posted on January 4, 2015

Walking while enjoying beautiful scenery along a path is what I like and always excites me. I’ve walked many places at home and abroad, but I’ve never done a real trekking, like a long walk on steep rocky paths carrying a big climbing backpack. I thought if I’d try a real one, the earlier, the better. So, I joined my daughter who planned to take part in ROUTEBURN GUIDED WALK offered by Ultimate Hikes. It’d be her second time to walk the famous Routeburn Track, which is full of outstanding natural beauty and part of Te Wahipounamu, South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.
On November 23, my daughter and I landed at Queenstown Airport. During the flight from Christchurch, I was overwhelmed by the spectacular views of the snow-capped beautiful mountain ranges. The views were exactly the same as ones I saw in the movies, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT. I felt I’d come to the country of the Hobbit!

クイーンズタウン 全体

Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu


Day 1 (Nov. 24, 2014)
Trekking from The Divide(height: 532m/1745ft) to Lake Mackenzie(height: 892m/2926ft)
Distance:12km(7.5miles)  /  Time: 4-6 hours

Around 6:30 in the morning, all the 29 participants in this trekking tour were warmly welcomed at the Ultimate Hikes office by our wonderful guides : Watson, Fraser, Brydie and Andrea. They were very friendly, dependable and full of energy.

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We all briefly introduced ourselves to each other by adding what the last meal we had was.

Our first day started with a pleasant bus ride from Queenstown to The Divide. In the bus, our driver told us about the history and characteristics of Queenstown (the Maori came first looking for Pounamu or greenstone; European setters came with the sheep in the mid-19th century; the discovery of gold in the Arrow River brought prosperity in the latter half of the 19th century; Queenstown enjoys popularity today as a tourist resort full of activities) and the places along the route (the habitat of Takahe, rare flightless birds indigenous to NZ; the pasture areas for merino sheep).

On the way, our bus made a brief stop at Te Anau for morning tea along with delicious sandwiches and cakes. What a treat! I was impressed by Ultimate Hikes’ very considerate planning.

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Map of the track from Key Summit to Lake Mackenzie Lodge


The Divide
Finally, after 3-hour bus ride, we arrived at The Divide, the starting point for our trekking. There, we got ready for trekking, receiving lunch, then starting to walk freely at each one’s own pace. The walk began with a gentle ascent through the silver beech forest. Silver beech trees are endemic to New Zealand and I often saw mossy green trunks of silver beech trees spreading in the mountains, which was quite unique scenery I’d never seen. In places, we found waterfalls and at spots where thick growth of trees breaks off, we could enjoy the views of snow-capped beautiful mountains far away. It was a lovely day and I adjusted the layers of my clothing feeling hot.

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Track through the silver beech forest

day1 first waterfall

Falls along the track










splendid view of darren mountains from the track to Key Summit

Splendid view of Darren Mountains from the track to Key Summit


Key Summit (height 918m/3011ft)

Key Summit is about 80-minute walk from The Divide. It is the source of three rivers leading to three oceans: the Hollyford River runs to the west and meets the Tasman Sea; the Greenstone-Clutha River runs to the east and meets the Pacific Ocean; the Eglinton-Waiau River runs to the south and meets the Southern Ocean. Because of this, Key Summit has “summit” in its name, though it is actually surrounded by higher mountains: Humboldt Mountains on the north; Ailsa Mountains on the east; Earl Mountains on the south; Darran Mountains on the west.

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Map of Key Summit(918-meter-high point), three rivers and four mountains

Its top commands stunning panoramic views of these mountains and the valleys the rivers flow through. In addition, on the top, there are alpine wet lands and small lakes, which creates unique scenery along with the alpine vegetation there. I was amazed at the beautiful 360-degree view and took time taking pictures and enjoying the products of glacial activities.

Key Summit with Ailsa Mountains in the background

Key Summit with Ailsa Mountains in the background

Darran Mountains reflected in a tarn on Key Summit

Darren Mountains reflected in a lake on Key Summit

Lake Marian in Darran Mountains

Lake Marian in Darran Mountains


Darren mountains near orchard

Distant view of mountains from Key Summit


Lake Howden Hut (height 688m/2257ft)
From Key Summit, we kept descending along the track to Lake Howden Hut, where we enjoyed picnic lunch and hot drinks. Surprisingly, instant miso soup was also available for Japanese food lovers!

lake howden

Lake Howden


Earland Falls
From Lake Howden Hut, we climbed through the sliver beech forest to 178-meter-high Earland Falls, which suddenly appeared in front of us and dazzled us with its affluent flow of water and the grandeur.

earland falls

Earland Falls

mossy trunks

Mossy trunks of beech trees














The Orchard
From Earland Falls, we walked through the rainforest and gradually descended to The Orchard, an open grassy area dotted with ribbonwood trees. 


The Orchard


Lake Mackenzie and Lake Mackenzie Lodge(height 892m/2926ft)
Our first accommodation was Lake Mackenzie Lodge located near Lake Mackenzie, which was a beautiful alpine lake and stayed calm when the fog was coming at that time. Separately we reached our first day’s goal and were warmly welcomed by the lodge staff, who served us with fresh drinks and fruit.

lake mackenzie

Lake Mackenzie

lake m lodge

Lake Mackenzie Lodge


My daughter and I relaxed for a while in a clean cozy room overlooking snowcapped mountains far away. Then, we took a hot shower, washed clothes and hung them in the drying room which worked great for drying the washing or wet trekking wear.
Before dinner, everyone came to the spacious comfortable lounge and enjoyed conversations with trekking companions over coffee, tea, wine, beer and some snacks. I talked a lot with people I’d just met several hours before, savoring fine NZ wine. What a pleasant time! In addition, a three course dinner with dessert was excellent. I chose steak among the three choices of a main dish. I ate my fill, and relaxed and enjoyed myself, which gave me a good night sleep.

lake m lodge inside 2


lake m lodge inside










mountains sparkling in the morning sun

Mountains sparkling in the morning sun



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