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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Milford Track: Return from the Rainforest‏

March 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

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The rain never let up all day Saturday on my return from Mintaro Hut on the New Zealand’s Great Walk along the Milford Track. Although my parka protected most of me, by the time I reached the boat my trousers were soaking wet.

Nevertheless, the day could not have been better. I never even slipped once on the whole track. For such a wet place it has surprisingly little mud or slippery rocks.

Overnight, the pain in my right side lessened considerably. No longer a hunchback, I could walk straight up, although carrying a load was still painful.

At 7:45 a.m. I left the cabin that hut ranger Caine kindly shared with me. I took nothing more than my regular clothes, down jacket, parka, and camera case. Carring my pack, Caine caught up with me two hours later as we crossed Marlenes Creek, the boulder-strewn stretch of trail that was the hardest crossing to and from Mintaro Hut.

Just a quarter of an hour later we reached the rain shelter know as the “Bus Stop,” because it sort of looks like one, although the smallest and most nimble bus couldn’t come within miles of it. Not more than five minutes after Caine and I got there, Ross Harraway, the ranger stationed at Clinton Hut, reached us.

Ross and Caine at the "Bus Stop"

Ross and Caine at the "Bus Stop"

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Ross had brought and shared hot tea and “pikelets,” what in this country they call tiny pancakes held together with butter and honey. What a treat!

Ross took over shepherding my safe return to civilization, and Caine went back to Mintaro Hut. Our only stop except for shelter from the rain was at Prairie Lake, so named because it is on the biggest open space along the Milford Track.

Ross at Prairie Lake

Ross at Prairie Lake

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Until I met Ross I thought that everyone I saw would automatically assume that I am an American because I’m so tall at 6′ 2.5″. But Ross is two inches taller than me and is a Kiwi.

On Thursday Ross will be 67 and was strong enough to carry both his own pack and mine. Even more remarkable, Ross and Carol, his partner of eight years, are getting married the next day.

Ross and I made two more stops as he took me down to the boat. First we had a cup of hot milo at the Hirere Falls lunch stop for guided hikers. Then, we stopped at his cabin near Clinton Hut where he served me a tender and delicious venison casserole from a wild deer that he had hunted two days earlier. Deer aren’t native to New Zealand — the only native mammals are two species of bats — and are fair game.

On the boat I could completely relax for the first time in days. After the hour’s ride, I transfered to a tour bus that met the boat, and the bus driver dropped me off right at the campground where I am staying. I had returned from the rainforest.

I have some disappointment that I was not able to finish what I set out to do in hiking the 33.2 miles of the Milford Track.  I hiked 13.5 miles of it, 41 percent of the track. I stayed at two of the three huts and experienced the first two legs of the trip both up and downhill.

But most important was the memorable experience that I had of needing and enjoying the kindness of strangers. Steve and Christine, and then Caine and Ross saved me a huge amount of pain and gave me something much more than most hikers will ever know. I will forever appreciate their help.

Now, after a day back in Te Anau I still experience considerable pain when I bend over, but none otherwise. I am one lucky fellow.


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Posted in: New Zealand

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Laurie D // Apr 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Wow – too bad you couldn’t make the whole track – don’t feel bad though – to this day I really don’t know how on earth I did it!!! It was STRENUOUS!!! You should read my blog about this part of my trip! it would be about DAY 6 through DAY 10