My First Milford Trip – Part 5

“A Mish a Day” #218 (Part 5) My First Milford Trip. Fiordland National Park. 5.12.2010. On one side of the fiord stood the jagged steeple of Mitre Peak(1683m), and on the other side the ice covered giant Mt Pembroke(2015m).

The water on the fiord was getting blasted by the predictable afternoon breeze, and my two far more experienced fellow guides took me down from the bow of the Anita Bay just before the waves began to wash onto the boat’s deck. As we got close to the harbour in Freshwater Basin we got our first view of the tiny settlement of Milford Sound, nestled below the towering granite walls of Barren Peak(1561m). Our boat was dwarfed by the huge tourist boats as we docked in Freshwater Basin. From here a quick bus trip took us to Mitre Peak Lodge for a taste of the outside world. Even though the lodge is located in the heart of Fiordland, there is something about seeing cars that takes you out of the remote tranquility experienced while hiking the Milford Track. With ‘fancy’ clothes on, we enjoyed our last dinner together, and then we migrated to possibly the best view seen from a hotel lounge. Just like on the Routeburn Track, the guests are all given a certificate, and the reality of finishing the hike really started to sink in. After the certificate ceremony our night wasn’t quite over yet, as we took a 1 minute stroll for a drink at the famous Blue Duck Cafe/Bar (RIP). An early-ish start had us enjoying our last breakfast together, and outside the weather was far from what we had been used to. A grey sky signalled a change in the weather, and luckily for us this was happening after our hike. I was given the options of: A stay at the lodge and strip the sheets off the beds, or B head out for a cruise around Piopiotahi/Milford Sound. The cloud was low on the mountains as the boat left the harbour, and made its way towards Sinbad Gully, and the massive cliff faces on the eastern side of Mitre Peak(1683m). Even with cloud barring views of the mountain tops the cruise was incredible. The towering walls of the fiord seemed to have no vertical limits, as we looked up at the huge cliffs sticking out of the fiord and into the clouds high above. After rounding Dale Point we felt the swell of the Tasman Sea, and the massive body of water was being stirred up by the wind of the oncoming storm. After a quick look at the rolling ocean, we returned to the calmer waters of the fiord, and began our return journey back to Deepwater Basin. The local Kekeno/Fur Seal weren’t going to let a little wind spoil their day lazing about out the rocks on the shoreline. Next was the largest waterfall in the fiord, Stirling Falls(151m), and even with the lack of rain, the water was still pumping. We got back to the wharf, and were reunited with Masako and Alex, then together we began the long trip back to Queenstown.

Piopiotahi/Milford Sound

As this was my first time to Piopiotahi/Milford Sound it meant it was also going to be my first journey on the Milford Road. The spectacular scenery doesn’t ease up on the drive home. Starting by following the crystal clear waters of the Cleddau River, the road goes from dense forest to the alpine world of the Darran Mountains at the Homer Tunnel. After a stop at Knobs Flat we left Fiordland National Park, and made our way through the farms of Te Anau Downs Station enroute to Te Anau. The circuit was completed as we drove past the wharf where the adventure had begun 4 days before, and at this point about 90% of the people on the bus were asleep. The “finest walk in the world” was a slogan adopted by the Milford Track in the early 1900, and it’s not far from it. I have always believed that the best time when hiking a track is always the first time. And this will be a first time hiking a track I know I will never forget.

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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