Chapter 23 of the short travel stories moves onto New Zealand, and all the natural beauty the islands have to offer. Have you been to New Zealand? Let us know in the comments below!
Chapter 23: Hiking The Milford Track
My best friend and I landed in Queenstown on a cold sunny morning. There were barely a few clouds in the sky and all we could see where the marvelous mountains with snow on their peaks surrounding us, but in a friendly way, like inviting us to go explore them.
That was the plan.
We had decided to the Milford Track, famous for being the nicest hike in the world, or so they say. We had a few problems though, it was June, it was cold, it was offseason and so although the huts weren’t going to be crowded and nor was the walk, there was no gas to heat them and there were danger scenarios involving snow, rain and wind.
We didn’t want to be one of those horror stories of adventurous but stupid hikers who got lost or trapped in the mountains and then died. We needed to be prepared.
From Queenstown we left to Te Anau, where you catch the bus that will drive you to the entrance of the Milford Sound National Park.
Once in Te Anau, we went to the Department of Conservation (DoC) office where they kindly explained to us that the hike could be done in three days, rather than four, as a matter of fact during winter they recommended three days to avoid complications.
They warned us though, about low temperatures and snow up Arthur’s Pass, the highest point of the walk. Now more than ever we felt we needed to be prepared.
What did we do?
First, at the DoC we paid for three nights each at the huts, they’re $15NZ each during offseason. Offseason commonly goes from the 25th of April until the 25Th of October every year, give or take a few days. We wrote our names and emergency contact details and we wrote the days in which we were starting the hike and finishing it.
We had already booked the bus to takes us to the entrance of the park, which also involves a fifteen to twenty minute boat ride to get there, and then to pick us up at the end, which also involves a boat ride. The Milford Track is not a loop, but a one-way hike. The price was $200 each, pricey but understandable as the ride back was around two hours long.
Then we were told at the DoC that we needed a location beacon, a device that would transmit satellite signals to their office in case we needed to be rescued. We rented one at a local gas station for $200, which you get back once you finish the hike. Afterwards, we headed to a local camping shop and rented the best sleeping bag in the planet, seriously it was warm even at -5 Celsius. We also rented impermeable pants, a portable gas stove, bought special packaged food for four days (just to be sure), bought the best thermos I’ve seen in my life, we put hot coffee in it in the morning and it was still hot at 8pm.
We had brought ourselves hiking shoes, a rucksack each, impermeable jackets for extreme temperatures, gloves, beanies, hiking sticks, two pairs of hiking socks, flashlights, and we could refill our water bottles at every hut.
Starting the hike
Ready, set go! Woke up at 5 am and got picked up half an hour alter by the bus, fortunately, there were other eight people who were going to do the walk: two kiwi girls, a newly married kiwi couple, and a coupe with two young kids. The family was really funny, they were from Stewart Island, all gingers that looked a lot like the Weasley’s, and so we named them that.
The boat drops us at the start of the hike; the view of the river between the fjords is unreal. The water was so still and the sky was so blue that it mirrored the fjords and it looked like a photo-shopped landscape.
As we get going we thought we were going to be the fastest. Reality check, the fastest were the girls, then the couple and even the Weasley’s were killing it.
Every five steps we would just stop to admire the beauty of the landscape that surrounded us. We even stopped taking pictures because it was all so beautiful that we were wasting too much time.
The first day was pretty easy, flat surface for around 18km until we make it to the hut, where the couple had already put wood in the fireplace and made the entire hut warm.
We cook a sort of soup, and go to bed at 8pm.
We’re up at 7am and by eight we’re walking. The second day is the hardest as you have to go up the mountain to make it to Arthur’s Pass and then all the way back down. Uphill we were the fastest, who could blame us? Youth can beat anything.
We were all supposed to be quick as it was going to start snowing at around midday. Luckily we got up to the viewpoint just before midday. What did we see? One of the nicest views I’ve seen in my life. Right below us there was this enormous valley that looked like a cross, because mountains in every direction surrounded it, all of them covered in snow. There were no clouds, the sunrays descending and illuminating the valley, it looked like Promised Land, I could see heaven below me.
Just a few minutes later it started snowing, aggressively, very aggressively. Up the Pass there is a small cabin in case of emergencies, and so all of us took a rest there, had lunch, and when the snowing slowed down a bit we made it down.
Needless to say, the scenery was prettier than ever. The snow had just covered the tip of the plants, for the moment being, and so it was spots of green and white all the way down. We slipped a lot and hurt our bums, but it was fun.
Once down, the snowing stopped and we reached this point where we could make a short like 5km walk to New Zealand’s tallest waterfall, an 850-meter waterfall. So we went. In front of us we found this colossal waterfall, majestic, splendid. We had a snack there, getting sprinkled by the water and just enjoying the strong sound it made.
Later on we were back to the hut, put some wood, even took a shower in ice-cold water and went to bed.
This is probably the easiest day, as it’s mostly flat, or downhill, for just 14km. However, it’s gorgeous as the vegetation changes a lot and it becomes rainforest like, very green and full of plants growing out of proportion. You feel like a part of a Jurassic Park movie.
Then we made it to the pick up point where we had lunch as we waited for the boat to come pick us up.
The boat came and the twenty-minute boat ride through the fjords was priceless. The day was sunny, and we were just in the middle of this natural wonder, ten individuals surrounded by Mother Earth. Yes, sounds like what a hippie tree hugger would say, but when you find yourself in such a scene, you fucking become one of them.