Day 139: Day trip to Milford Sound
After a relaxed morning, we left Te Anau at about 10:30 for Milford Sound. The bus driver talked a lot about, mostly about himself. He did also mention a few interesting things about the area. We stopped at a place called Te Anau Downs for a picture opportunity and then also at a campground to use their toilets.
We continued on to Milford Sound through the Homer tunnel, which is just over a km long and goes under a saddle. The views were already stunning at this point, but I didn’t take any photos through the bus windows. Arriving in Milford Sound, we got onto our boat at about 1:30 and left on our cruise. We stopped at waterfalls, got misted by them, saw Mitre peak and many others, saw some dolphins and seals and overall had a lovely time out on the water.
We also stopped at a Discovery Centre, where we learned about the water in the sound and the marine life it holds. Since the water contains a lot of tanins that run off the mountains, it’s quite dark. It’s also cold given the glacial rivers that feed into it and then calm since the sea swell doesn’t make it up the channel as the mouth is shallow and the sound itself quite deep. This means that sea creatures that usually live in deep water can be found here. We went into an underwater viewing chamber and saw some black coral (white on the outside but black skeleton underneath) and some of the fish that live in the sound.
After getting off the boat, we hit the road back to Te Anau without any stops. Overall, I thought it was one of the best organised tours that I’d ever done, despite it all being very touristy.
Day 140: Te Anau to Aparima hut
We decided to split up to hitch, but again the guy who stopped for Cécile and I also stopped for Caroline and Elsa. So we all got back on trail together. The trail starts off down a gravel road, but we didn’t get going until we’d had second breakfast given that there was a coffee cart randomly located at the junction of the highway and our gravel road. My cinnamon bun was quite lovely and my coffee much better than the one I had in town. We finally set off and the views of the snow capped mountains from the gravel road were lovely. The road wound through some farmland and we quickly arrived at the first hut where the road ends and the track begins. The track today alternates through forest and boggy tussock. The forest sections were quite lovely, especially when the sun was shining and dappled the track.
The tussock was impressive in that it was as tall as us and it was slow going since there are boggy holes hidden beneath it that we would fall into if we weren’t careful.
Given our late start, we got to the hut a bit later than usual, just after 6pm. Once again, it’s only the four of us (and maybe some mice).
Day 141: Aparima hut to Telford Campsite
It was another chilly morning with a lot of condensation on everything outside. The track started off through some open countryside that was quite boggy, making the track resemble more of a stream.
After a few kms, we entered the forest and were mostly in the forest for the rest of the day.
The track undulated upwards and then undulated downwards, with the occasional steep climb or descent and a few must patches. The track wasn’t too difficult, but wasn’t easy enough to be able to look around much while we walked. We got to Lower Wairaki hut in time for lunch and met a couple of Nobos there, who were delayed in their start date, but who seemed optimistic about getting most of the South Island done before any wintery weather. Leaving the hut, we had a nice climb through the forest to Telford tops. It was somewhat emotional to climb out of the forest and to be able to see all the way to the ocean and even to Bluff.
It really made finishing the trail a reality. There were also some nice views of the Takitumu mountains and we could also see Stewart Island. The climb down was through a more open and rocky landscape so it was nice to have the views for the descent. The track goes down to a campsite that’s just a toilet and some grassy spots to pitch tents. Of course the one time we have no shelter, it starts to rain, but thankfully it was only light rain. We didn’t linger outside over our dinners though and all took refuge in our tents quite early.
Day 142: Telford Campsite to Birchwood hut
I had a visitor in the night, a mouse that seems to like running all over my tent mesh under the fly. It didn’t seem to do any damage happily. When we woke up, it was raining lightly so we had to pack up camp in the rain.
The rain became more of a mist and it was quite warm (for these days) so it didn’t take me long to take off my rain gear. The whole day was spent hiking through the largest station (aka farm) in New Zealand, called Mt Linton Station. Most of the track followed 4wd tracks, but there were some sections of hiking track. We had to cross the Wairaki river, which got about top of the thigh deep for me and was hard because you couldn’t at all see what you were stepping on and the streambed was these large rocks. We all made it across safely. There was also a section through these fields of what looked like kale, but they were huge and really soaked us.
We also had to descend a steep hill in them and it was very slippery. I used some of the plants as foot holds to stop myself from slipping. We also had to cross a field that had a bull a few meters from the trail. It didn’t seem too interested in us, also thankfully.
There were also some areas with cows, but they mostly ran away from us. We got to Birchwood, another farm with a cabin that they let us stay in for $20, in time to hang up our tents to dry and relax a bit before dinner. There’s even a hot shower here, which was great to wash off the farm dirt of the day. Three other TAers showed up so we’re 7 in all and luckily the cabin sleeps 9.
Day 143: Birchwood to Otautau
I had decent night’s sleep despite my mattress sort of feeling like a taco (it sort of sagged in from the sides). The track started off along a road for a short distance and then onto a gravel farm track.
We turned off the farm track onto a hiking track that went through farm pasture along the fences. It climbed gradually at first, but the last few 100 meters of climbing were very steep and just went straight up. It was a relief to get to the top and enjoy the view.
The track at the top meandered along forestry roads through pine plantations before entering real forest on a hiking track. The forest was lovely as usual and the climb down wasn’t too steep. At the bottom, we went through an eerie pine forest of seemingly dead trees before coming out at a gravel road.
Our plan was to hitch off trail to go to the town of Otautau, but we still had to walk about 5 km along the dirt road to get to a paved road with some cars. We got a hitch pretty quickly and we’re in town by the end of the afternoon.
Leave a Reply