For those of you who have done your research, you may be familiar with the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand. You may also be familiar with the proposition that the Milford Great Walk is considered “The finest walk in the world.”
A few fun facts you need to know if you want to pursue this:
- It is the finest walk in the world. I proudly say that from experience
- It may also be the hardest walk to book in the world
- It’s centered in the middle of a park renown for being the second rainiest place in the world
- BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY it is the finest walk in the world and you should do it
These are things I wish I’d known before I came here, mostly regarding the booking part of it. Many of these Great Walks are in the southern part of the South Island, and are only in season from November to the end of April (summer in New Zealand). And for Milford, YOU MUST have huts booked to do the track as camping is not allowed in this extremely wet and weather-moody national park. People often book huts up to six months in advance AT LEAST. I recommend two ways of getting around this if you want to do it…
- Keep an eye on bookings online, some fellow IESers were able to do it during April Break when spots opened up after people cancelled their booking.
- Do it off season, but do it one of the first few weekends the season closes or right before it opens due to the extreme weather conditions during the winter.
A few IES kids and I did option two about two days after the season closed. Bookings are not required during off-season as the DOC stops servicing the huts and maintaining the track, but you must still purchase hut tickets ($15/night) from the DOC office. You may also end up sleeping on the hut floor but I promise your sore back in the morning will not be disappointed by the views that will blow your mind the next day.
I felt like I’d been taken out of the real world and placed in the middle of Jurassic Park. Partly because getting to the track required a one-hour bus ride and two-hour boat ride through Fiordland National Park so I was sort of in the middle of nowhere. And partly due to the ancient beauty I found, finely worn by the mountains who were towering the dreamlike valley of a walking path. It was a true honor to spend three whole days in the midst of Milford Sound, also recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Stargazing each night in Milford significantly surpassed the stargazing I did in both Mount Cook and Abel Tasman (and I truly didn’t know how I was going to top those locations). The exquisiteness of the night sky lit up by this cosmic mystery, coupled with the solitude of being in the midst of this fantastic, unreal sound was…. well, indescribable.
Crossing Mackinnon Pass (definitely the track’s major feature) after the first night astounded me even more. For me personally, it redefined natural beauty. I was so caught up in trying to take in everything, I hadn’t realized the absolute freezing temperature atop the pass until entering the shelter that followed and spent a good fifteen minutes trying to bring the feeling back into my hands.
Trying to write about this put a lot of pressure on me. I haven’t done it justice with my words. I still won’t be able to do it justice with the pictures I have to follow. The only thing to do this track justice is to do it yourself.
I have a feeling my friends think I’m exaggerating when I described it as the most surreal setting I’ve found myself in. I’m hoping my writing does a bit of a better job of persuasion than my scrambled attempt to verbally describe the indescribable.
Sutherland Falls (NZ's tallest waterfall)
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<p>A native of Syracuse, NY, (US) Emily is currently pursuing her B.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications with Minors in Art and Honors. A curious explorer and outdoors lover, Emily's spontaneity and passions will one day lead her to all ends of the Earth. Witty author, candid photo snapper, and avid dreamer, Emily plans to pursue a career in the fields of advertising and/or design. </p>