Milford Track

Jan 2012

Tuesday 3 January 2012 – it was great to feel we were finally about to start this trip. The trampers 12 in total, plus a few support crew (wives and partners) were all assembling at Te Anau Downs Lodge the night before we were off on our way.A potluck feast at the Lodge, and a fine night walk along the lake edge to check out the boat for the next day and admire the striking sky of dark clouds and surreal light. Everyone was enthused and the weather forecast was promising.

(Special thanks to Tania the Manager at Te Anau Downs Lodge who happily accommodated our continually changing plans and provided anything we needed)  The idea for this trip started in May when Tere and I were wandering along the Methven Walkway talking about what was on our “Bucket List” of tramps. Milford was one which we both never quite had the previous opportunity to do. Too far away, too expensive, had to be booked months in advance, couldn’t postpone if the weather was bad etc. We decided to float the idea for early January when most trampers would be on holiday and some would be free to go. We never expected 12, our biggest multiday trip for a long time. Prior to Milford, some took the opportunity to have a couple of days in Glenorchy first and hiked up to the Invincible Mine to stretch the legs. Glenorchy was just beautiful and thanks again to Robert (and Marianne too this time) for their hospitality.

Wednesday 4th was fine as we boarded the afternoon boat with about 30 other “freedom” trampers and 40 guided trampers for the 1.25hr trip up the lake. Interesting boat trip and we learned some history along the way. Our first experience of Milford rivers (Clinton) and Fiordland forest as we tramped our way to Clinton Hut. It was first in first served for the beds so we ended up somewhat scattered around the bunkrooms. Ross was the Hut Warden (or more correctly the Track Warden), a bean pole with broad shoulders who provided our first very informative history and nature lesson. He welcomed us to a “22-day drought” in Milford and showed us how the tree mosses had shrunk as a result. He had great stories of guiding trampers through flooded tracks – umm – we were happy with the dry, thanks!

Next day it was raining lightly as we headed up the Clinton River to Mintaro Hut. On the way checked out a telephone “embedded“ in a tree, a relic of the telephone line that once ran the length of the track. Stopped to see waterfalls and ponds with eels. The weather cleared at Mintaro and we strolled out to Lake Mintaro to see blue ducks and trout. That night the hut warden warned of rain closing in from late morning (actually it turned out fine all the next day) and advised as to get up to McKinnon Pass early to make the most of the weather.

Consequently we were up and away by 7am. McKinnon Pass is mostly a very gently graded zigzag – no sweat for anyone in our group. On top it was cold and misty. As the mist swirled in and out we were greeted with fantastic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys – spectacular, and at our feet a variety of alpine flowers. After a break at the shelter and a loo with a million dollar view we dropped off the pass and down into the Arthur River to our next point of interest – Sutherland Falls. They are high – very high 5th highest in the world! With lower than normal flows the brave and adventurous amongst us (the women I have to confess) felt compelled to test their parkas by climbing around, behind the falls and out the other side. Refreshing is an understatement! And onto our last stop Dumpling Hut – so called because it faces a “hill” that is supposed to look like a dumpling, I can only assume the person who named it was somewhat starved and delirious at the time.

There are several points of interest on the track to Sandfly Point: McKay Falls, Bell Rock, Rock Cutting, Giant Gate Falls, Lake Ada, BUT we had to be at Sandfly Point for the 2pm boat so we were continually tracking where we were to ensure we didn’t miss it. In the end we were all there by 1.40pm and the boat arrived 10 min later. I’m pleased to report that Sandfly Point didn’t have excessive sandflies, probably thanks to the drier than normal weather. So it was a quick boat trip, 2 hours on the bus and we were all back at Te Anau Downs Lodge and not long after that in Te Anau for pizzas. This trip was truly spectacular as only Fiordland can be: Magnificent forests, rivers, mountains, huge vertical rock bluffs, waterfalls and birds. A great trip with a really great team to enjoy it with.

The team: Tere, Claire, Diana, Sandra, Russell, Marie, Carol, Helen, Glenda, Bronwyn, Heather & Dennis