Making the Most of a Disaster (Part Three) – Hollyford Valley

“On a Mish” #393 Making the Most of a Disaster (Part Three). Hollyford Valley. Fiordland National Park. 27.2.2024. The mental benefits of a night out in the wild can be huge, just like the mountains that surround you. If you go into a place as special as Fiordland National Park, then the power of the outdoors doubles. My near four-year recovery has finally taken me back to the place I called home before my accident, and I couldn’t be happier. The reason I brought a house in Te Anau was so I could be close to Fiordland, and now that I am here, I had better get out there!

While guiding people around Fiordland National Park I have pointed out the many scars that can be seen and I talk about how major slips are a norm in this very dramatic landscape. Due to the hardness of the rock and lack of soil, the foliage grows within the shallow base of moss and the trees interlink their roots. Every now and then the weight of the forest and ferns on the moss, usually combined with heavy rain or strong winds, comes crashing down. Disastrous yes, but also an event that can be used to your advantage.

A lot of regeneration had happened since 2012. It was weird to think that at the time I was the lodge manager at Lake MacKenize Lodge, and I remember how wild the weather was that night. The slip these days is very peaceful and was my homebase for a night in the Hollyford Valley. Thankfully the weather was the opposite of the night the slip occurred. After setting up my tent I was going to make the most of the epic weather.

From my camp it was a small hike back to my car and after getting there I drove down to the remains of Gunns Camp. It is so sad to see the cabins empty or lying as a pile of rubble. I needed to continue to avoid getting depressed. My plan was to hike the Humboldt Falls Track, which starts at the same place as the Hollyford Track. I remember being here back in 2016 and it was raining like it was going out of business. This time it was thundering down with sunshine and sandflies.

After visiting the falls, I made my way back to my campsite and watched the evening light slowly disappear. My hip and back pain usually means I’m in my tent before sunset, but with winter slowly approaching the days are getting shorter and I got to see the light fade away. Early-ish the next day I was up before the sun and the low cloud in the valley told me it was time to head back home. I enjoyed a coffee at camp as the valley appeared out of the darkness, and with the light came the sandflies. Sandflies are right up there with the best way to get you moving!

After gathering my gear, I headed down to my car and had to thank the slip for the easy access to an excellent camp. On the drive home I was on a very busy Milford Road, which was good to see after the place went quiet during covid. After the borders were reopened the road returned to its normal busy self. The only thing that stops the flow of tourism into Milford are the disastrous slips that cover the road every now and then. While a rock avalanche sounds terrible, I had made the most of one of those disaster and it was awesome!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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