Well Worth the Wait (Part Two) – My First Adventure on the Milford Track

“On a Mish” #218 Well Worth the Wait (Part Two) – My First Adventure on the Milford Track. Fiordland National Park. 2.12.2010. Not many people will admit to enjoying waiting for something. Especially if you are aware of what you are missing out on. This stunning country has many famous views, but (arguably) the view looking down the most famous fiord in Aotearoa is one of our best and very well known around the planet. I had seen the view on numerous forms of tourist adverts, and heard many people talking about it, but had still not seen the place with my own two eyes. Finally after a few years of dreaming, I was going to have my turn on the track and I was about to find that it was ‘Well Worth the Wait’…

An early-ish start was needed because the time had finally arrived to hike the Milford Track. By this time I was well aware of the epic effort that Quintin McKinnon and Ernest Mitchell made when cutting a route through the near impenetrable jungle up the grounded out trench of the magnificent Clinton Valley (one of my most favourite places).

The deep valleys at the northern end of Lake Te Anau have very few areas that are easy to walk through, and each valley ends with a formidable solid granite barrier, barring any easy progress forward. Somehow the nuggety little man from Scotland found the correct valley, which leads to the alpine pass that now bears his name. An achievement that even these days would be hard to relive.

Mist covering the mountain tops in the Clinton Valley

From the hustle and bustle of Queenstown the team travelled to the small lakeside town of Te Anau, which I call home these days, and then from there a final drive took the small group of adventurers to the wharf at Te Anau Downs.

Due to the 2008 global financial crisis, numbers of visitors to New Zealand were down, and this affected the sizes of each group of guided walkers. Because of this our group was around a ¼ of the size of a normal trip. My fellow guides on the trip were a bubbly ball of British excitement, Alex, and a very experienced Japanese guide named Masako, who seemed to be a Milford Track VIP.

The sun was shining brightly, and there was barely a cloud in the sky as we travelled by boat to the start of the track at Glade Wharf. The happy band of hikers wandered the short stretch of track to Glade House, but there was no time to settle in as we then went on a nature walk through the forest that surrounds the idyllic lodge. The warm-up hike up to the Glade Burn was in the warm sun of a pleasant Fiordland afternoon, so warm it kept the sandflies hiding in the shade of the forest.

After getting back to Glade House I was shown around, and had some of the lodge/track operations explained to me. That night after dinner the group really got to know each other with the traditional Glade House introduction ceremony, and it was here that I revealed that I had never hiked the Milford Track before.

Excited about the journey up the Clinton Valley the next day, I went to sleep in the new environment. Early-ish the next morning the group woke to low cloud hiding the peaks we had seen the day before. After crossing the Clinton River via the excellent swing bridge near Glade House I was finally following the footsteps of the nuggety man from Scotland, towards the pass that now bears his name…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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