We started the second part of our trip, two self-guided Great Walks, by heading to Te Anau. There, we saw glowworm caves before starting the Routeburn Track the next day. We did the Routeburn Track as a three-day, two-night hike, staying at Lake Mackenzie Hut and Routeburn Falls Hut.
On the Milford and Routeburn tracks, hikers can experience four seasons in a day. Though we hiked in New Zealand’s early fall and hoped for mild days, we also knew the passes could receive feet of snow at this time of year.
This made it difficult to strike the right balance. We wanted to pack light enough to be able to move quickly and have energy for side trips, but we also wanted to be comfortable regardless of weather. Fortunately, we’ve acquired a good set of layering gear over the years, which we could draw on to assemble our packs.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, I was on sabbatical. While I was still working, I had a lot more flexibility in when I could travel. New Zealand had been on our to-visit list for a while, but seasons and distance make it hard to visit during a normal year. We took advantage of my flexibility by planning a three-week trip to New Zealand for February and March — late summer / early fall.
Over the years of wanting to visit New Zealand, we had accumulated an extensive list of places we wanted to hike and explore. As we got into planning the details, we narrowed our trip to focus on hiking in the mountains of the South Island. Just that easily filled three weeks.
After a rainy couple of days, we were fortunate to wake up to a beautiful clear morning at Refuge de La Croix du Bonhomme. We took advantage of that with side trips to Tête Nord des Fours and Lacs Jovet on our way to Les Contamines. From there, we returned to our origin in Les Houches via Refuge de Miage and Col du Tricot to complete our Tour du Mont Blanc.
From Rifugio Bonatti, we followed a variant of the TMB over Mont de la Saxe and then down into Courmayeur. We hiked back up out of Courmayeur on a stormy morning, reaching Rifugio Elisabetta under broken clouds. Clouds and rain obscured the views for our hike from Elisabetta to Croix du Bonhomme.
Days 3-5 of our Tour du Mont Blanc hike. From Trient, we followed the Bovine route to the lakeside town of Champex. The next day, we walked an interpretive mushroom trail and through the Swiss Val Ferret to La Fouly. From La Fouly, we crossed the Grand Col de Ferret and followed the Italian Val Ferret to Rifugio Bonatti. Continue reading
Before starting the Tour du Mont Blanc, we spent a day hiking from Chamonix. After that, we started the TMB at Les Houches, following it clockwise over Le Brévent to our first night at La Flégère. On our second day, we visited the Lacs des Chéserys, crossed Aiguillette des Posettes, and passed over Col de Balme to reach Trient.
Part 2 of our March 2018 return to Patagonia to explore and hike the Aysén region between Coyhaique and Cochrane in Chile. This part covers our brief stop in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, time spent in Villa Cerro Castillo, and an overnight backpacking trip in Cerro Castillo National Park. Follow along as we recount our trek to famous Laguna Cerro Castillo and the beautiful New Zealand camp.
In March 2018, we returned to Patagonia to explore and hike the Aysén region between Coyhaique and Cochrane in Chile. We spent a week in Bariloche last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, but wanted to explore more on the Chilean side this time around. Our trip included the rugged drive along the Carretera Austral (Route 7) and hiking in the Cerro Castillo and Patagonia National Parks.
As noted in our post about planning the Tour du Mont Blanc, we strove for a balance in our packing. We wanted to carry little so we would have energy for side trips and explorations. We also wanted to carry enough that we weren’t committed to doing laundry every day or worried about clothes drying.