Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk, hiking, river, valley, mountains

Milford Sound Day 2: The difference an hour makes

So 8:30am is late by tramping standards. Looking bleary-eyed at my phone’s clock (the only thing it’s good for here), I thought I was doing quite well. But when I finally plucked up the courage to lean up and look around I discovered that the bunk room was empty.

In the kitchen there were only a handful of people. It felt like I had missed something important here. I stuffed breakfast (pita bread with some vegetables and another with Nutella) and headed off.

path, forest, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk hiking

 

river, forest, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk hiking

Being last would become my trend for the rest of the hike; I’d become infamous for turning up at the next hut worryingly late. I was already slow as I’d stop and take photos every half an hour or so, let alone the fact that I’d start at least an hour later than average.

The day started as overcast, cold and drizzly – kind of what you’d expect for autumn in one of the world’s wettest places, I guess. The route continued to follow the river, where there are some beautiful stop off points. Staying still for more than a minute or two, though, attracted a hoard of sandflies.

River, forest, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk hiking

At a little clearing that caught my eye for just how impossibly green it was, I felt a sharp pulse of air push past my head. And at the base of my feet was this little guy.

South Island Robin, bush, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk

A bush robin, with absolutely no fear of people whatsoever. He looked up at me curiously, then flew onto my socks and pecked them. He’s not as striking as a lot of the other birds, but his personality won me over. Like a lot of native birds they’re fairly rare, but on the Milford Track they’re everywhere.

After a short while the track opens up and you enter into a large prairie area. This is where the really good stuff starts. Long grass and bushes begin to replace the dense green trees and all around you are those beautiful mountains. After a while you can see all the way down this part of the valley – which is where you’ll be walking for the rest of the day. It’s gorgeous. The rain will do a good job of hiding it away from you, though. As I arrived here the light drizzle turned heavier. Cue the waterproof trousers.

path, valley, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk

Thankfully it wasn’t long before I reached the shelter, which is roughly the halfway point. The heavens really opened at this point – lunchtime!

This spot also has some of the best views of the day’s walk. I’m sure they must have thought about that when they built the shelter. And what’s great is that you can take photos and stay dry. So I set up my camera, totally alone – some of the other hikers having just left as I arrived.

Waterfall, mountain, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk

Just as I finished eating the clouds started to lift. Within another 15 minutes the world had opened up and it was stunning. I couldn’t believe that I had been oblivious to all this beauty whilst it had been raining. I took a LOT of photos.

Valley, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk, hiking

From then on the day was perfect – blue skies and clouds tearing up around the mountain tops, waterfalls cascading down forests and metallic silver rock faces.  I walked in awe for the rest of the day.

Waterfall, forest, mountain Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk, hiking

As you get further up the valley you reach the day’s most challenging part of the walk – Marlenes Creek. There used to be a bridge going across it but it has fallen down after a bout of particularly heavy weather. Now you’ve got to scramble over the rocks. On a dry day there’s little to worry about, but on days with heavy rain it becomes a whole lot more treacherous. Seeing all the huge branches and boulders wedged along the rocks of the riverbed was a strong reminder of its power. I heard that just the week before people weren’t able to pass it for days and had to be helicoptered out. Luckily for me I just got my feet a little wet.

Path, forests, Waterfall, forest, Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk, hiking

From here you start to ascend, but on this day it’s never steep or particularly taxing, and it’s only for an hour or two. There are a few more rivers to cross and the views become possibly even more stunning (I couldn’t decide).

Milford Track, New Zealand Great Walk, hiking, river, valley, mountains

It’s not an awful lot longer until you reach the next hut – Mintaro. This is my favourite hut of the hike. It’s warm and cosy with a big open fire and nearby are some beautifully freezing swimming spots to ease those tired muscles in.

When I arrived at the hut I saw reams of sodden clothes hanging outside.  All the people who had left several hours before me – and/or arrived several hours before me – had been absolutely drenched all day by the rain. They looked at my blue-skied photos in disbelief. There are two lessons to be learnt here: sometimes it does pay to be last, and also that the weather in Milford Sound can be totally different hour by hour, and mile by mile.

 

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Hiking the Milford Track

I’m taking on all nine of New Zealand’s great walks and sharing the stories, details and photos here on my blog. First up is the Milford Track. Here’s what I’m covering (all the headings will be clickable once the posts are done!):

Introduction

OUT ON THE TRACK
Milford Sound Day 1: Into the wilderness

Milford Sound Day 2: The difference an hour makes
Milford Sound Day 3: The edge of the world
Milford Sound Day 4: Going the distance

WHAT TO EXPECT: The good, the bad, the ugly

WHAT TO BRING: Food, Clothes, and everything else

COMPARISONS [coming later!]

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12 thoughts on “Milford Sound Day 2: The difference an hour makes

    1. I try to think about how all the gear helps me get fitter ;) I never regret carrying it, though I do wonder if I should invest in a smaller/lighter set up… Thanks again!

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