Friday, January 4, 2013

Moist on the Milford Track

The weather's been a bit rough down south, washing away a bridge at Harihari on the Coast that's meant a 6-hour detour through Wanaka for people wanting to head north - though some tourists who missed out on getting to the glaciers did instead find themselves enjoying summer snow in the Lindis Pass. Swings and roundabouts, eh. I liked that the fibre-optic cable that was broken, cutting off the southern West Coast, was reconnected thanks to someone standing on the stump of the bridge casting a wire with a fishing rod to someone on the other side.

There were 120 trampers stranded on the Milford Track, too, which was closed for several days thanks to the torrential rain that submerged it under the Clinton River. When I walked the track a couple of years ago, we had some steady rain during the first night that transformed the river and meant the track in places was almost waist-deep. You know what it's like when you're wading into the sea and you reach the oh!-zone? Well, imagine that with, instead of warm seawater, chilly snow-melt. Bracing! It was a novelty to start with ('fun' would be over-stating it) but that wore off pretty soon, and even the compensation of the spectacular waterfalls springing off the sides of the gorge came to seem inadequate. We were this close to being helicoptered out, over the river flats to the next hut where the path was higher, but as we soggily ate our lunches the rain stopped, the sun came out, and the river level started dropping straight away, so we were able to continue.

It was still a squelchy business, but it was warm and the colours were brilliant and the scenery fabulous, so we were all happy again - especially as we were walking with Ultimate Hikes, whose lodges verge on luxurious, with seriously effective drying rooms that took care of all our wet clothes and boots. We were spoiled, and loved every bit of it, having passed the basic cold-water dormitory cook-your-own DOC huts earlier in the day. The independent trampers prided themselves on doing it real - but we walked every inch of the track same as them; we just had hot showers and three-course dinners with wine and soft beds to sleep in each night. Pft.

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