Greenstone Track Day One – Car park to Greenstone Hut (January 2nd, 2018)

I think I’ll start each day-post of our multi-day tramping trip with sharing some notes that I wrote on my phone while doing the track.

Side note: I know the font (at least in my editing mode) is different in this post.  Unfortunately, WordPress is not very word-processing friendly and so I have no idea where to change the font so that it is all the same.  Sorry!!  :-/

Phone Notes:

January 2 – 12km: adventure began in the AM. Stomach in a knot. Anxious. The shuttle ride to the start of the Greenstone track was silent. Both George and I were quite anxious. Ready to get started but nervous. The trail wasn’t too hard. Lunch was by the river on the rocks. George left my cup and his spoon there. I only noticed the lack of clinking on my pack when we were several kms away and too late to go back. The last few kilometers were the most challenging. Our bags seemed to grow heavier as we got closer to the Greenstone hut. The last 10 minutes to the hut were downhill then uphill. I struggled going back up the hill. My legs and my lungs both tired from exertion.

I set my alarm for about 5:30 or 6am (I don’t really remember but thought I would) as I needed to get ready for the day and put some few last things with our stuff that we had put in storage. I was up and ready to go and left the hostel by 7:15 so that I could walk to Base Hostel and make sure George was up. I had messaged him on WhatsApp and (thanks technology) I could see that he wasn’t either receiving or reading my messages so I was thinking “He’s still asleep and not going to be ready on time!” so I went and knocked on his door. Thankfully he was awake and almost ready to go.

I went back downstairs and ran across the street to a 24-hr convenience store and bought some more batteries. I thought I had misplaced the batteries we had bought for his flashlight the day before (in our grocery shop) and so I went to replace them. Finally, at about 7:50, we were packed and ready to go. As we left Base Hostel, the Stray bus and a bunch of people were preparing to hop on and head in various directions. George and I however walked gleefully (in reality actually pretty anxiously) passed everyone, chatted with a couple of our friends that we had made, told them our plans, made them all jealous, and then walked to the “Station” to catch our shuttle.

The “Station” is basically one of the main intersections in town that is the point where all the close regional tour operators pick up their unwitting victims. 😀 Our shuttle was at 8:15 and we were told we should be at the Station at 8:05. Me being me, we were there at about 8:04 ready to go. Our shuttle pulled up, we loaded up our backpacks into the van, hopped on, and started the drive to Glenorchy. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is absolutely beautiful. You follow the northern side of Lake Wakatipu. As you get further and further outside of Queenstown, the mountains become more pronounced, higher, and snow-capped. The lake is the characteristic clear and deep blue that is just mind-blowing.

One quick one-minute scenic stop on our way to Glenorchy.

We had one stop in Glenorchy to meet and pick up some other people before stopping at the Routeburn track (eastern end) and then Greenstone car park.

The ride itself was mostly silent with the exception of the guy sitting in the front seat talking to the shuttle driver. The folks in the back including George and I were so quiet. My stomach was in a knot; we were both really anxious. I was really anxious about heading out; hoping our preparations had been sufficient. The morning was absolutely beautiful thankfully; super sunny which was one less thing to worry about when we were both anxious. I remember thinking that if the weather was cloudy and/or rainy, it would have been a really rough start. It would have increased my level of anxiousness to a level that I don’t even want to think about. Some time later into our trek, George told me that when we got out of the shuttle but before the driver left, he asked the driver “Is it normal for people to come out here for 5 days of hiking?” and the driver responded “Yea, pretty normal.” I was a bit nervous about my reaction to the shuttle driver leaving. I thought I might pull a Laura and run after the shuttle yelling “Wait for me!!!!” (Only family will understand that reference but it’s ok). But actually it didn’t hit me too hard. In my usual fashion, as soon as the shuttle left, I was going to throw my backpack on and hit the trail; George said “it’s breakfast/coffee time.” I was actually happy he said this; there was no need to rush off madly onto the trail. It wasn’t a very long hiking day – only 12 kilometers.

Breakfast time… almost ready to go.

What’s for breakfast? An apple and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…and maybe a granola bar (I don’t remember). After breakfast was finished and packed up, I changed from my long-sleeved shirt for the chilly morning to my t-shirt as it was warming up nicely and I knew hiking with my heavy pack I would be sweating like crazy about 20 steps into the hike.

Ready, set… GO!

We got a friendly person in the car park to take a “before” picture of us.

The trail mostly followed the river the whole way. The water was crystal clear and super cold. It winded up and down and around and some points were a bit challenging (remember, I’m carrying at least 20 pounds of food, clothing, and water – probably more) but I just kept moving forward; “slowly, slowly, step by step.”

Crossing a small bridge over the trail on our first day. This is George and his gear.

Me and all my gear.

We stopped for lunch at about 1pm. It was a little way off the trail (and downhill from the trail to get to the river). I was initially reluctant to leave the trail; the river was easily in eyesight of the trail. It wasn’t that I was afraid of being lost if we left the trail, it was that we would have to come back uphill which was so much more challenging with a monkey on your back. But it really was a beautiful spot and I knew deep down that I should say yes and just go enjoy the scenery and worry about getting back up that small hill later.

