Fiordland National Park in the south-west region of the South Island in New Zealand is an area more than half the size of Israel, but is home to only a few dozens of people and has just a few roads. With hard granite mountains, carved by glaciers, the whole park is a monument of opposing natural powers: The mountains climb almost perpendicularly from the fiords, and the huge amounts of rain (some areas average 9000mm – 9 meters! – of rainfall annually) create hundreds of waterfalls and grows dense rain forests even on these bare perpendicular rocks.
Milford Track is hailed as “the finest walk in the world”, and since we have done ALL the other tracks in the world, we can attest to that. Impressively, soon after Quintin Mackinnon had discovered the track (connecting Te Anau to Milford sound) in 1888, he started taking tourists along the track (back then it was 10 days return trip), and it immediately became a popular tourist destination. A road from Te Anau to Milford sound was only completed about 70 years later, and allowed tourists to walk one way and return by car.
The track itself is a 54km (33.5 miles), 4-day walk that traces one glacial valley to its source, climbs a steep pass, and goes down the other side of the pass following another glacier to the sea, where it becomes Milford sound (it is called a sound, but is actually a fiord). These U-shaped valleys, carved by slowly moving glaciers, are amazingly steep.
We had a great time walking Milford. You constantly hear about it when traveling in New Zealand (“have you done the Milford?” “Are you going to do the Milford?” etc) and we were glad to discover the hype was, indeed, justified.
The first two days of the track were grey, misty and a bit rainy. Fortunately, it’s the third day that’s the most important…
Lots of waterfalls coming down the fiords.
Looking up at the mountains, it’s a direct transformation of clouds to waterfalls.
Going on a “Nature Walk” around the hut we stayed at on the first night with DOC Ranger Pete. Typical quotes: “This area gets 8 meters of rain every year, hopefully you will not exeperience all of it in the next five minutes”; “This tree is really awesome, unfortunately this is a nature reserve so you can’t just take it home”
Typical dinner at the hut: delicious pasta with vegetables and Kindle. Meals had to be carefully planned on tracks, as we carry everything for four days on our backs, as well as carry the trash with us to the end of the track.
On the third day the bad weather vanished as we climbed up to Mackinnon Pass . This is the stone memorial for Mackinnon (who himself disappeared from his boat near the start of the track just a few years after discovering the pass) at top of the pass, at the height of 1154m.
Panoramic view of the mountains and fiords surrounding the pass.
The pass is a very exposed area with lots of wind, so even though it was a warm, sunny day, at this particular point we were pretty cold.
“The loo with the view” – the pass’s toilet.
The view from the loo.
A long, steep U-shaped glacial valley, viewed from Mackinnon pass.
Passing the pass…
… A black ninja makes an appearance!
Woohoo! It’s a happy day.
Going down the other side of the pass, the ninja strikes again.
So nice to go down constantly sorrounded by unobstructed views.
Passing a pool of clear blue water.
Following the track, we spent another night at Milford Sound and took a short cruise the next day.
The perfect weather continued.
Clouds just above the waterfall and below the mountains.
Milford Sound is home to a bunch of very frequently photographed seals.
The iconic “Mitre Peak” at Milford Sound.