Friday, January 14, 2011

Bushwalking Trip Plan | Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Pt 2

Can the Routeburn Track be walked  in November and, if not, when is the best time? How long do I need to do the walk? Do I require a permit and how much will it cost? How much will it cost from Adelaide for two people for transport and accommodation?
In a previous post Bushwalking Trip Plan | Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Pt 1 , I set out some general questions which had to be first answered before beginning detailed planning and suggested that there were four good places to start  for this sort of general information. My next post Searching for Bushwalking Information on the Web | Search Engines and Social Bookmarking explained some of the techniques which could be used to search for information on the web.  This post will attempt to answer the above questions using the web as a research tool.
Source: Backpack New Zealand
Both the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) or Mountain Safety Council (MSC) have provided excellent downloadable information relevant to the Routeburn Track.

Publications and Links: Department of Conservation (DOC)
Publications: Mountain Safety Council (MSC)

DOC also have a Fiordland Visitor Centre
 "Always contact the nearest visitor centre for the latest information about facilities and conditions."
What is the best time to tramp the Routeburn Track?

A little Google research has revealed:
"Great Walks Peak Season (October to May)"  (Source: Routeburn Track Brochure: Department of Conservation (download pdf 2190K)
Routeburn Track Weather at Mackenzie Hut (DOC) reveals that November has an average daily high of 15 °C, highest temp of 24 °C, lowest temp of -2.5 °C and 17 days of rain.  Certainly cold and wet, but great for active walking.  February would be the best time to go with only 9 days of rain and slightly warmer conditions.
"The track is a moderate 30 km long tramp and the best time to walk it is during the summer months as in winter months snow and ice make it hazardous. Like all tracks in New Zealand it is best to contact the department of conservation to get track conditions. "(Source: Backpack New Zealand by Gary)
"We then planned to walk the Routeburn track together and established that Feb was the best time for weather, generally being settled at that time and warm enough for an Aussie to handle, ..... " (Source: A Wet Trip on the Famous Routeburn Track By Richard M Bryant and Elaine Bryant )
"November through April is the season. " (Source:Classic Hikes of the World: Routeburn Track. An excerpt from Peter Potterfield's new book on the world's best hiking routes By Peter Potterfield )
How long do I need to allow for the tramp?
    "Most walkers take three days/two nights to complete the track, usually staying at Lake Mackenzie and Routeburn Falls Huts. However the trip can be extended by also staying at the Lake Howden and Routeburn Flats Huts. Those walking the track from one end and finishing at the other will need to make transport arrangements, as it is 350 kilometres by road between the two ends of the track. Bookings are essential for all overnight stays on the track and can be made online at, or by post, fax, email or phone." (Source: Routeburn Track Brochure: Department of Conservation (download pdf 2190K) 
"Two to three days are required" (Source: Backpack New Zealand by Gary)
"......Three days, two nights ...."(Source: Backpack New Zealand)
Rankers Travel Reviews gives feedback from a about 15 trampers who have recently completed the walk and they suggest 2-3 days.
 How much will it cost?

Hut Fees
"Fees are charged per person, per night to stay in huts or campsites on the Routeburn Track. There are no fees for park entry. During peak season (26 Oct - 27 Apr) you must pay your fees ($51.50 pp/night) by purchasing Great Walk Tickets - a  booking is required." (Source: Fees and Bookings DOC)

Track Location Map (DOC)
Road Transport

The area is well serviced by commercial companies who can collect and deliver by bus to either end and even drop you off and drive your car to the end and leave it for collection after the walk. Typical transport charges (Kiwi Discovery) to the start of the walk from Queenstown and the return from the Divide are $110 pp. Other centres such as Milford Sound, Glenorchy and Te Anau are also linked.

A list of transport/package providers is on the DOC web page  Transport Options


A typical 4 day Routeburn Track package (Kiwi Discovery) includes transport to and from the track, 2 nights hut fees, 2 nights accommodation (share room) in Queenstown, pre-walk briefing, track map, souvenir book and pack liner, ranges from $585 -$715 per person depending on the quality of the accommodation.

Many people will want to visit Milford Sound which is nearby and can be arranged at additional cost of about $140 including the cruise on the Sound and the extra nights accommodation on the track.

Flights from Adelaide to Queenstown return

Typical flights via Air New Zealand  take about 20 hours overnight and are via Auckland with links to Christchurch then Queenstown, or if your lucky Queenstown  direct from Auckland.

Cost $391- from Adelaide and $347 return (max 23 kg bag)

Overall Cost ( excluding meals)

Per person, using typical prices and  not necessarily the best available

Air Fare: $738 return to Adelaide
4 day Routeburn Package (not including Milford Sound option) $585--$715
5 day Routeburn Package (including Milford Sound option) $725--$865

$738 + $775 (apartment/motel style, share, Milford Cruise option) =$1513 pp

Is it doable from Adelaide in November?  Certainly. 
Are there better options, cheaper packages and fares? Probably.

Your feedback would be appreciated.

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