Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hiking The Milford Track

Fiordland, with its staggering glacier mountain peaks looming over deep silent waters, is one part of New Zealand that can’t be missed. At the suggestion of savvy travelers, Meg and Bagel, we booked a five day hike of the famous Milford Sound Track with “Ultimate Hikes.” The “track,” as it is called, is a 33.5 mile hiking path through wetlands and lush rainforest, then climbing over snow covered Mackinnon mountain pass, back down the mountain across river streams and ending at the magnificent Milford Sound. The “Kea” bird (pictured) and many other rainforest and alpine birds kept us company as we trudged along.

Incredibly, all of the gushing rivers contain pure drinking water. Thanks to the strict regulations of New Zealand’s conservation authority, fiordland has maintained its pristine conditions. They regulate the number of hikers allowed on the track who must register months ahead to reserve a bed in the huts since no camping is allowed.

Milford Sound receives more than 7,200 mm of rain per year (a lot!) which creates spontaneous waterfalls – and home to tons of little biting sand flies. We were a little nervous about the weather which indicated snow and rain during our trek, and of course, the pesky sand flies. We survived the sand flies without much trouble, but the rain was a different story. Snow and fog greeted us at the mountain pass obscuring our views and heavy rain one night, meant walking the next day in our hiking boots through knee deep water! We found out later that this is quite common.

Despite these conditions (and perhaps, because of these conditions), it was exhilarating to be surrounded by nature’s force in the midst of glaciers millions of years old. It was a challenging hike over the mountain pass, but it felt good to finally get some exercise. Alex was the first person to finish the track on our last day (he really wanted to take off his wet boots!), but by the end, he had a big grin on his face. One of the best parts of the trek was that we made friends with people from all parts of the world who traveled near and far to hike the Milford Sound track since it is ranked as the number one “walk” in the world. On our last day, the sun came out and rewarded us with glorious views of snow capped mountain peaks towering over fiords.
~ Heather


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