The Milford Track
Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
79Trip End Sep 06, 2010
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We arrived at the hut with plenty of time left in the day to explore so we dumped our backpacks and went off to discover the nearby wetlands which were a brilliant orange colour swarming with chirpy birds. It was only when we got out into the clearing and noticed that every fern and plant we could see was cocooned in huge spiders webs that we felt the need to move on! Next stop was the swimming hole down by the river but we weren’t feeling quite brave enough to attempt it at this early stage in the trip so we did some rock scrambling instead and searched for pieces of greenstone in the river. (The original Milford Track was a route used by Maoris to find greenstone ‘jade’ on their way to Milford Sound – they obviously were a bit better at it than us). We made our way back to the hut for a slap up dinner of tomato pasta and sausages and a highly entertaining game of Ludo that included much cheering and booing and we drew a bit of a crowd proving people will watch anything when there is no TV around.
That evening the hut guide came in to tell us he would take us on a night walk to see a glowworm colony once it got dark enough, unfortunately this wasn’t until 10.30pm and with little entertainment and an early start I was hoping for an early night
We were up at 6am in the morning to get an early start on the track after a filling breakfast of porridge and raisins washed down with hot chocolate for maximum energy boost. And so we felt we were finally on the Milford Track, making our way down the bottom of the valley amongst towering sheer mountains, clear lakes, waterfalls and huge chunks of avalanched ice being evidence of the glaciers above us, currently shrouded in cloud. It was a very hot day with just a light covering of cloud covering the mountain tops still giving us incredible views of the valley in front of us. We had lunch down a side route to Hidden Lake where we had our own waterfall and lake to enjoy while we munched our sandwiches and flapjacks enthusiastically. We pushed on quickly to the next hut because just after it is the big mountain pass we were due to go over the next day and Steve wanted to attempt it today if the cloud shifted, as no one could predict what the weather would do tomorrow and it would be disastrous to have missed the best views by one day. Luckily for me, once we got to the hut after our 7 hour walk the cloud was still hovering on the pass so I was allowed to have a nap until dinner
Just giving ourselves time to re-energize with a mini-mars bar we began the tragically long trek back down to our hut which was agonizing as we had just been looking at our next hut right down on the opposite valley over the pass
Waking up in the morning I was secretly hoping for torrential rain so we could be the only ones to have seen those views, and warrant our extra-curricular excursion yesterday. However a more perfect day never existed and we were spoilt with bright blue skies as the back drop to our climb this morning - this time a much slower climb with weary muscles and heavy backpacks. The views were no less impressive the second time and this time there was no wind which meant the small lakes on top turned into reflective pools to keep us more entertained with our photography. Reluctantly we eventually moved on for the long descent down the other side and through the valley, a trip that seemed to go on forever. It’s at this point I’d like to introduce our companions on the track, the sand flies. They had been a pest up until this point anyway but they thrive in hot days with little wind so we were at their mercy all day. When we had been hiking for ages and felt we couldn’t take another step without a break within seconds of sitting down we would be covered by a swarm biting us and generally flying into our ears, nose and eyes without any let up meaning we never got more than a minutes break the entire time
Once we had descended down into stunning rainforest along the side of canyons and waterfalls we reached the turn off for a 40 minute detour to Sutherland Falls, the largest in New Zealand. By this point I could hardly walk but there was a hut where we could store our backpacks until we came back from the falls so I weighed up my options and as I couldn’t sit down I could at least leave my pack and walk very slowly towards the falls as a ‘break’. They were certainly worth a detour and after a very sweaty day we decided to strip off and go for an explore behind the waterfall to cool down. Sadly I didn’t think too far ahead and got everything I was wearing apart from my trousers and shoes soaked through, this meant I had a 40 minute hike back to my bag dressed in just a towel which is no way to behave on a mountain
During that final stretch of the walk I became very philosophical and at the time I was gutted I didn’t have my laptop with me to write my blog there and then as my mind was full of all the wonderfully creative ways I was going to explain the beauty and enjoyment of the trek. Now of course I’m working from memory which doesn’t have the same effect and I can’t possibly convey that feeling of being beyond exhaustion, too hot and soaking wet, covered in bites and yet in such a beautiful place that it makes you forget it all. But then that’s why you all have to get out there and feel it for yourselves, I just can’t find the words.
Once we finally got to the hut we decided this was truly the day for a dip in a swimming hole so we made our way down to the beach and ran in while getting changed to avoid giving the sand flies a feast but soon began running out again when we realised just how cold the water was
Another 6am rise was in order for our last day, thankfully it had none of the steep climbs we had been doing so far but it was still 18 kilometers to go and this time we had my blister along for the ride and a boat to catch so there was no room for taking it easy. Not that we had to worry about taking too long to get there with the sand flies around though, they kept us moving at every opportunity. Only once I got to proper limping stage were we rebellious enough to sit down and attempt lunch. We only got 5 minutes to wolf down our tuna sandwiches and final flapjacks before the swarm got to us too much and we were off again. Still a completely stunning walk on the flat we finally reached mile marker 33 signaling to us that the end was in sight at the infamous Sandfly Point. In my opinion there couldn’t be enough sand flies left to make one point any worse than what we had seen so far. Luckily we didn’t get to find out as we arrived just as the earlier boat was about to leave saving us an hour wait there being slowly eaten to death. In the safety of the boat we finally started to relax for the first time that day and we cruised past Milford again but opted not to take a cruise on this occasion so we could get back to Te Anau and rest up as much as possible before our 5am start the next morning for our two day kayaking trip on Doubtful Sound, but that’s another story…
In summary I believe Milford may well be one of the worlds finest walks it has such varied terrain from the open valleys and mountain passes to the rainforests and river bed crossings. You will certainly see the best of Fiordland here and if you should be as lucky as we were with the weather (in the end we didn’t even take our raincoats out our bags) then you are even for an even more special treat than most.
Enjoy the photos, then book your trip!
Lots of Love,
Amy and Sandfly Steve
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