Saturday 3_10 ...Howden Hut to Routeburn Flats Hut...the easy way!.

We were up at 6 am and on the trail before 7:30...Our bus was to arrive at 10 and we were there before 9...way too early as it was very cold when we stopped walking and of course this was the one time the bus was late.  We made our connection in Te Anau however and arrived in Queenstown at the YHA at 2:30 pm.  We checked to make sure AM bag had found its destination and sure enough it was there just waiting to be claimed.  Made a quick call to Bob & Frank and bought tickets for the Gondola ride and the Maori show for the evening of our return.  

Buckley's shuttle service had agreed to take us to the trailhead even though it wasn't their regular run.  Our driver Mrs. Buckley, a retired professional ice-skating teacher...handled all of the arrangements for the service on her cell phone...while driving.  Again we were entertained with a wonderful travelogue and history of the area and when Anna Marie expressed a desire to photograph a field of sheep...the brakes were immediately applied and out we went to get our photo.  

Strolling along the aquamarine waters of the Routeburn river we enjoyed a leisurely 3 hour tramp to the Flats Hut.  Due to the length of our bus trip, we didn't get on the trail until after 4 pm so everyone was settled by the time we arrived.  I groaned when I heard there were no bottom bunks left but a very kind gentleman named Daryle from Kansas quickly offered to switch with me.  Daryle and his wife Arlene said they loved the Smokies and hope to visit sometime in the near future.  Hope we can keep in contact with them.  It would be fun to re-untite with some of our  travel buddies.  Anna Marie didn't have to use the top bunk aferall...she slept in the kitchen as one whole wall of benches under the window was fitted with a long cushion just like thebunk mattresses.  Within an hour after arriving...all was quiet and AM and I were alone in the kitchen.  The night was clear and the stars were brilliant...we looked for the Southern Cross but not sure if we actually recognized it.