I did it! I hiked the Milford Track, rated by many as the finest hike in the world. After all my concerns about hiking in New Zealand, particularly that I would struggle with carrying a pack it was just fine. I felt strong and coped well with the physical challenges (happy face).
And it was magnificent, I loved every minute of it, even when it was chucking it down with rain. Te Wahipounamu, this south-western corner of New Zealand, has been recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is a magical, marvellous place. The Milford Track is very achievable for people from many walks of life (excuse the pun) as long as they are prepared. Here are my top tips for hiking the Milford Track:
Take a light backpack
I am very glad I resolved to carry as little as possible. Sticking to a lightweight pack really enhanced my enjoyment of the walk. I took minimal spare clothing. However, I was lucky with the weather. If there had been heavy rain earlier in the walk and my boots had got wet crossing streams it would have detracted from my enjoyment. But rain on the last day? Who cares!
Food counts for a lot of weight in a pack and I went very lightweight with food supplies for the Milford Track. On the first (only 1 hour) day I carried some frozen’ bolognaise’ to have with pasta but the other days I ate dehydrated meals, the ones you can buy from outdoors stores or even the supermarket (slightly cheaper) in Queenstown. They aren’t amazing in terms of taste or texture but I didn’t go hungry. It was good to have extra pasta to throw in with these. Breakfast was porridge sachets and milk powder. Lunch was wraps or crackers with salami and processed cheese slices. I also had some dried soups and teabags – good for rehydrating in the evening. Plus chocolate and snack bars.
However, again I was lucky with the weather. If we had got stuck at any stage for an extra night because of the weather I would only have had about three snack bars spare. So I would advise taking an extra day’s food, although I am sure the hut wardens wouldn’t let you go hungry!
You can take a look at my Milford Track Gear List.
Take good waterproof gear
I bought a brand new goretex waterproof coat not long before I hiked the Milford Track and boy was I glad about that! Two of my companions had old raincoats that might have been good once but when it came to Fiordland rain, well they were soaked through within 10 minutes. When you’re wet you can get quickly get cold, which can lead to hypothermia etc. I also used my waterproof overtrousers – they weren’t goretex ones but quite basic and they did the job. I used a waterproof pack cover and also wrapped clothes etc in plastic bags inside my pack. Everything stayed nice and dry.
Take your time
There is so much to enjoy as you walk the Milford Track I would definitely say don’t rush through it. There is plenty of time to cover the miles each day and there will always be a bed for you at the hut so don’t hurry. Stop by the river and look for Blue Ducks, linger beside lakes, and be quiet and still in the bush to let the birds come close. On the big day walking over Mackinnon Pass take your time. There’s only a couple of hours of uphill and then you can stop at the pass for photos and to boil up a cup of tea in the shelter. The descent is a long one and downhill walking can be tough on your knees so take plenty of breaks.
My expectations were truly exceeded on the Milford Track – it is one of the most worthwhile hikes I have ever done and I understand why they call it the world’s finest hike. Best of all I think anyone can do it with a bit of preparation and the right gear.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you hiked the Milford Track? Share your top tips!