In the morning it was a misty start, with a slight drizzle hanging around since the early hours. We boiled up our porridge, packed and set off at around 8.15am. Within a few hours of walking through the dripping forest the weather was clearing.
Glimpses of the Clinton River, which runs beside the track, showed water sometimes limpid, green and silent, sometimes white and busily loud over the rocks. Stop wherever you can to look for Whio (the endangered Blue Duck that is making a welcome comeback here).
We had lunch at the Prairie Shelter under blue skies and a blazing sun. We had seen our first waterfalls – high on the cliffs, some like white lines drawn on the rockface, some like the finest bridal veils. Cheeky Weka – the native bush hen – prowled around looking for crumbs from hikers’ lunches.
The tiny lakes reflected stunning views up and down the valley. I could hear the harsh calls of the Kaka parrot away in the bush.
The second half of the day the trail moved away from the river and finally starts to climb, gently through the forest of southern beech trees and ancient podocarps into the sub-alpine forest. I would be sad to say farewell to the Clinton River.
Mintaro Hut is perched under Mt Balloon and is named for Fred Mintaro, McKinnon’s photographer. It was a pleasure to take off my boots and sit on the deck, warmed by the sun and watching the fine cloud roll and depart over the craggy summit. Tall beech trees edge the skyline.
A weka was rummaging around and under the porch and down at Lake Mintaro there were a number of pairs of Whio. I was so thrilled to see this rare duck for the first time in my life.
After the short hut briefing we went for a walk down the track in the dark to see glow worms. We were also looking out for Kiwi. Apparently this unusual bird is quite smelly as it secretes a strong scent from a gland. Sadly, although we heard them, I neither smelt nor saw one.
If you are interested in hiking the Milford Track 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.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you walked the Milford Track? Share your experiences!