Rain-soaked Milford

View from McKinnon Pass, Milford Track, New Zealand
View from McKinnon Pass, Milford Track, New Zealand

Milford is actually a fjord, and not a sound, but Milford Sound sounds bletter than Milford Fjord. It is an especially beautiful body of water on the western side of the south island of New Zealand. To get to it we opted to hike with a group of similarly minded people over a 33.5 mile track over three days. There was but one mountain pass, easily managed. The hike was mostly flat and not straining except that we endured five inches of rainfall over the last two days.

imageBut we were not cold, and after the rain penetrates boots and ponchos and everything is wet, there’s no worry left. Things cannot get wetter. At the end of each day was a hut and a private room with a shower. There is also a communal drying room where we put our clothing, packs and boots so that for the first half hour of the following day we would be dry.

Our group covered the globe, North America, Holland, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan. It was not a tight-knit group as we have experienced before, but nice people nonetheless. Our three guides were perky and attentive, as they are paid to be. We were group #91 of this tracking season. Most groups are 40-50 people, but ours was only 21. I do not know why.

The highlight of the trip was the scenery. The mountains here are fierce and steep, jutting abruply out of Middle Earth with vertical rises as steep as Eiger. The entire landscape is glaciated, and the amount of water running over and through these mountains is of Noah proportions. With the two-day deluvium the steep mountain sides were overrun by countless waterfalls. The entire countryside as we hiked was a wall of water. We crossed 286 bridges, many but a couple of feet wide, and many more streams that were unbridged. “Don’t try to go around the puddles,” we were told as the rains set in. There was no point. We were going to get wet. At times the water was up to our thighs.

It all ended today with a boat ride down the fjord, excuse me, sound. The sun was out, waterfalls tamed, as this countryside is used to disposing of large amounts of rain in short order. There was on the sound a massive luxury yacht we were told belonged to a Russian oligarch on the ‘outs’ with the current government. I cannot load photos from my camera to here just now, but the yacht was huge and splendid, reminding me in its shape of the Starship Enterprise. I imagine it takes thirty people to move it about, and that the owner is named or is related to someone named “Boris.”

Tomorrow we are on a bus and off to do part of the Routeburn Track, a higher mountain climb. This time we’ll be day hiking, no groups or huts – this will be the way for the rest of our trip.

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