Friday, February 19, 2010

Milford Track: waterfalls and mountain passes

I think waterfalls are ruined for me forever. Take a trip down to Fiordland National Park and you'll see what I mean. The first time you see one when you're driving in -- before you've even really started your trip -- it's amazing.

The next 15 are equally inspiring.

And when you tramp for four days and see hundreds more, it almost starts wearing off. You start feeling guilty for not taking photos of each one. By the end, even some pretty awesome falls are only mildly impressive. Be prepared if you're planning a trip here. This is what New Zealand does to you.

To be fair, I'm talking about the Milford Track, a four-day tramp that Jake and I took on last weekend. It's said to be one of NZ's most beautiful walks, and I can see why. We traveled through forest, valleys, the edge of some cliffs and up over a mountain pass.

Our weather was perfect, but this water was cold! And it only rained at night, which was perfect for fueling all the waterfalls.

The food we brought left something to be desired. Jake and I don't have much experience with planning meals for multi-day hikes where you have to carry it all in yourself. This tasty treat of canned spaghetti on bread is a Kiwi tradition. We may have skimped on food but we didn't forget the wine (in plastic bottles to reduce weight).

This is such a popular track that we booked our trip back in July. They limit the trip to 40 people starting per day. Trampers stay in huts like this one that feature simple bunkrooms and kitchens with sinks and gas burners. And best of all -- flush toilets.

The low central flat spot in the image above is McKinnon Pass. On day 3, our journey took us 500 meters up to the top, then 1,000 meters back down. Luckily, we'd consumed enough of our wine supply to lighten our loads a bit.

This monument is very near the top of the pass. I was huffing and puffing at this point -- I really felt as though I'd climbed a mountain. A great feeling.

The Milford Track was amazing. Our memories of the sandflies, sore muscles and tired feet are already fading, and our memories of beautiful scenery, triumphant climbing and friendly people are here to stay.


Anonymous said...

Great pix...I loved my (brief) time there. And great blog...I like checking in every couple of days to see what's new.

HereBeDragons said...

I'm a little jealous. I never got to do this tramp, but wanted to. It looks beautiful! I did do a van tour, but that's just not the same.

jamie said...

A van tour sounds cool though -- probably would have been much easier on my tender little footsies. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, the pictures of the waterfalls are incredibly beautiful. Hope your feet are in recovery by now, and hope that "click" in your hip has ceased! You two look so great together.

Corey said...

Tell Jake he missed a winter campout for the ages here in the States. 28-32 degrees the entire night with plenty of ice and snow.

Phil said...

Wonderful photos (as always)of your Milford walk. You make our country look so awesomely spectacular.

But let me officially apologise on behalf of all New Zealanders for inflicting that ghastly processed, over-salted tinned spaghetti on you. It is HIDEOUS, a terrible insult to genuine Italian cuisine, and probably a certifiable health hazard. Why it's become the "national dish" here heaven only knows! But some kids will eat little else.

Jake said...

Great post! My wife and I did the Milford track in Feb 2008 (oddly, my name is Jake as well). Did you by chance have Maps, Nick, or Kimmy as guides? We have many similar pics and have had great success selling them at art festivals. I pulled this up while looking for photos from which to draw and it totally got me nostalgic. Is it strange to be homesick for a place you only visited for a couple weeks? Hope the rest of your adventure went well! Oh - just a side bar, if you are looking for a second adventure, I recommend Torres del Paine in the Patagonia Region of Chile. NZ and Chile would have been attached back when the continents were attached, so it is very similar and equally beautiful. The best guide service is Ecocamp - ask for Eduardo as your guide (he first hiked the trail at age 4, and he is now 30 something, so he knows every inch of the trail.