Days 135-139 Milford track and Queenstown
Day 1 Milford track
Glade wharf to Glade house
The bus from Queenstown to Te Anau took most of the day. As usual with big group tours everything takes time. From the pre departure briefing, bus loading, unloading, comfort and lunch stops etc. With mask wearing and covid concerns it was hard to mix and mingle freely. There are approximately 40 in our group.
After the bus trip there was the hour or so boat ride to the tip of Lake Te Anau. The freedom walkers (staying at Doc huts) also shared the boat with us. It had been raining most of the day but as we got towards the end of the lake the cloud started to lift a little and the rain stopped.
Just in time for our short walk to the lodge.
The short 1.6km walk to the hut followed by an hour nature walk with the guides was the perfect rest day for us.
Then time for pre dinner drinks and socialising followed by dinner. As our group of 40 plus 5 guides is now considered to be a bubble, masks are off and it’s a bit easier to meet everyone. We’ve got what seems to be a really fun group so we’re happy with that.
Day 2 Milford track
Glade house to pompolona lodge
We woke to clearer skys which was a nice surprise from the week full of rain that had been forecast when we left Queenstown.
We set off as a big group but the swing bridge shortly after the lodge split us into groups of 10 and we thinned out even more after that.
There were a few little side trips and points of interest that we stopped at all of. It all felt very leisurely and was a nice groomed track as expected.
Time went really quick chatting to the guides and others along the way. Before we knew it we were at the lunch hut with hot drinks ready for us. So flash.
One of the side trips after lunch happened to be a good swimming spot and quite a few of us went in despite it not being overly tropical.
The scenery so far has been about the lushness of the forests dripping with moss.
And the imposing vertical mountains either side of us that has water cascading down in thin ribbons. It is awe inspiring.
We were at the lodge before three where we had delicious scones with jam and cream for afternoon tea. This was a beautiful modern lodge so we happily settled in for the duration from afternoon tea, to pre dinner drinks, to dinner. We got to meet and chat to a few more couples than the previous day.
Day 3 Milford track
Pompolona lodge to Quintin lodge
We were away early this morning as it was to be the hardest day of the trip with going over McKinnon pass. We walked as a group to start with which felt a bit like going on a school trip.
The climb itself was not as bad as we were expecting. It was relatively short - perhaps an hour or two of climbing, and with the switchbacks the gradient was very comfortable.
We were at the top before we knew it and welcomed with a nice warm milo by our guide Erin who also was on photo taking duties.
We had lunch in the hut at the top of the pass (more milo and also miso soup on offer - yum) before heading down the other side. There were a lot of waterfalls going down. All of which were spectacular
We got to the hut in good time so had time for the 1.5 hour side trip to Sutherland falls.
The force of the water hitting the rock at the bottom was incredible. And the wind generated from the falls was massive.
A few of the group went for a quick dip in the pool but they didn’t make it look that inviting and the force of the wind put me off.
Back at the lodge, another delicious dinner, and socialising fun. We did make use of the laundry facilities for a bit of hand washing, and the old fashioned wringers for removing excess water. The massive drying rooms were very effective and our clothes were all dry before bedtime. It was almost a shame we didn’t have wet weather or river crossings to get full benefit of being able to dry our gear.
Day 4 Milford track
Quintin lodge to Mitre Peak lodge
We woke to another great looking day with no rain in sight. Early on along the path we had a view over to Sutherland falls in the distance with the sun lighting up some of the peaks.
We followed the Arthur river along the valley and had a few nice views of it.
We also had a little side trip to Mackay’s falls and Bell rock.
We lunched at the Giants gate falls, where a few had a swim and entertained us all.
I couldn’t believe they even had non slip netting on tree roots on this track!
And we appreciate the bridges over slip zones.
It’s interesting that doc helicopter out most of the bridges at the end of the season to prevent damage from winter slips and storms then return them for start of new season.
Sandfly point was the end of our walk.
Very appropriately named so we were whisked into yet another guided group specific hut for refreshments while we waited for the boat to take us over to Milford. We had a dolphin in the wake of our boat that was cool to watch.
Our final lodge for the trip - Mitre peak lodge, was the old NZ THC hotel so would have been very flash in its time. It had lots of interesting architectural features and even a greenstone fireplace. The view from our room was stunning - directly over to Mitre Peak.
Our final dinner was fun and emotional with speeches from Shaun, one of our guides who owned up to actually being the company operations manager and Iain and Michaela two of the guests. It was all very moving. The guides had all kept saying we were the best group they’d had this season, and Shaun even said of the 250 groups he’d guided previously we were in the top 5. From our point of view we just loved meeting and chatting with everyone there and had a great time.
Day 5 Milford track
Mitre Peak lodge to Queenstown
After breakfast I got a few more shots of Mitre peak before we headed over to the cruise terminal for our cruise around the sounds. It was a 10 minute walk but a bus was provided for those that after walking 54km couldn’t fit in another 700m!
The cruise was pretty uneventful and we spent most of it chatting to others. Having done it just last year, as well as previously there wasn’t a lot new to see. I was out on deck going under the waterfall but was busy taking everyone else’s photos didn’t get one of me until we were well out of it. Gerard was tucked up nice and dry with his coffee inside.
It was sad saying goodbye to everyone after getting off the bus in Queenstown. But then we were excited to see Sophia who’d flown down from Wellington that afternoon to spend the weekend with us.
Day 140 ~ Walked: 0 km ~ Start: Queenstown ~ End: Queenstown (km 2,696)
A great day hanging out with Sophia, starting with an early morning walk hunting for sunrises. Followed by breakfast, shopping then to Gibbston Valley winery for lunch.
We’d arranged to meet up with Carla and Jeff - Queenstown locals who we met on Milford track for a drink later. Carla very generously also drove us to and from the winery. We had pre dinner drinks on their deck before walking down to their local for drinks and dinner. It was a great night. Thanks Carla and Jeff.