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My Travel Diary
  April 13th
Queenstown->Te Anau->Milford Track Day 1

Lake Te Anau A lovely day dawns and the car purrs its way down to Te Anau (well, actually roars is probably more like it but you get the idea). After picking up our tickets we head off to hire Connie some gear - thankfully they are well prepared for novice trampers like us down there and everything except boots can be hired in a package deal for only $90 (backpack, all clothing, cooking stuff, etc!). Next stop was the supermarket for a selection of gastronomical delights chosen more for weight, mass and sugar content than nutritional value - you carry four days of food with you on the track so tough decisions need to be made! We then proceeded to pack our backpacks and get changed into a sensational ensemble of practicality and style, finishing literally as the bus was pulling up to take us to Te Anau Downs.

The car was waved goodbye (in the hope that it would be safe parked at the booking office) and we were off. Forty intrepid adventurers walk the track each day it is open - which means 12,000 people per year! You have to book months in advance in the peak season, we were lucky and entered the track as virtually the last group before the season closed.

Te Anau Downs is where the 1.5 hour ferry ride takes you up Lake Te Anau to the start of the track (at Glade Hut). The lake itself is very pretty, although again incoming clouds prevented the clearest of views. Keeping in mind that this was April and we were in the wettest part of NZ we were actually very fortunate with the weather. At least it was dry - when it rains down there, it REALLY rains!

Clinton RIver The first day is a cruisy walk, 1.5 hours alongside the crystal clear Clinton river (you can see the eels and trout swimming in it) to the Clinton Hut. Each hut has gas cooking, running cold water and flush toilets... and thats it. Everything else you take in with you and take back out again - no rubbish tins for the hardy souls who took in a bottle of champers for their honeymoon and then I am sure cursed it for the next three days... As far as the walking itself is concerned you do it as individuals, it is up to you when you go or arrive anywhere or who you walk with, so long as you get to the next hut each night. The first chance to see just how heavy the backpack was - and as I had added my tripod, two cameras plus SLR lens and heaps of film it was looking ominous for my suspect back.

Clinton RIver The Clinton Hut was new, with two bunkrooms holding 20 each, a kitchen/eating building and toilets. Communal bunkroom sleeping takes some getting used to, particularly if you are next to a snorer (your secret is safe with me Connie) or a rustler (every time someone goes into their backpack the big waterproof liner everyone has makes a hell of a noise). Nonetheless most people retire fairly early due mainly to exhaustion (only lighting is candles or a lamp the hut wardens put up in the kitchen for a couple of hours). Each hut has a warden responsible for his section of the track and the facilities - hats off to these guys as they get paid pittance and keeping the track and drainage clear is hard work (there are 42 avalanche areas on the track!). They also tell you what to look out for the next day as far as weather, suggested side-trips, wildlife, highlights, etc.

Dinner the first night was the worst of the trip - I'm afraid the rice risotto cooked to the consistency of glue with a burnt aftertaste was less than desirable - some of the sweets got devoured early to make up for that effort... Looking skywards outside however easily made us forget about it - I had never seen so many stars before in my life!

 
  April 14th
Milford Track Day 2

Milford Track Milford Track The first real test of the backpack and the muscles. Today's walk is 18km, which is suggested to take 5-7 hours including lunch etc. We set off early at 8am after a very basic non-cooked breakfast. Not a difficult days walking, only the last hour or so starts to incline, the rest is fairly flat. Other than the odd passing shower the weather was fine while we walked, but packed up after we reached the Mintaro Hut (bad news for those who left late or took their time!).

Lunches we decided would be cheese slices on crackers, with some salami for variety which had proven to be a hit so far on the trip. We also had tons of snack bars, nuts & raisins and other biscuits so no shortage of snack food which was good. I took a water filter (as did many) and refilled bottles each morning from the hut kitchen.

Connie On Swing Bridge Highlights of today included the river again, seeing a very rare Blue duck, wekas, tomtits, numerous other wildlife that I wouldn't have the foggiest what they were! Swing bridges were also on the track (a hit with Connie who delighted in running and jumping across them to the dismay of anyone currently on the bridge). We got our first glimpse of the McKinnon pass which was the next day's hike to get over and were surrounded by snowy mountains. It was deathly quiet, and as you cannot see the track (other than what is right in front or behind you) you get a marvelous feeling of isolation. One amusing obstacle was a hut floor that a helicopter pilot had ditched the previous day which literally fell on the track - quite happy to not be underneath it when that happened.

Hut Floor If you arrive at Mintaro Hut early enough (as we and a couple of others did) then they recommend (weather permitting) that you drop your pack off and go ahead up the pass to the top as it is more likely to be clear in the afternoons (another 3 hours walk return). The weather looked dodgy so we declined, as well as not wanting to overdo things. A small group gave it a go but gave up and came back soaking wet and tired as the weather packed up.

Mintaro Hut was being pulled down and rebuilt after we finished the track, so needless to say it was of the old "all-in-one" style which actually made it the warmest to stay in as the kitchen was next to our bunk rooms. Those of us who got there early got the best bunks/rooms - those who arrived late had to stay in the stanky sweaty smelling upstairs area on mattresses on the floor - pretty gross.

In terms of overall warmth on the track, with the right gear it was pretty good (considering the time of year). I wore shorts the first two days, with just a polypropylene top. The only time it got really cold was if you stopped, in which case you just threw your fleece top on. It did get cold in the afternoons/evenings in the huts, and Connie coming from Texas certainly felt it more than I did. My sleeping bag was actually too warm for me to sleep in (it is not even a serious cold weather one).

Nice view, shame about the model... Clothing is another issue - obviously you want to carry as little as possible, and only of the right stuff (ie polyprop, fleece or wool, no cotton). We took two sets each, one to walk in and the other to change into at each hut. Keep in mind there are no showers, so a brisk splash of icy cold water from a basin with some soap is as close as you will get for four days...

In desperation for a more nutritious meal we cracked open the BackCountry dehydrated sweet & sour lamb that night - and it was sensational! Just add boiling water to the bag, leave for 10 mins and serve, my sort of cooking. Thankfully the snoring disappeared that night as it had been a tiring day for those of us not used to such strenuous efforts...

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  Last Updated June 22nd, 2002
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