaving earlier to the Rees and Dart track, but we couldn't cancel our hostel reservation and so began the "Rees madness" (which I'll elaborate on in the next post) . We had good weather and free time to do the jet boat attraction. We heard recommendations on 2 companies, one had more value for money, for the same price you also get a short guided tour, but on the other hand, lots of people complained that the bus ride to the boat is much more extreme than the jet itself, which wasn't our thing. We picked Shotover, the name is just like the river's name.

Not much to say about it, we enjoyed it very much and got some great GoPro movies. Note, generally, cameras are not allowed, only cameras with straps that keeps your hands free and doesn't block the view for other passengers are allowed. If you want to bring your own camera you have to make sure you have a head strap for it, or you can rent a strap in case you have a GoPro. Chest straps and other straps are not allowed.

We returned for lunch but didn't call off the day. We went for the Ben Lomond track as well. The track begins where the Gondola starts. You can climb the first 400 meters yourself or just take the Gondola and save yourself at least 45 minutes climb and about the same when coming back. As it was getting late, around 14:30, we took the Gondola. From there it took us about 1 hour to climb up to the saddle and then another 45 minutes to the summit. Don't be mistaken, the last part is a very hard climb. In total we got up from about 800 meters above sea level to 1750, almost 1000 meters, without the 400 we saved when taking the Gondola. The return was much faster, 1:15, and I estimate it as 8 km return from the Gondola (11 km return from the start without the Gondola shortcut).

Ben Lomond Track Ben Lomond Track

Gondola Lookout, Queenstown Gondola Lookout, Queenstown

As you can see, the view is worths it. The day after, we rested before starting the Rees and Dart track.