New Zealand: Back to my Happy Place

Have you ever enjoyed a trip so much that you’d do it all over again if the chance came up? Ten years ago I walked the Milford Track in New Zealand’s wild fiord country and the scenery blew me away. If you love fresh air and exercise and stunning views it must be on your southern hemisphere bucket list. So when my travel buddy suggested walking the Milford Track in March it never occurred to me to say “Nah, I’ve done it before, let’s do something else.”

Glacial_valley

It’s a moderate three-day walk through a magnificent glacial valley, over a pass and into a second valley that eventually opens out onto a stunning fiord.

The 53km walk starts at the bottom of the Clinton Valley at the head of Lake Te Anau in the heart of Fiordland in New Zealand’s south island. We spent a day walking up this glacial-carved U-shapped valley, which gets narrower and steeper the further you go. Fiordland has one of the highest rainfall rates in New Zealand. Both times I’ve done this walk I’ve never seen a drop of rain, but the presence of morning mist added to the atmosphere.

brige_mist

river_valley

Day two of walking took us up and over the Mackinnon Pass, named afer Quintin Mackinnon who, in 1888 with Ernest Mitchell, forged a path through the Clinton Valley over the sadle and into the Arthur valley on the other side, leading to the famous Southerland Falls and on to Milford Sound.

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Good on ya’ Mackinnon. I wonder if he had a cup of hot milo at the top like we did.

Mackinnon_combo

The Milford Track has it all: steep-sided valleys, plunging waterfalls, ice-carved cirques, wildflowers, birds of prey (watch out for the kea) and rivers so clean you can fill you water-bottle from them. I’m told the scenery is even more enchanting when it rains… umm, I’ll take their word for it.

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Five star wilderness: A toilet with the best view in the world?

best_toilet

After six hours of walking up… and down… the comforts of Quintin Lodge were most welcome.

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The great thing about this walk is you can do it in luxury – staying in nice wilderness lodges, with home-cooked meals, hot showers and a warm, comfortable bed every night. (That’s why they call it the “champagne walk”). Or you can do it independently, and carry all your own food and bedding for 53 kilometres and enjoy the communal buzz of the public huts.

At the end of the day it’s all about enjoying the outdoors and marvelling at nature — which I think is the sole reason the world gave us New Zealand.

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Mile pegs help you count down the distance. Three days and 33.5 miles later we reached Sandfly Point (yes, bring your insect repellent) and the hard yards were over. Now for a boat ride on the majestic Milford Sound.

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The mighty Mitre Peak

mitre_peak

Aamzing trip, thank you New Zealand! When the blisters have healed I’ll be back to walk the nearby Routeburn Track.

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