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…….The World Without Boundaries

Milford Track – The World’s Finest Trail

Written By: jipp - May• 10•17

New Zealand was not really in my #bucketlist, but Milford Track was. I first saw it featured on Globe Trekker (TLC) and instantly fell in love with this place. I told myself that I had to go there, sooner or later.

When my friend since childhood Frank suggested that we went to New Zealand, I gave him a yes even before I gave it any further thought. We wanted to go there in 2016, then I found out that getting a slot for the Milford Track was not that easy. Considered the finest trail in the world, trekkers from all over the world wanted to do this trail as much as we probably did.

Believe it or not, I actually had to do the booking almost one year in advance. Usually they’d announce the opening date (and time) for booking on their website so I had to sit in front of the computer minutes before it was set to open. They tend to postpone the date several times, so I had to check the website for the latest announcement like every now and then. Once it was opened, hikers from all around the world would start scrambling for a slot. And true enough, it was selling out faster that I had expected. In a matter of an hour or so, most of the dates were booked out.

We only bought our plane tickets to New Zealand after we have secured a slot for the Milford Track.  I really thought everything was going to be easy from there on, but I was wrong. None of us bothered to study more about the trek than we ought to, and the consequences were quite bad – well, almost. The very first mistake we made was to assume that everything was provided for – the food, the guide and the facilities – and that all that we had to carry with us was our trekking outfits and all the basic necessities to keep us going in the jungle for the whole four days. It turned out that we were wrong.

I remember how we were doing our last-minute shopping in preparation for the trek at a supermarket in Queenstown when I suddenly felt the urge to do one last quick search on the internet. Then I found out that we as independent trekkers (as opposed to guided trekkers where almost everything was provided for) would not be provided with anything at all but a bare mattress and stoves and that’s it. We had to bring our own sleeping bag, food stuff and even cookery and utensils!

By then we only had less than half an hour before the supermarket closed its doors so we had to run all over and grab in whatever that we felt most necessary. In the end we had to spend some NZD150 (more than MYR400) on cookery, utensils and food stuff! When I come to think of it now I am so glad that I did that one last google search at the supermarket because there was no way we could ever survive in the jungle for four days without food!

So, early in the morning the next day we left from Queenstown to a beautiful small town further to the South called Te Anau. We registered at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre (one of the younger staff was very rude wtf!). After parking our car at a secure spot, we joined a dozen other trekkers on a bus to Te Anau Down where we were joined by a few more dozens others.

Going to the starting point of the trail required us to ride on a boat across the beautiful lake of Te Anau. It was supposed to be one of the most exciting parts of the trip but a heavy rain had to force the boatman to dislodge all the canvas covers to avoid us from being drenched by the rain so all we could see was the splattering of water on the transparent windows.

Quite miraculously the rain paved way for a clear weather once we arrived at the starting point. Almost choked with emotion, I could not believe that we were really there – at the starting point of the finest trail in the world!

It was a light and easy 5km walk on our first day at Milford Track. But the beauty of Milford Track captivated us right from the beginning of the trail. The rivers are so beautiful and the water is so clear I could actually see the layer of pebbles and the submerged dead logs underneath. In fact I could even count the pebbles if I had all the time in the world that I was not crazy enough to do something so unnecessary like that. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the forest and the mountains were.

Our first stop was Clinton Hut. It consisted of two separate rooms with 20 bunks in each of them. Since we took the last boat, we were the last ones to arrive. I instantly noticed that we were the only Asians among the trekkers – apart from a group of elderly from Korea. After having some quickly-prepared noodles for early dinner, we took a little walk to the wetland forest which was a beautiful swamp area covered with thick layers of carpet-like mosses. It is facilitated with walkboards so visitors do not have to step on the layers of mosses and spare themselves from getting stuck in the mud or something.

Even after we returned to the hut, it was still early and the sun was still adamantly high over the horizon (it was summer after all and the sunset was at 9pm!) so we did not have anything to do but slipping into our sleeping bags and waited until our eyes and brains surrendered to a deep sound sleep.

The real journey only began the next day. We were advised to leave early because there was a possibility of a heavy rain that might threaten to flood parts of the trail. Trekkers getting stuck due to flooded trails is a common occurrence at Milford Track and we did not want to be part of the statistics. Still we could not leave until 8.30am because everybody was taking turn in using the kitchen.

It was a 16.5km long trek along a beautiful valley with dramatic landscapes of mountains on both sides. The trail was very well paved so we didn’t really have to watch our steps and it allowed us to focus on taking in the view instead. It was like walking in a fairy land or probably a museum of nature or something. Quite true to the weather forecast, the rain would suddenly come without warning and stop just as suddenly as it had come.

But then the rain was not really a bad thing entirely. It carried with it the formation of so many waterfalls from the mountains and created such a surreal landscape of nature. I was totally overblown. The Secret Lake for instance is a lake right in the corner of the valley where several waterfalls plunged right into it from wherever they come from up there. I had never seen anything quite like it ever in my life. But then the view of waters cascading down the mountains and into the valley was something that I had the privilege of seeing almost all along the trail. It was surreal – so out of this world to say the least.

Every now and then we’d be met with a bird that appeared to be unbothered by our presence. In fact, some of them would come close to us and even beaked at our shoes. I’m not sure if they were too used to cross paths with humans or it was just their natural tendency to be curious with anything that looks different. In fact I had to run from some of them when they appeared to come straight to me as if launching an attack or something.

It was almost five in the afternoon when I finally arrived at the second over-night stop called Mintano Hut. It was drizzling when I got here so me and Frank didn’t really have anything to do but settling in our beds and waited for our heads and brains to shut down naturally.

One thing I gotta tell you about Milford Track is that the whole track is haunted by these little flying creatures called sandflies. They are said to be protectors of Milford Track right from the beginning of time and their history with the world-renowned trail is very much well-documented. In fact, the last stop of the track is called Sandfly Point which is evident to the fact that their existence at Milford Track is very much recognized.

Mintano Hut

These little creatures are very aggressive and they will suck you dry before you know it. The effects of their bites are almost immediate and they’ll send you into an itching frenzy so bad that you wish you had more than a pair of hands to scratch the itches away. Unfortunately, the itches don’t go away that easily. Their saliva will keep the bitten spots itching for many days or even weeks to come. In fact, they still itch almost a month after I returned to KL.

The most challenging part of the trail came the next day.

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