The Milford Track; if you are a backpacker, tramper, or traveler you have or will hear about this trail at some point in your life. In 1908, a London Newspaper published an article on the track with the headline reading “The Finest Walk in the World.” Over one hundred years later, the title still stands and at some points during the high season, you have to reserve a spot to walk on the track up to a year in advance. The four day trek starts with a boat taxi across Lake Te Anau and traverses through mountain passes, glacial valleys, wetlands and rainforest before dumping out into the majestic Milford Sound. This legendary walk is one of, if not the main reason I have traveled to New Zealand.
I had my hopes incredibly high as I arrived in Fiordland at the end of the winter season. Much to my dismay, I learned that no one has completed the track this winter and it is currently impassable due to high avalanche risk. The lady at the Department of Conservation obviously saw the disappointment in my face, as she tried to suggest a multitude of other things to do instead.
The Milford Sound is something that I have fiercely wanted to see for the last five years. However, I would have preferred to arrive there on foot, watching the view open up amongst the rain forest after a long, arduous four day tramp.
None-the-less, I approached the sound by car, albeit a bit disappointed. The 100 mile journey started in the grasslands as it approached glacial valleys, mirror lakes, and towering mountains. I finally reached the Homer Tunnel, an amazing engineering feat that took more than twenty years to build. The tunnel, only 55 years old, burrows through the base of the mountain and opens up in a giant fiord on the way down to the sound. The view was nothing short of spectacular.
Following a winding road heading to the water, there were towering cliffs to each of my sides filled in with green, lush Jurassic forest. Then, the view opened up. Milford Sound is unbelievably beautiful. Iconic Mitre peak sits in the center of mountains that rise vertically out of the water like they were shot out of a cannon. Realistically, it is one of those sights that are just mind blowing.
That night we ventured down to see the sound under the stars. It was an uncharacteristically clear night (Milford receives 27 feet of rain per year!) Milford at night was heartbreakingly beautiful. The shadows of the monstrous peaks were filled in with the bright twinkling of the heavens, mixed with the soft glow of the milky way. The stars shed so much light that you could see the snow on top of the black shadows of the mountains. The sound of the calm water as it hit the beach beautifually synchronized with the roar of a large waterfall off in the distance. I sat there in complete awe. The sight was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. I reached into my pocket for my camera and as I turned it on, the screen remained black. Some things are just not meant to be photographed.
The next morning I explored the sound via sea kayak. The clouds returned that morning and brought rain. The clouds and mist dipped in and out of the mountains and valleys and created a mysterious effect. The rainwater fell and actually beaded on the mysteriously black, yet crisp water of the sound. We seemed dwarfed as we kayaked along the mountains. Everything about it was spectacular. The rocky cliffs shot out of the water vertically and combined with the rain, created a cascade of waterfalls at literally every corner. The sound was quite possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, experiencing it at water level from the kayak made everything more magnificent. The day trip was completely awe-inspiring and one of my favorite things that I have ever done.
Just to thing a few days before that I was utterly disappointed because of a minor setback. So many times in life we experience disappointment and find ourselves stopped dead in our tracks. In actuality, that setback does nothing but open a world of possibility; if we are just willing to look. So door number one is locked, what’s behind door number two? Why don’t you open it and tell me?
As for the Milford Track, is it really “The Finest Walk in the World?” I don’t know, but if is anything similar to the sound, I’ll be on a plane back to New Zealand very, very soon.