Swimming The Routburn Trek


Upon Landing in Queenstown New Zealand I was confronted by the fact that  I knew little about this country. My knowledge was limited to great accents, and the backdrop of Lord of the Rings. I consider myself an informed traveler and am accustomed to getting off a plane ready for whatever chaos I am about to walk into. However New Zealand caught me off guard. It was baffling to me that I could fly for 14+ hours and land in the most pristine, friendly and safe country I have ever visited…and to top it off they speak english (Ok so I knew that part ahead of time.) I realized that I have come to associate flying such a long distance with touching down in completely foreign surroundings. Whether screaming Indian touts pulling you towards their tuktuks trying to sell you on their brothers hotel or African tour guides greeting you with endless bottles water as you embark into their drought crippled communities. However this was not he case in. New Zealand felt familiar, these people shared my culture, values and lifestyle. However, they have nailed some things that the USA has, well, failed at (to be fair it is a country of 3 million being compared to a country of 1 billion).

The environment is New Zealand’s greatest resource. Littering feels like a capital punishment. Being an island with such a unique eco system environmental customs is very strict. We were stopped for a honey scented chapstick. The benefit of this stringent stewardship meant that pesticides and other manmade toxins don’t exist & nature glows.


Day one of the Routeburn trek we were informed that this region gets 9+ meters of rainfall every year. Coming from drought ridden California it felt as though we were swimming through the forest.

Distracted by the tangled woods and foreign plants surrounding us I could barely feel how sodden I was. That is until we made it to the huts at night. Stepping into the hot showers each night I was so numb I couldn’t tell if the water was ice cold or red hot it just felt like fire.


Our surroundings were at once familiar and totally foreign. There were trees, moss, ferns and lichen resembling the pacific northwest yet upon closer look everything was slightly off. Fronds on ferns grew differently. Lichen different colors and patterns. All serving the same function in their environment yet they had evolved on the other side of the globe.

“One may prefer spring and summer to autumn and winter, but preference is hardly to the point. The earth turns, and we live in the grain of nature, turning with it.”

-Robert Hass


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