Hiking the Milford Track - Part 2
Ben, February 15, 2013
On the morning of the 12th we took a bus to Te Anau Downs where we hopped a boat to the beginning of the Milford Track in Fiordland National Park. The boat ride was beautiful with mountains all around us. After that, we had an easy 3.1 mile hike to the first hut, Clinton Hut. Only 40 independent (i.e. unguided) trampers (Kiwi for hikers) are allowed to start the track each day. All 40 stay together at the hut, which was nicer than I expected. During summer, the bathrooms have running water from a nearby spring and flushing toilets. The kitchen hut also has gas cookers so you can make a hot meal. We brought some canned ravioli and soup, which was good but not the lightest fare to be carrying around in our packs.

The weather was beautiful on the first day and the sand flies (similar to mosquitos) were not too bad, so we had our first (of many) sausage and cracker lunch outside. At lunch we met Lukas and Maria from Vienna, Austria. That night we slept in communal huts with around 20 people in bunks. Lots of snoring and some noisy early risers meant that no one got a great night of sleep, so we were up and on the trail by 8am.

The second day was the most beautiful day of the hike for us. The weather was beautiful all day and the Fiordlands have tons of beautiful waterfalls streaming down the mountains. We spent the day hiking with Billy and Desi, who are a bit more seasoned hikers than us, but we managed to keep up. We did a mostly flat 10 miles at a pretty good pace, but lost some steam in the last couple miles as we started to ascend. Hiking 10 miles didn't sound too bad to me, but carrying our packs with 4 days worth of food, clothing, and water definitely made it more difficult. Thankfully, the streams along the track are safe to drink, so we could refill our water at each of the huts along the way. When Pam first suggested that we do the hike, I resisted the idea of buying hiking boots. Thank God the Wyrowski's got us some for Christmas, because I don't think we would have survived in normal shoes. By the end of the first day, our bodies were a bit sore, so the second hut, Mintaro Hut, was a welcome sight.

We didn't bring much to entertain ourselves, so we spent most of our time at the huts talking to the other hikers, which was one of my favorite parts. The differences in culture are always interesting. We met two older Kiwi guys (Ross, 59 and Dave, 65) who were both hiking on their own, and who put on a tour de force on the track, finishing each day in about 2/3 of the time it took us. We met a number of Israeli's and a Polish couple who were hiking almost all of the 8 great walks in NZ. After finishing, Pam and I agreed that one was plenty for us. We also met a young guy, Jong, from South Korea who was traveling on his own. Since the third day of our hike was Valentine's Day, we heard about how everyone celebrates VDay. In Korea, the girls give gifts to the guys and the guys give gifts to the girls on March 14. In Austria, apparently VDay is not a huge deal the way it is in the US. Also, general sentiment amongst the people we met was the our 2 1/2 week trip was "quite short." I guess next trip we will have to do a full month
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