Lucky for us it turns out that it's especially fabulous when you're blessed by the weather gods with 3 out of 4 days sunny! Yippee! (This is one of the wettest regions in NZ, and the world with an average of around 9m of rainfall annually!)
The Milford Track is one of NZ's 9 "Great Walks" and in our eyes it was great. Really great. And a hell of a lot more.
It's a 4 day hike starting out from Te Anau Downs (a wharf on the lake 30 minutes North of the town Te Anau). From Te Anau Downs the journey begins with an hour long ferry trip across to the start of the trek. Over the next 4 days you travel 54.5km (33.5 miles), stay in 3 different huts (Clinton, Mintaro and Dumpling respectively) and see a whole lot of beauty. That's a rough overview of what it's all about, read on for the details.
BUT FIRST... Book your own Milford Track Adventure! Click the button below to be redirected to New Zealand's DOC (Department of Conservation) Website!
Te Anau --> Te Anau Downs --> Glade Wharf --> Clinton Hut
Our day begun in Te Anau, we finished packing our bags (as light as possible!!) got coffee and breakfast in town and headed for the Wharf. The ferry was leaving at 1pm and we wanted to have plenty of time.
Te Anau Downs is a wharf. That's it. Oh and a carpark too, which was lucky as we needed somewhere to park our JUCY van whilst we did the trek.
The wharf is on Lake Te Anau and is surrounded by snow capped peaks, it's pretty special.
We ended up hustling our gear into a bunk room and slamming the door shut, successfully keeping most of the little buggers outside. That afternoon consisted of a little backtrack walk without packs to the wetlands walk and Sean taking an incredibly short dip in the beautiful but freezing Clinton River.
After this we cooked the first of many "Mi Goreng" dinners back in the communal hut, and waited for the sun to go down. When it finally got dark outside (around 9pm in late October) we went for a short but awesomely successful glow worm hunt. Unfortunately we couldn't get any photos of this in the dark, so you'll have to take our word and come see it for yourself. After this everyone crawled into their sleeping bags and hit the hay ready for a big second day.
Clinton hut -> Mintaro hut + Mackinnon's Pass extra*
*you don't have to do this last bit.. at least not on day 2 anyway
The reason for this is Fiordland National Park is one of the wettest places in the country, and the weather can change from a sunny day to some serious cloud and rain really quickly. Hence, we were suggested to head up to the pass, the highest point of the trek to make the most of the view whilst the sun was out and the sky was blue.
Not having to carry our heavy bags made this a whole lot easier despite our weary legs, and although we had to backtrack after, it was completely worth the climb from 600m to around 1200m above sea level as we were treated to a jaw dropping 360 degree view all to ourselves. This section of the trek is one of the absolute highlights and we would have been gutted if we had gotten up there the next morning to have the whole view completely shrouded in fog. We took some time to snap some shots and soak it all in. The wind started to pick up and we started to get a bit cold, so we headed on back to Mintaro hut with a little detour back past the river for another quick dunk in some glacial fresh river water.
Mintaro Hut -> Mackinnon's Pass -> Sutherland Falls -> Dumpling Hut
We were up at 5 and on the track when there was enough light just after 6. We reached the top of Mackinnon's Pass again after a little more than an hour walking with our packs. We didn't hang around for long as the wind was already whipping in, and whilst not really dangerous yet it was pretty darn cold.
At this point we were able to take off our packs and leave them safely in a hut to keep them safe out of reach from those cheeky Kea, and were able to head to the falls with just our raincoats and cameras. The detour was a few km each way, but absolutely worth it to see the 580m high falls, which are the tallest in NZ and we are lead to believe the 5th highest in the world. I'll let our pictures do the talking here.
Little aside plug here to our fellow Milford trekker Julie - Hi Julie!! Here is her blog - "Taking a Long Walk"
Julie lives in Dunedin and has done the vast majority of the Pacific Coast Trail - which is literally walking from Mexico to Canada, all the while raising funds for the Brain Health Research Centre at University of Otago, NZ, in memory of her father. She didn't get to finish it 100% due to injury but is planning on heading back there to get the job done soon. We couldn't believe the amount of effort, determination and planning that must have taken and basically sat there gobsmacked as she told us some stories of her time on the road. Seriously badass! Go check her blog out!
We polished off a can of wine we had been carrying the whole time in celebration - yep, can of wine - and curled up into our sleeping bags for the last time.
Dumpling Hut -> Giants Gate Falls -> Sandfly Point -> Milford Sound
Considering our above average pace the last few days we had a relative sleep in on the last morning before heading off. The track ends at the aptly named Sandfly Point, and as we were going to have to wait here for a boat to take us across the Milford Sound to board a bus back to Te Anau, we didn't want to be stuck hanging there for too long so decided to set off a little later.
Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on earth with an average of 9m of rainfall per year. Yep that's right. We saw a sign in Dumpling Hut the night before stating that if you hadn't been absolutely drenched by this point in your trek consider yourself extremely lucky. We hadn't. And on the 4th day our luck ran out.
Also a massive thanks to JUCY for making our trip in NZ possible! Make sure to check these guys out for all your Road Trippin' needs! www.jucyworld.com, and don't forget to give them a like on social media @JUCYworld!