Yes the Milford Track! If you’re new to my blog, you may find this complete 180 from fashion slightly disconcerting, but it’s true, I love tramping just as much, if not more, than I love fashion.
This was actually my second time walking New Zealand’s “finest walk”. The first time was in February of 2010. But for some reason I didn’t actually blog about it! Some of our friends were keen to do it, and of course D hadn’t done it before, so I went along as well. This most recent walk was from Mar 31-Apr 3 of this year. 😀 Yes, Easter tramping is becoming a bit of a tradition for D and I!
Considering the amount of tramping D and I have done in the last year – and much of it backcountry and reasonably challenging, we were quite excited for an “easy” tramp. Great Walks in NZ are of a much higher track standard than other tracks, and gas is provided during the season. The huts are booked, so you know you have a bunk and a mattress, so no need to bring your own! In other words, we didn’t need to carry our tent, cooker, gas or mattresses – which altogether is probably 4-4.5 kg. This meant we could carry extra weight – as food. Elaborate elaborate food. I started planning our menu back in January when we did the Travers-Sabine.
All up – we had fantastic weather (only rain at night). We did have fantastic food – Night 1: steak (marinated and then frozen) with mushrooms and onions, instant cheesy mashed potatoes with dehydrated veggies, sponge cake with blueberry sauce and whipped cream. Day 2 breakfast: muffin breaks with bacon, eggs and cheese. Lunch was the usual salami, crackers, cheese, apple and carrot sticks. We also had some caramelized onion dip (I made the mistake of buying the dip and not the hummus, however. Hummus would keep better on the track). Dinner was pasta with tomato sauce, fresh mushrooms, courgette, onion, Italian spices and chorizo. Dessert was instant chocolate pudding, instant banoffee pie pudding with smashed cookies (think imitation oreos), chopped walnuts and whipped cream. Day 3 breakfast was instant pancakes (best pancakes ever!), lunch was as above, dinner was fajitas – so canned chicken, fajita seasoning, fresh capsicums and onion with cheese and tortillas and a side of Mexican rice. Dessert was chocolate fondu – an entire block of Whittaker’s, melted using the double boiler technique, with pretzels, oranges and canned pineapple chunks to dip in it. Breakfast day 3 – D finished off our eggs, bacon and muffin breaks, I had cereal with milk (made from milk powder).
Ok yes that was a lot of food detail – but I spent ages working out that menu, planning and organizing!
I think it’s safe to say we inspired a bit of serious food envy on the trail. But that is to be expected – many of the walkers (the majority, in fact) on great walks are usually tourists, or kiwis who maybe aren’t very experienced trampers. D and I have had quite a lot of experience the last year. It was fun to be the ones who were being asked about advice for food and gear, etc. for a change! Usually on tramps, particularly if we go with the tramping club, we are the newbies.
Not much has changed in 3 years on the Milford. It was pretty much the same as I remembered it – not as easy as I expected. Ok, day 1 is a breeze, but day 2 was quite long for us. It only took 5 hours to get to the hut, but we decided to go up to McKinnon Saddle and have a look since the weather was fine (and there was no guarantee it would be fine on day 3 when we actually went over the saddle). So a 5 hour day became an 8 hour day and I will admit I was absolutely stuffed at the end! Day 3 going over the saddle was great since the shelter up the top has been replaced (and includes gas so you can stop and make a hot drink!). Going down was again, the same as I remember. Long long long. Much of the track “maintenance” is in the form of simply putting concrete on the track. I suspect it is to prevent erosion (remember, they receive between 7-9 m of rain annually in this part of the world!). However, it is very hard on the poor feet. And of course, our big disappointment – Sutherland Falls track was completely closed. A huge landslide (1000 m high – literally the entire mountain sheered off) back in Feb blocked off the track. They are rebuilding it completely and it won’t re-open until next season. This was gutting as that is pretty much the highlight of the entire track. NZ’s highest falls and you can walk right up to it (even behind it which I didn’t know the first time I did the track!) And day 4 – a bit of rain, lots of waterfalls, and a mostly flat track out to Sandfly point.
All in all, the Milford is a great track. If Waterfalls are your thing, I would definitely recommend. But doing the Milford after doing all the other tracks I’ve done in the past year has made me realize I am a complete tramping snob. A great walk isn’t really tramping. It really is just walking. The milford is so well maintained that I barely even got my boots wet (although, you can wade through knee deep or waist deep water on some parts of the track if there has been heavy rain). The track was certainly rougher than say, the Kepler (which is so flat you could nearly take a wheelchair on it – apart from the several hundred stairs going down to Iris Burn). And if you hadn’t done much tramping or weren’t that fit, the 3rd day, going over the saddle and dealing with a rocky track would be challenging. But it wasn’t for us. the views from the saddle were nice – but I am coming to realize that I prefer more time in the Alpine (again, here the Kepler is superior in that you spend most of day 2 taking in fantastic alpine views). I blame the last track, the routeburn/rockburn/lake nerine ultra-demanding off track trip D and I did back in Feb. Now, that was tramping. Of course, we were so exhausted we could barely appreciate our scenery. But looking back now, I realize it was pretty amazing.
Yes I definitely recommend the Milford to anyone. It is a fine walk. But it’s also very expensive (I spent about $500 NZD all up including petrol and food – and we drove to and from straight from Dunedin so there wasn’t any additional accommodation costs!). You can probably enjoy just as amazing scenery on many of NZ’s other less popular tramping tracks. Great walks seem to really be aimed at foreign tourists (in my humble opinion). But they will be a lot more challenging. Just keep your pack weight down. Tramping enjoyment is directly proportional to pack weight, I am certain!