Snowslides & Sandflies (Part Three) – Tutoko Valley Camp

“On a Mish” #76 Snowslides & Sandflies (Part Three). Tutoko Valley. Fiordland National Park. 28.10.2019. The thunderous crash of an avalanche is both exciting and terrifying. Huge areas of semi-frozen ice and snow goes on a violent journey from mountain tops to valley floor, and will make sure everyone knows about it with an almighty roar. To witness a snow slide is incredible, and to wake up to the sound is an experience never forgotten…

Our rest day on our adventure in the Tutoko Valley was both relaxing and awe inspiring. The snow-covered monsters growled and grumbled all day as we explored and chilled. About once or twice an hour we would hear what sounds like a spaceship taking off, and the game would be to scan the mountains trying to spot the rush of snow and ice. We were extra lucky as the snowfall on the first night had really loaded up the snowpack and the avalanche show went on all day long.

The hot day faded into a warm afternoon, and as the temperature eased the sandflies returned. It was an added factor that Fiordland is so visually pleasing, as it meant along with the snowslides and sandflies we were also treated to incredible views. Our little mountain camp got even better as the evening rolled on, with the snow remaining on the peaks turning pink as the sun disappeared.

Early-ish the next day we were up preparing ourselves for departure, and like the first day, clouds obscured the mountain tops and the avalanches kept raining down. As we packed up, the humid air made the sandflies go crazy and there is nothing like a swarm of Te Namu to keep you moving.

We bade farewell to our temporary home, and began our quest back to reality. In classic Fiordland fashion the stunning landscape was so epic it was a struggle to accept that we couldn’t stay forever, however the constant chomp of many sandflies got us on the move.

Last of the Suns Light on Paranui Peak

After about an hour of swamp travel we got to the point where you get your first / last view of mighty Mt Tutoko. The legendary mountain sat in silence as we took the last photos and then said goodbye (for now) to the mountain monarch of Fiordland.

The track didn’t get any easier on the way out, and it kept your focus – or else a stumble could lead to a fall. We knew we were close to the end when we started to hear traffic on the Milford Road. Another very obvious sign we had nearly got back to the car was a group of well dressed girls who looked really out of place on the rough track in the jungles of Fiordland.

Satisfied with our adventure, we chucked our packs into the car, and because we were so close to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound we had to drive the remaining couple of kms to the world famous tourist location. Staring down the fiord at the building cloud of another storm was an excellent way to finish an outstanding adventure. And a reminder of how Fiordland is in charge and it only lets you camp amongst its beauty for a short amount of time. Whether it be the sandflies, snowslides or the weather in general, a visit to Ata Whenua / Fiordland is a memory to hold onto forever!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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