The Milford Track is a spectacular hike which I would strongly recommend - but it isn't a walk in the park and warrants a few more words of caution than I came across when doing my research.
We did the self-guided hike, so here is the lowdown for those considering it:
- Really early. We booked six months in advance and got the last two spots for our dates.
- For us, self-guided was definitely the way to go, you are in control of your pace, your side trips and feel like you're stepping into the shoes of a "real" tramper.
- Fairly basic conditions: bunk rooms, no showers, limited hours of lighting. Which is perfect for suburban dwellers like myself as it gives you some downtime from gadgets and luxuries and you earn that feeling of achievement (prove to yourself that, yes, you can survive without your skinny latte for a couple of days). Saying that, the huts have gas for cooking, fireplaces and proper toilets so there are some luxuries!
- It's all communal and you will be staying with the same 40 people everyday. But the fact that they're organised and interested enough to book the self-guided means you will at least have something in common. We met some wonderful people and had a fantastic time.
What to take:
- You need to take everything with you except water and gas. Pots or pans, bottles, utensils, bedding are not provided. Dehydrated meals will become your new best friend. Tap water is safe as is the water from streams. Bring a camera, of course. Headlamps or a torch are essential as there is no electricity apart from lights in the dining room for two hours at night and in the morning, no lighting at all in the bunk rooms. Insect repellant.
- Bin bags. What you take in, you must take out again. There are no bins, so you need to carry your rubbish with you the whole 4 days
- WATERPROOF stuff. Lots of it. And i don't mean prepare for drizzle. Prepare for non-stop, heavy rain for the entire 6-8 hours of every day you walk. And prepare for feet getting completely submerged in "puddles". Then if it's dry, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise!
- A change of clothes. Because you will get soaked through even with fancy waterproofs, and they won't dry overnight.
- Ear plus if you're a light sleeper. There will be at least one snorer.
- Ibuprofen if you get knee pain
- Stunning. Each day is different, from walking amongst the trees to mountain sides to waterfalls and valleys.
- If the weather is dry, this walk is very easy for someone reasonably fit, and a medium walk for someone with average/moderate fitness. However, chances are the weather won't be dry - which means you need to take it slow, concentrate more and get wet and cold in the process, so it gets harder for everyone.
- BE CAREFUL ON DAY 2 if it has been raining. The recent tragedy experienced on this walk shows how deadly this track can turn in bad weather. There is a small basic shelter called Bus Stop where you should wait if the river looks too hard to cross. The water level can rise and fall dramatically within a short time period so if in doubt, it is better to wait. Yes, you'll be a bit cold and miserable, but it's worth it to be safe.
- If you have a dodgy knee, bring poles for support on Day 3 when there is a long stint of downhill. Not very steep but just goes on for hours.
Why do it?
- I've personally never experienced landscape like this anywhere else. It is just beautiful.
- Its a great way to immerse yourself in the nature of New Zealand
- You don't need to contend with altitude sickness, snakes, crowds, litter like some other hikes in the world
Everyone will have a different opinion and experience but I hope this helps others when planning their trip.
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