Dark grey rain clouds engulfed the rugged peaks above me, as the cool calm waters of Lake Te Anau passed me by. I was on a boat heading to the start of the Milford Track in the South Island of New Zealand, known as one of the most beautiful treks in the world.
I leaned on a rail on the back of the boat, enjoying the scenery, and thought back to my childhood and of all the times that my father had talked about wanting to one day walk the Milford Track. Today, we would make that dream come true, and we would tackle this famous four day hike together as father and son.
A slight drizzle fell from the sky as we reached the pier and disembarked on the start of our journey. With full packs on our backs we began the short 6km walk to our first hut, following the Clinton River up the valley. Almost instantly we were struck by the mystical feel of the ancient beech forest, and the dampness of one of the wettest areas of New Zealand.
Only forty people are allowed to start the walk each day and it can only be walked in one direction, so the track was never over crowded, and made for a peaceful walk. When we reached Clinton Hut, we were surprised by the quality of our accommodation. Each hut would be different, but provided dorm style sleeping areas with bunk beds, outside toilets and a large kitchen/dining area.
The rain had certainly set in for the day, but we didn’t let that dampen our excitement, knowing that we were finally on this incredible trek.
The following day started with more wet weather, but soon cleared as we continued to follow the Clinton River up the valley. The track stayed fairly flat for now as we slowly made our way towards the head of the valley, and it seemed that with every step I took, the more beautiful the scenery became.
The green forest filled valley of the Clinton River gave way to tall rugged snow capped peaks above, and waterfalls cascaded back down into the valley. With every step, the scenery seemed to become more remote, rugged and mystical. We could now see why the Milford Track was known as one of the most beautiful treks in the world.
The pleasant weather stayed with us for the rest of the day, and after a long day’s hike we eventually made it to the next hut for the night, which is situated right at the head of the valley.
The next day was going to be the most challenging, and we made an early start to tackle the high alpine pass that will take us out of the Clinton Valley and into the Arthur Valley on the other side.
The rushing white water of the Clinton River turned into more of a stream as we reached the head of the valley and began our climb up Mackinnon Pass. On this kind of trek, an alpine pass is always going to be the most unpredictable when it comes to weather, and as we climbed out of the tree line the bad weather soon set in.
Wind and rain hammered us as we climbed out of the valley, and when we finally reached the high alpine pass, it was hard to see more than a few metres ahead of us through the fog and drizzle.
We passed the highest point of the trek, and already feeling tired, cold and wet, we stopped for a rest at the hut on the pass, where we treated our selves to a well deserved warm cup of soup.
The weather didn’t go away, but as we made our way down the other side of the pass at least the wind and fog subsided enough to give us a bit of a rest and enjoy some of the amazing scenery.
Photography was basically impossible in the torrential rain, but it seemed that every few metres there was another spectacular waterfall pouring down the mountain side.
When we made our way to the bottom of the pass and the start of the glacier formed Arthur Valley, we decided to take a detour to visit Sutherland Falls. At 580 metres, it is the second highest waterfall in New Zealand, and in the torrential rain that we were experiencing, it was quite spectacular.
By the time we reached our final hut of the trek, we were wet, freezing and exhausted after a long day’s hike. But at the same time we had an incredible feeling of accomplishment, knowing that we had completed the hardest day of the trek.
On our fourth and final day the rain continued, and we were looking forward to finishing the final leg of the Milford Track. Similar to the opening days of the trek, the track made it’s way through beautiful beech forest, following the Arthur River, this time down stream and heading towards the famous Milford Sound.
Although the rain kept up for the rest of the day and the sand flies were relentless, we were positive and full of energy. We were the first to make it to the hut at the end of the track, and we couldn’t keep the smiles off of our faces, knowing that we had completed this amazing trek.
My Dad had completed one of his dreams, and I was so happy to have been able to achieve it with him.
After the boat took us across the fiord to the village, we celebrated our successful completion of the track with a relaxing cruise along the famous and beautiful Milford Sound. This truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world.