Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Zealand: First Look at the Milford Track, Fjordsland National Park

On New Year's Day 2017 we joined 48 other hikes and 4 guides to hike the 33.5-mile long Milford Track over 4 nights. The bulk of the hiking was done in 3 days during which time we got a very good Milford Track experience. Clouds and mists; rain - thankfully light; some sun most notably on the last day; rivers and uncountable streams, rivulets and waterfalls; and dense temperate rain forests of beech, lichen  and ferns. Some of the trail is only moderately tough while some, especially the 3.5-4 miles that run from Mackinnon Pass and Quinton Lodge dropping 3,000 feet along a rock infested steep trail was , for me, brutal and no cake walk for Mom and Dad. However, the challenge was worthwhile as we travelled through the New Zealand you see in films. The track is superbly maintained with suspension bridges, boardwalks and a set of stairs that plunge by a spectacular waterfall. Toss in the aggressively curious Kea parrot and other interesting birds for a complete package which lets you feel as though you are in truly remote places. 
We stayed in very well appointed mountain lodges. Bunkhouse with 4-6 bunks per room for sleeping and  shared bathrooms were the rule. We had breakfast and dinner on a large dining rooms. The food was plentiful and tasty. Good lodging and food always make the experience better and Ultimate Hikes who run the trip did a fine job.

We ended our exploration of Fjordlands National Park with a cruise on the Milford Sound (technically a fjord too) to the Tasman Sea. Think of Norwegian fjords but with taller cliffs, so it seemed, and you'll have a sense of what we saw. Pembroke Mountain with what's left of its Glacier which helped form this area two million years ago is just one stunning example of what we saw. 

 At the start of the Milford Track. The first day we hiked less than a mile to Glade House. The nature walk we did later was a challenge because it was full of huge exposed roots.


Waterfalls Valley. My name for one of the areas we walked through. Now and then the forest of ferns and beech would open up to mountain prairie-line areas with pencil-thin waterfalls pouring off the cliffs of the Glacier-made valleys. 

Water is a dominating feature of the Track. Streams, rivers and waterfalls on the land; clouds and rain from the sky. 

The descent off Mackinnon Pass was brutal. An agile strong hiker can do it in three hours and at that he or she won't be going much over a mile-per-hour. I crept along at closer to 0.6MPH. Rocks everywhere, drops, gaps and a descent of 3,000 feet. 

 The sun broke out after dinner and helped redeem the tough afternoon with a fine Alpine-glow sunset. The clouds just floated in.

 Penbroke Mountain and it's Glacier. The fjords of Milford Sound are grand. 

Post a Comment