Saturday 12 December 2009

Walking the Milford Track

So the Milford Track is all done and dusted. There was rain, lots of it, filling the river so that even the guide stood and watched its churning waters in astonishment. It overflowed its banks and flooded the track so that the Ultimate Hikes head guide Dan, who's 6ft2in, said "It's borderline." I pointed out that, at 5ft4in, my borderline was a lot lower than his, but we ended up wading through it anyway, hip-deep (for me) in icy water. It was an adventure that I was hoping would end with an emergency helicopter ride on to the next lodge, but as we had lunch in a damp, chilly shelter, the water dropped enough for us to soldier on - so we did walk every step of the 33 miles/55km.

The day of the pass was brilliantly clear and we had amazing views that almost compensated for the pain of the long, steep descent over boulders and rough steps, that went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on...

But the lodge at the end was warm and dry and comfortable and comforting and we relished our hot showers and power-drying rooms and soft beds and spared little thought for the independent walkers who covered the same ground carrying all their equipment and food, and who had no showers, and slept in communal bunkrooms. Cheapskates.

The last day was long, long, long, but the scenery was fabulous, the birdlife diverting and the sandflies surprisingly less bitey than expected.

And tonight all the others are at the pub in Queenstown and I'm here at fancy Blanket Bay at the north end of the lake, where all sorts of Hollywood stars and other rich people have stayed, and I have a stone chalet overlooking the lake and mountains where I plan to lie quietly and digest the five-course dinner I've just eaten which involved oysters, venison, elderflower sorbet and much other excellent nosh.

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