Our time in Te Anau had been fun even though the weather hadn't been great. It was overcast the entire time and I am a fair weather hiker. I love being in the mountains when the sun is shining, the sky is blue, the scenery looks its best and I can take the best photos. But at least we had been able to do quite a bit. The weather in New Zealand is always variable. It may have been overcast but I always remember "could be worse, could be raining."
While Te Anau would have been nice if the weather had been fine, the most important part of the trip was coming up now. We were going to do the Routeburn Track, a three day lodge-to-lodge hike in the mountains of Fiordland National Park. We had to book the dates months ahead of time and take our chances. It would be the most spectacular part of the trip so we were hoping for good weather. And if it was bad, we were committed. The hiking could be pretty miserable. Fortunately things were looking good. The skies had cleared as we drove back to Queenstown from Te Anau and the forecast was favorable. Maybe we would be lucky on the Routeburn.
We wouldn't need our rental car for the next few days while we were in the mountains. As soon as we got to Queenstown we turned it in at the Hertz office. We had booked the Novotel which was right in the town center and, not by coincidence, right across the street from the Hertz office. We turned in our car and just had to wheel our luggage across the street to our hotel. When we came back from the Routeburn we would stay at the Novotel again and could pick up another car. We didn't have to pay for the car while we weren't using it and we didn't have to pay to park it either. We had done our homework.
After checking in at the hotel we headed to the Ultimate Hikes office. They were the people who run the trip on the Routeburn. We had to sit through a half hour briefing. There wasn't anything new. They just went through all of the pre-hike materials that they had sent out and we had already read them carefully. I suspect that a lot of people don't do that so that's why they require you to attend a briefing the afternoon before you leave. I have the same problem when I tell people to read wargame rules before a gaming session. At least this way, someone would have a couple of hours to run out in a panic if they needed to get something at the last minute. We were all set though.
After the briefing we found a restaurant right on the lakeshore. The weather was beautiful so we sat outside. We had drinks and then a nice dinner. We could admire the lake and the mountains surrounding it. It was a good spot for people watching too as there was a steady stream of people walking along the lake. We even had live entertainment. Buskers would set up at a spot about fifty feet away. One guy played guitar and sang. He was pretty good but the best part was that he had his dog with him. When he would sing a certain way the dog would sit up and howl along. It was hilarious.
The buskers in Queenstown were actually quite good. After the Dude and his Dog, there was a guy who played the violin. But he also had several other instruments, including a didgeridoo and various percussion instruments that he could play with his feet. He was a one man orchestra. In spite of the gimmick, his music was impressive. He had a sign with his name on it, which was Votja. When we got back to the US I found him online and bought an album download. Both Sandy and I really like it.
Another time we heard a busker who was playing a handpan. His music was also good although he looked pretty weird. A bit heavy on the eyemakeup. You can see for yourself because I found him online too. We did buy a CD from him. Since we've been back home, Sandy plays it when she gets a massage. It's excellent relaxation music.
Back at our hotel that evening we got our packs ready for the hike. We had to take everything we would need for three days. Although the forecast looked good, you can't trust the weather in New Zealand, especially in Fiordland, so we had to carry all of our foul weather and cold weather gear. Everything we weren't taking we packed in our luggage to leave with the concierge in the morning. Since we were staying at the same hotel after the hike we could just leave it here. Then it was time to try to get to sleep. We had an early start the next day.