Wow! The time is going by so fast! Do you realize that I have been gone from Brooklyn for more than 6 months now? I’m almost halfway through my trip and it seems like it is rushing by me so fast!
New Zealand was so incredible! The weather was (mostly) great, the people were very nice to me and patient with me when I didn’t know stuff and all of the scenery was so beautiful that I sometimes just had to stand and look around to take it all in. One of the most beautiful places I saw when I was in New Zealand was definitely the Milford Track. Here is a map of where I walked and here is a map of where this is on the South Island.
Long ago, the only way to get to see the amazing place called Milford Sound (which I’ll show you pictures of later) was from the ocean. One European man, Quentin Mackinnon, figured out a way to walk there and he and his friends Donald Sutherland and John Mckay guided people who wanted to see the Sounds on this 4 day hike to see the amazing landscape and then everyone had to hike BACK over the mountain to get back to civilization. Wow! That is a lot of hiking! A road and tunnel built in 1954 made the Sound accessible so that people could drive to the Sounds instead of hiking. I wanted to see what the first European explorers saw, so I chose to do the walking instead.
I started off in a town called Te Anau, which is right on a lake. It was really rainy the day I arrived and I was scared that I wouldn’t be allowed to walk on the trail since sometimes there is flooding with too much rain and walking can be dangerous. Luckily, the rain let up and this is what it looked like the day before I left.
I had to take a boat to the start of the trail and I was so excited to be there! I had a special pack filled with food and special hiking clothes (remember: I was going to be out in the wilderness! No electricity, no phones, no showers, nothing! I was a little scared!). I had to bring things that were lightweight and small since I was carrying everything I needed, including my sleeping bag and a book, on my back! Since I was eating food every day, my pack was getting lighter and lighter but I was also getting more and more tired!
Here I am at the start of the trail! Woo hoo!
The weather was rainy when we started to hike (there were about 40 other people hiking at the same time, none of us knew each other at the beginning) and it was really really windy. SO windy that a tree had blown over right over the trail! We had to be really careful and climb over the tree to get to our first stop.
This tree was really huge! That is my new friend, Elinor, looking for the best place to step.
Soon we got to our first stop. At three points on the trail, there are places to stay for the night. This is useful since there is no way that you can walk the whole thing in one day. The trail is 33 and a half miles long, or 54 kilometers. The places to stop are called “huts” but they are actually really comfy to stay in. There was usually a big room where we all slept in bunk beds and one big room that had sinks and places to boil water for dinner and sit and read by the fire.
The whole first afternoon, it rained and rained and rained! I spent a lot of time in the kitchen hut making myself soup and playing card games with the other people who were hiking. We were all so excited to be on this trip! Finally, the sun came out, just in time for one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
At every hut, there is a person called a “ranger” that lives there and makes sure that everyone arrives safely at each stop and that the trail is safe to walk on. At the Clinton Hut, our ranger was named Ranger Ross and when the rain stopped, he walked all of us out to a big landing pad they had built for helicopters right behind where the huts were and talked to us about all the birds that live around the Milford Track and nowhere else in the world!
Lots of rocks, lots of forest and lots and lots of green! This part of New Zealand was formed by glaciers from long ago so the mountains are really steep and rocky. The water is also VERY COLD! It was melted snow from the winter, so swimming was not a good idea.
One of the things that Ranger Ross told us about is all the work the rangers do to make sure there are baby birds being born. Someone once brought an animal called a stote to New Zealand. Stotes are weasels and it was once believed that if stotes were in New Zealand, they would eat the rabbits that were munching and crunching on all the native plants and that would be a good thing. But, stotes figured out that bird eggs were easier to eat and soon there were a lot fewer baby birds and people got worried that the birds would become extinct. Now, part of the rangers’ jobs are to set traps for the stotes so the bird eggs don’t get eaten. And it is working! We saw a mom and dad duck with FIVE baby ducklings. They were so cute!
Here is a close up of the duckies!
After the forest, the trail opened up and there were HUGE mountains on either side. It made me feel so small! The cool thing about the mountains along the trail is that they look IMPOSSIBLE to climb – they are so steep that you have really strain your neck to see the top if you are standing at the bottom.
We stopped that day for lunch (and by lunch I mean granola bars and dried fruit) in the most beautiful spot and the sun came out at last. Can you imagine a prettier place to rest and eat?
Finally we were walking in the valley where we could see Mckinnon Pass. This is the point that Quentin Mckinnon found was the easiest to climb over and get to Milford Sound. Yes, I said, “climb over”. I had to climb a mountain! Here is graph that shows how high we walked each day.
The third day was all about climbing. It was very steep and it was drizzling a little bit but it was so beautiful! The mountains were so green and some of them were still covered in snow. I got really hot climbing so I zipped the sleeves off of my rain coat and kept going.
I am so tired! I am almost to the top in this picture!
I knew I was getting closer to the top when the trees got smaller and then there were no more trees at all. Here is Mckinnon Pass:
We were at the same level at the clouds and wow, what a view!
This is me at the top! I was so proud of myself for making it!
The way down the mountain was even harder than the climb up! One of the mountain tops had a lot of snow on it, and to keep us safe, the rangers made all the hikers walk down the “emergency track” so that we would be safe if there was an avalanche! Yikes! Because it was a track that wasn’t used a lot, it was very rough; there were trees growing in the path and my knees and ankles were really tired from all the excercise.
But it was still beautiful! The whole way down, there were so many waterfalls!
The biggest waterfall in New Zealand (and the 5th biggest one in the WORLD!) is called Sutherland falls and it was right after a place to rest and get tea. I got to put down my pack and walk to see it.
Can you see all the mist coming off of the falls? It felt like a shower! All of the falling water made a wind that was nice and cool.
The whole time, I was walking with two other ladies named Elinor and Ingrid. Elinor is from Israel and Ingrid is from Holland. They were so nice, we became really good friends! By the time we were getting to the end of the trail on the 4th day, we were really tired. I was so happy to be close to the end.
There were little posts in the ground every mile. This is the maker for 33 miles, we were almost at the end of the trail!
I finally made it to the end! I was ready for a shower and to sleep in a real bed and my muscles were really sore from walking 7 hours a day for four days but wow! I am so proud of myself that I finished it!
Here is a picture of all of the people I got to be friends with while I was hiking. Some were from America, some were from New Zealand. There were also people from Australia, Germany, Israel and Holland.
These are my friends Troy and Devin looking tired once we were sitting on the boat.
The next day I went on a kayak tour of Milford Sound. I got up really early in the morning to get in a boat and see all of the animals in the Sound up close. Being on the water was very quiet and peaceful. I was afraid I would get soaking wet or fall into the water but I didn’t do either! I stayed pretty dry considering I was in a plastic boat.
Our kayaking guide had us put our boats together like a raft so he could tell us interesting facts about the history of the Milford Sound. Did you know that there is salt water AND fresh water in the Sound? That means that all different kind of animals can live there!
It was one of the coolest things I have ever done! I was so tired at the end, it was hard to climb stairs, my legs were so sore! But the neatest part about it was that I did it! I climbed a mountain! I am so proud of myself that I had a challenge and didn’t give up! Yay for me!
As I said in my last quick post, I’m living in Sydney, Australia, now. It is really different from New Zealand, super super hot and humid! I’m working in another cafe to earn some money before I go to Hong Kong! Also, I am using my time here to make lots of lists about what to pack for this next part of my trip, buy tickets to things and read all about where I’m going. It is good planning time.
I love all of you, I hope that you are having a good winter! Keep writing and commenting, I love to hear from you!
Lots of love,