Kepler/Milford/Routeburn x 2/Greenstone/Caples Tracks | October 2014
I left it to Bob, my generous host in Te Anau, to organise the Milford track expedition. We plan to have an extra day at Dumpling Hut which is only possible during the winter season. I’m fortunate to have run into Bob, he’s an interesting guy with a dangerous sense of humour, someone who can hold a conversation, ie, not talk exclusively about himself. I’m sure we will have an entertaining trip together.
The plan was then to continue immediately on to the Routeburn, then, wanting to also have a look at the Greenstone and Caples circuit, I had to zip back over the Routeburn.
First I had to fill in a few days, the Milford requires a minimum number for the out of season boat, they don’t go every day. I’m also working to Bob’s timetable.
Call me Mr Flexible.
Making the most of my DOC Backcountry Hut Pass there’s just enough time to do another three night loop around the Kepler.
Here I am back on the shores of Lake Manapouri, tuis really making a racket in the kowhais, the fire rampaging in the fireplace despite the lack of acute need, more to kill some stray sandflies.
I chat to a Dutch woman who says her friends can’t understand her complete lack of interest in computer screens, social media and shopping, she is motivated by international travel and experience, not mediated, secondhand experience. We are nodding in furious agreement.
They seemed particularly badly dressed for the occasion. The bloke, in the lead, had a cheap jacket without a hood and no beanie or gloves, his female partner similarly attired but with a plastic bag style poncho, perhaps acquired from the $2 Shop, already looking worse for wear, her face grim, teeth clenched, no response to my cheery greeting.
I talk to one of the runners near the Control Gates, the end of the official trail, then she runs the last few hundred metres to the car park, jumps in her vehicular transportation and, phaff, she’s off.
The fire is cranked up, the rain is coming down, 150 mm expected before breakfast, and all is right with the world.
If the claim for World’s Finest Walk is overly superlative in its description, the fall back to claim the Milford as New Zealand’s finest track certainly isn’t.
And then there’s the Bobster, abandoned, but happy none the less, enjoying the track on his eighth trip. He’s another happy specimen.
Back at the hut I find that with the Sutherland Falls reprise, I’ve cracked out 27 km and spent a big 6 hours 40 minutes on the move.
I’d heard stories of large numbers of people squeezing in the Routeburn prior to the upping of the hut fee to $54, so imagine my surprise when I lobbed into an empty, cold hut, plenty of wet logs to cut up.
A French bloke stopped to roll a couple of cigarettes, one behind the ear, before being dispatched as quickly as the first, explaining why he couldn’t afford to go on the Milford Sound cruise. Okay.
There’s a short toddle up a hill, all on the zigzag, until you burst out with the massive view above the Hollyford, eventually Lake McKerrow comes into view, and later all the way down to Martins Bay, with some imagination you can make out breakers. I sat for almost an hour just soaking it all in, what’s the rush?
No fire despite a full woodshed, wood rather wet, from a recently lopped mountain beech tree. The three blokes, all Poms, claim they have no matches.
Maybe they are waiting for their mother.
Without being derogatory this structure would be flattered to be termed “hut”.
The stag wasn’t huge and had modest antlers, eight points according to my photos. They wandered up, and back, over a 40 metre range, then up again, I counted seven in total, a couple of fawns and spiker.
No one here cares about your life elsewhere, so what. It’s how you present right now, this minute, that matters.
So here was I mulling over the prospect of sharing another hut with zombie foreigners and instead we had a most chatty evening about the Meaning of Life, both of us rather unimpressed by the rush of modern life, the poverty of a screen relationships, and both wanting a more simple existence.
There’s a burst of barely believable grandeur, the Fiordland that is absent in the wider, flatter, lower Greenstone Valley.