The crown jewel in my New Zealand plans was to knock off one of my Life List items, a famous 53km hike called the Milford Track.
The three-day hike is exalted with superlatives by almost everyone. Rudyard Kipling most famously called it, “The finest walk in the world.” I’m not sure how he could be so sure of that, but it must have impressed him enough that he’d make such a bold and unprovable statement.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation enforces a strict limit on the number of people allowed on the track. Only 40 people per day may begin the track. Understandably, a lot of people want to do it, so aspiring trekkers must book months in advance to be able to go. I booked last July, and the earliest time I could get was the end of January this year.
There are three backcountry huts along the track where the trampers sleep. All walkers must pack all their own food and carry all their own equipment. They must be prepared for the copious amounts of rain Fiordland experiences. Hikers are warned that they may have to ford waist-deep streams and get soaked to the bone. There are over fifty avalanche runs that cross the track, sheer cliffs, jagged rocks, and mountain parrots that will try to steal your boots at night.
Both ends of the track are only accessible by boat. At about noon on January 29, forty of us climbed off the boat and started our march.
I’ll just say I will never forget the three days that followed. The story will be in the photos and their captions.