Hiking the Milford Track
Ben, February 15, 2013
On day three, it rained. And rained. At no point during our hike did it stop raining. Lukas told us that he read that in February, Fiordland gets 19 days of rain (and Feb is not even the wet season there). If you want a trip sans rain, Fiordland is not the right part of the world for you. We were lucky to get 3 of our 4 days without rain, but unlucky that our rainy day was also our day at the top. Day 3 started with a 2 hour ascent to the top of Mackinnon Pass, which supposedly has some of the most amazing views on the planet. Unfortunately, when we made it to the top, it was about 35 degrees, raining, and completely shrouded in clouds. I tried looking over the edge, but couldn't see more than about 10 feet in front of my face. Overall the hike was beautiful, but it was a pretty crushing disappointment to come so far and not be able to see the view. The two older Kiwi guys went up to the top the day before. In retrospect, I wish we had dropped our packs at the hut and joined them (though one of them did the 2 hr hike to the top in 40 mins - I doubt we could have kept up).

Fortunately there is an enclosed shelter at the top of the pass where we could warm up and have lunch. After some peanut butter and crackers, we got moving and started the long descent. It kept raining, but warmed up as we moved down the mountain. We spent about four hours going downhill and by the end we were both praying for an uphill minute or two. It was pretty amazing how difficult it was to go downhill, especially with our packs. The one upside of the rain is that the waterfalls were out in force. When there is no rain for a few days, many of them dry up.

Thankfully, day four was dry, but still cloudy. We had 11 miles of mostly flat hiking through the woods. By the end, our calves and feet were pretty sore and we were glad to make it to Sandfly Point, which marked the end of the 33.5 mile Milford Track. We took a boat across Milford Sound, and then another boat cruise around the Sound. I was glad we decided to do the extra cruise. We got some great views and pictures in the Sound, even though it was still overcast. It helped make up a tiny bit for the disappointment at the top, but I'd still love to see the Sound on a clear day.

A bus ride back to Te Anau marked the end of our hike. Back at the Bella Vista hotel, a warm shower never felt so good. Four days without a shower sure makes hot water feel fantastic. We had dinner with Lukas and Maria at a place called Kepler's and all commiserated about how bad our calves and knees hurt.

Overall, the hike was great. We made it through with no major problems and got to see some fantastic scenery. Hopefully one day we can hop a helicopter to the top of Mackinnon Pass to see those views.
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