As promised, here begins my day-by-day account of tramping (the New Zealand world for hiking) the world’s finest hike: the Milford Track in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. Day one involves only five kilometres of walking between Glade Wharf and Clinton Hut, which takes approximately one hour.
Day One starts with the 1pm boat service from Te Anau Downs to Glade Wharf and for me, this boat ride was a huge highlight of the Milford Track. Crossing Lake Te Anau, the approaching mountains were decorated with wisps of cloud and the calm waters reflected the rugged country ahead. We passed a memorial cross on a tiny island, marking the place where his sailboat was found without him in 1892. It is quite overwhelming being dropped off on the edge of such a wilderness.
They stay at relatively luxurious huts with full catering and their packs are carried for them. Within five minutes we left behind the guided walkers at their first hut – Glade House. This used to be the first hut for everyone before the Department of Conservation (DOC) built the new huts.
We set off into the forest, which is draped with Sphagnum moss and Old Man’s Beard moss, making for a slightly spooky atmosphere. Fiordland has a very wet climate and in fact rain falls more than 200 days each year, so moss has a great time here.
As does a wide range of fungi!
Make sure you take the 15-minute side track through the wetland area before Clinton Hut. It is a wonderful tapestry of mosses and wetland plants. Once you get to the hut, the DOC ranger usually leads a guided walk and explains how the wetland develops and regenerates ultimately into forest.
Misty cloud was coming in by the time we covered the hour-long walk to Clinton Hut, which is set on the edge of the wetland. The soft mild air was humid and it began to rain lightly as we duped our packs in the bunkhouse. There was a hut briefing later in the evening, where the ranger shares useful information about the whole Milford Track, as well as advising about weather in Fiordland and how to approach the hike.
Our ranger’s name was Ross and he was quite a character, with a series of amusing anecdotes and jokes, usually at the expense of us walkers. He’s an old fellow who has been a ranger here for 10 years (with decades more experience as a DOC employee before that) and a real treasure on the Milford Track with his knowledge and humour.
At the end of Day One on the Milford Track you have really barely started the endeavour but I had already seen so much beauty I felt like I would be happy even if it poured with rain the next three days and I didn’t see another thing. Could the subsequent days possibly exceed this pleasure? Read on to find out!
By Natasha von Geldern
If you are considering hiking the Milford Track in New Zealand take a look at my post on how I prepared for the Milford Track, including my packing list. And my post on tips for enjoying the Milford Track.
Many thanks to Carrentals.co.uk for helping me out with car hire for my New Zealand trip. Carrentals.co.uk is an award-winning price comparison site comparing car hire from over 50 different suppliers. One week’s car hire from Auckland International Airport starts from £17 per day with Carrentals.co.uk.