Some things I learned on Routeburn…


  • A good lip balm can’t be rated highly enough.
  • The same goes for sunscreen- the sky is closer and the air purer here.
  • Very little tastes better than water running from a clean mountain stream.
  • Sometimes downhill all the way isn’t a good thing.
  • Undulating track means it goes up quickly, and down just as fast.
  • A steady climb usually involves rocks.
  • Relatively flat means just that- in comparison to the extremes of undulations and steady climbs.
  • Steep climb involves knee high boulders piled randomly to loosely represent (from a distance) stairs.
  • Spectacular views at the top is a significant understatement.
  • Likewise, so is challenging…especially when used by a guide.
  • Guide rails are there for a reason.
  • On a clear day, you really can see forever.
  • Walking poles save knees…and ankles…and are a saviour for people who blew their calf muscle four weeks ago.


  • Foot fleece is real, as are toe socks. Both are more valuable than you’d think.
  • There are more muscles in your legs than you ever learnt about in biology class- and all of them are capable of hurting at the same time.
  • Some views are expletive worthy- in a good way.
  • Some paths are expletive worthy- in a bad way.
  • In the rain, there really are a million different shades of green- and all of them are beautiful.


  • There are more words to describe green than you would imagine. Verdant is just one of them.
  • Mother Nature is a clever old bitch…and I mean that in the nicest possible way.
  • Lichen and moss come in more colours than you’d think possible.


  • Moss really is as soft as it looks.
  • Mud has the power to suck off your shoe.
  • Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can leave the beanies, gloves and thermals at home.
  • The gym does not in any way prepare you for the Routeburn Track- it just means you look slightly better at the back of the pack.
  • Road walking in suburbia does not in any way prepare you for the Routeburn Track- although it is more useful than the gym, and does help break in your boots.
  • It’s essential that you break in your boots.
  • The rest of the world and what they’re doing to each other doesn’t matter in the mountains.
  • It’s possible to survive for three days without cell reception, wifi and social media…just.
  • There is such a flower as an edelweiss and seeing one will make you want to sing.
  • I understand why Julie Andrews twirled around in a circle and did The Hills Are Alive thing.
  • When a group of people have sweated and toiled together, they will be able to find something in common.
  • I’m so so so glad that I did this with my friends.
  • Everyone’s “track” is different.
  • Some preconceptions are incorrect.
  • Some aren’t.
  • Bounding over a suspension bridge might very well have you whistling the theme song from Indiana Jones.
  • Canyoners are mad.
photo by John
photo by John
  • So are the runners who bound through this track as if they are mountain goats- hello…what about the scenery that you’re missing?
  • In this part of New Zealand there are no snakes.
  • I really want to emigrate.
  • The best soundtrack is birdsong.
  • Very little sounds more peaceful than the trickle of water.
  • If there’s a waterfall- no matter how big or small, I’ll take a photo of it.


  • Mountains can weep.
  • Nature really does talk to you- if you slow down long enough to listen to it.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

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