Saturday, February 25, 2006

Milford Track New Zealand - 33.5 Miles of Hiking Heaven

So far in New Zealand we've darted across the south island in an alpine train, hiked a glacier, jumped out of a plane at 12K feet and hiked a mountain atop of Queenstown. They say that New Zealand is the "thrill captial of the world" I know why.

Our last adventure in the south island (before spending a few days in Auckland) was a 3 day hike along the Milford Track, a famous hike. When we originally planned this part of the trip over six months ago, all 24 daily slots allotted for people to hike the track had been taken. That includes the entire month of January and February. Fortunately for us there was a company that caters to those wanting to do the Milford Track (and has the gov't monopoly) and has 50 daily slots. At first, I thought the expense was not worth it and then we made the trip. Boy was I wrong.

That's right, we did the 33 1/2 mile hike 3 days while carrying all of our stuff on our backs and dealing with a major downpour on the last day. The first two days were great! The first day was a long 11 mile hike along a creek in a valley surrounded by steep mountain peaks. There was plenty of sunshine and little clouds as we made our way up and over the mountain pass...crazy views as we journeyed through the switchbacks. On the way back down over the pass, we stopped to check out the 5th highest waterfall in the world...of which I had the pleasure to take a shower in.

They say it always rains at least one day on the track, and boy did it. The most impressive part of the rain was the sheer number of waterfalls that begin to show up everywhere. As we hiked through the rain soaked valley, it was as if someone turned on a spigot and let the waterfalls flow. Truly an amazing experience.

As we completed the track, we ultimately found ourselves at the Milford Sound. The mountain peaks all around the sound are a mile high and the blue waters are a mile deep...the views are hard to articulte, but when you look out and see a cruise ship that looks like a toy boat in a pool, it puts things into perspective. If you look closely at the picture below, you will notice a very large cruise ship at the base of this peak. Again, the Milford Track did not disappoint....a definate highlight on our trip so far!

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