It was well worth it. We walked to the river and sat on the rocks by the water. We set up our little cook stove so George could make coffee. We used my new Kathmandu cup and spoon – this is important for later in the day’s story. I pulled out the bread and made a PB&J and then ate some trail mix while sticking my feet in the cold water. I took some pictures but mostly just enjoyed the simple pleasure of sitting by the river, listening to the wind, water, and birds; no need to rush anywhere or do anything. The only thing was to be present and enjoy the grandness of our surroundings.

Lunch spot… not too shabby. :-p

Pano of our lunch spot.

My ill-fated Kathmandu cup and our cookstove.

About 45 minutes later, we packed up our lunch, put our shoes back on, and headed back to the trail. The walk back up to the trail was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined it would be. Onward!

The trail had its ups and downs, literally. We had some decent hills to walk up with our backpacks and so we were getting tired out as we approached the Greenstone Hut. About this time, I finally noticed the lack of the rhythmic clink from my backpack caused by my cup and spoon hooked to it by a carabiner. I asked George if he had packed my cup in his pack after coffee time. Ummmm…. No. George lost my second Kathmandu cup – thankfully my Kathmandu spoon (spork technically) survived the first day. It’s probably still at that spot on the river with a spoon from Base Hostel either in it or near it. What I think happened was that he set it down to put his shoes back on and never picked it back up when we got up to go put our packs back on. But, thankfully, George had his New Zealand Tramping Club cup which was bigger than mine, big enough to cook meals in, and so he coined the phrase “Everything together and together we have everything.” This came from the fact that so far we had done all our preparations together, we would stick together during the hike, and, even though we had lost my cup and his spoon, we still had his big cup and my spork and so hadn’t put ourselves in any sort of critical situation. He also lost my small nail clippers – I have no idea where those are. 😀

The last few kilometers of the day were the most challenging mentally and physically. We finally came to a sign that said the hut was 10 minutes away down a path that split off of the main track. Initially it went down hill to a bridge that crossed a bit of a gorge, and then went uphill. I was quite exhausted by this point and so that last bit of uphill was so challenging. Being naturally a bit stronger than I am, George walked on ahead up the hill while I fell a bit behind, panting and trying to just keep putting one foot in front of the other knowing that any minute I would see the hut and be able to take off my pack and rest. I must have been walking really slow because it felt like forever to go just a short distance uphill. Finally though, I came to the clearing and then the hut and then George with his pack off laying flat out on the hut deck. I did the same thing as soon as I got to the deck. I started giggling/laughing when I took my pack off and laid down in the sun. We had made it through our first day; it was a feeling of adrenaline-sparked elation that I remember having after my first or second skydive. All you can think is something like “I’ve survived this totally incredible, challenging, beautiful day and all I want to do is lay down and pass out for a little while.”

I wasn’t hungry at all surprisingly and so George made dinner for himself (I ate a few bites) but was going to wait until a little later to see if I got more hungry. I tried to lay down in the tent for a nap but the sun was shining on it so was too hot. So I just went and sat on the porch. We took pictures of the scenery around the hut and of our camping stove and tramping cup.

Dinner time on the hut deck.  It was perfect temperature here.  In the pure shade it was chilly, but under the translucent roofing was perfect.

First dinner. 🙂

New Zealand Tramping Club cup

We’ve done Tongariro Crossing, Abel Tasman, Routeburn Track, and Milford Sound.  🙂

The view.

Pano of the Hut deck, Warden’s hut, and view.

Later, George wanted to go for a swim. I told him that the gorge we crossed was pretty deep and that when we walked across the bridge, I had in mind that he had said he wanted to swim and so paid attention to how someone could get down to the water safely. Initially I didn’t see any good way and so protested slightly. But it was just a short walk and we ended up finding quite a safe way down to the water. Not sure why but I don’t have any pictures of this gorge. The water was really blue-green and cold (I know this from our lunch spot); I didn’t go swimming. I didn’t have the energy and I had my mom’s voice in my head “be careful, it’s too dangerous” and the memory of Sarah and Laura getting stuck in the water in that Adirondack river (was it at Flat Rock? or something like that). Honestly, I could have gone swimming; the water was not flowing fast at all where George got in the water. It was just a tiny, basically human-sized cove in the rocks where the water was almost sitting still. But I was very tired and I couldn’t help my hyper-responsible brain from seeing that it could be done. Oh well.

Later, we got back up to the hut. I decided I should eat and so had my can of lentils with some noodles and bread. Weird combination but it was pretty yummy. After that, it was basically time for bed.

Quick word about what we did for water supply: basically, the water in the rivers is clean enough to drink. The tap water in the huts comes from the rivers and is super refreshing. They did have a sign in the hut that if you’re concerned, you could boil the water as assurance that it’s drinkable, however, we’d heard that it was fine without boiling and neither George nor I had any problems while on the trail. Each of us were prepared however with an antibiotic that we had brought just in case.

That’s it: We survived Day One! Woohoo!

2 thoughts on “Greenstone Track Day One – Car park to Greenstone Hut (January 2nd, 2018)

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