tramping the milford track
We (me, Mum, Dad, and Uncle Peter) survived all 53.5km/33mi of the Milford Track, one of New Zealand's 8 "Great Walks". The track is in Fiordland National Park in the south western part of the South Island. The track is 3 nights/4 days and with the annual rainfall in the area approaching 6-9 meters per year, we were expecting at least a day or two of rain. We were lucky though and out of the 4 days had about 2 hours of rain, 3 hours of snow at the top of the MacKinnon Pass (with amazing views!) and sun and blue sky for the rest of the trip.
There are two ways to walk the Milford Track. We did it as "independent walkers" through DOC (Department of Conservation). A maximum of 40 people can start the track each day and our group was full. A pretty diverse group that ranged in age from 10 years to about 60 and included both local Kiwis and others from all over the world. We booked into the DOC huts for the 3 nights which were complete with bunkrooms (10-20 beds per room), a cook house with stoves and picnic tables and a toilet block with sinks and FLUSH toilets! So much for roughing it in the bush!
The alternate way to walk the track is on a guided walk with a private company. These folks stay in somewhat plusher lodges and have their meals cooked for them and linens on proper beds. As a result their packs only contain their own clothes and lunch. Overall not a bad deal if you're willing to pay $1500NZD per person... I was happy with my bunkbed and flush toilet...
Here's a brief rundown of each day.
Day 1- We left my car at Te Anau Downs and took a 1hr boat ride across Lake Te Anau to Glade Wharf, where the track starts. The walk this day was short- about 5km through forest with little change in elevation through the beginning of the Clinton Valley. We spent the night at Clinton Hut. Each hut has a DOC ranger in charge of the hut and the walkers. Peter was at this hut; he led a guided walk that afternoon and pointed out some of the local and native flora so that we would have a better idea of what we were looking at for the following 3 days!
Waterfall in Clinton Valley
Day 2- We got off to a somewhat early start (around 9am) but late compared to some of the others who left at 7am! The weather was beautiful all day as we walked through the Clinton Valley towards MacKinnon Pass (which we climbed the next day). The mountains on either side of the valley were breathtaking with countless waterfalls cascading down their sides. The river ran through the valley and was crystal clear with lots of fish! We spent the night at Mintaro Hut at the very end of the valley. Since the weather was so fabulous, some of the group decided to hike the MacKinnon Pass to get a good view, just in case the weather turned rainy the next day and the pass was all clouded in. None of us decided that we need anymore physical abuse that day- so we hung out at the hut and crossed our fingers for good weather the following day. Total distace was about 16km.
Is it nap time yet?!
About 4 hours later I realized that going downhill was indeed harded than going uphill and my knees and ankles were not very happy. We reached Dumpling Hut around 5pm that night and were very very glad to take our boots off! The total distance for the day was "only" about 14km but it was by far our longest day on the trail!
Day 4- We hiked out this day, 18km from Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point where we caught a boat to Milford Sound. The trail was pretty flat and overall not a problem...that was until I lost my footing on a set of metal stairs coming off a swing bridge and bounced my way down to the bottom...on my bottom. At first I was sure I had broken my tail bone, but it seemed to be intact. Instead I was left with a massive bruise that was about the colour of beets. We even took a picture, but I'll spare you the visual image.
Again, the weather was stunning and we had a good view of Milford Sound as we arrived by boat.
Sandfly Point, the end of the trail!
All in all a great trip! The photos don't really do it justice though!