March 12, 2014
Day 4 – Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point – 18K/ 5.5-6 hours
Our last night on the trail, I didn’t sleep as well. The light snoring that began earlier in the night and was easily muffled with ear plugs only seemed to get louder as daylight approached. As the morning sky was just starting brighten you could feel everyone just lying in their sleeping bags wide awake in anticipation of the hike out while one lucky soul, still deep in a REM cycle, was snoring away. Anna breaks out in a hearty laugh and says,”Let’s just stop this charade of sleeping.” With that we all get up and head to the common area for coffee.
It’s a 5-6 hour, 11 and half mile hike on a relatively flat track to Sandfly Point. Still most trampers were packing up early to make sure they caught the 2PM boat back to Milford Sound. Ian, the camp warden, said that there was enough space for everyone on the 2 PM boat regardless of what you had previously reserved – we had a reservation for the 4PM boat. Whether there was space on the 2:30PM bus back to Te Anau was uncertain.
Having nothing better to do at the hut – sandflies were becoming a nuisance in the morning light, we packed up with the rest of the trekkers and headed out just before 8AM. We walked at a good pace but stopped for all the attractions along the way. There is a list of points of interests and times between them on the wall in the common room of the hut.
The trail, like most other days is mostly through mossy green forest, although this stretch has an abundance of our beloved tree ferns.
Points of interest:
Dumpling Hut to Boatshed Shelter – 3 miles
Boatshed Shelter to Mackay Falls/Bell Rock – 1 mile
Mackay Falls to Poseidon Creek – 2 miles
Poseidon Creek to Rock Cutting/Lake Ada – 15 minutes
Rock Cutting to Giant Gate Falls – 1 hour
Giant Falls to Lake Ada – 1 mile/ 20-30 minutes
Lake Ada to Sandfly Point – 2 miles
Even with all stops, including a bit longer stop at Lake Ada for a quick lunch, we arrived at Sandfly Point around 1:15PM. There is an enclosed shelter where trekkers can wait out of the sandflies. On this particular day, morning fog giving way to mostly sunny skies, there was a good wind off the river and thus a minimum of the sandflies the point is known and named for.
The boat arrives shortly after 1:30PM and we mill about and board shortly before 2PM. It seems most everyone from our group and a few of the guided trekkers have made the 2PM departure.
It’s a short 20 minute ride to Milford Sound. The beginning of the ominous sound cloaked in showery clouds is visible in the distance. Tired from the lack of sleep and days of trekking, we decided not to do a boat tour of the sound on this day – we had done a cruise of Doubtful Sound before the trek – and instead catch the earlier bus back to Te Anau.
Many from our group were staying in Milford Sound for the night at the backpacker hostel.
The bus ride out of the sound was one of the most spectacular sections of road we’ve seen in NZ. The drive climbs up the steep walled glacial carved valley and enters a tunnel. On the other side more valleys and green forest strewn with light on this bright sunny afternoon. The road eventually levels off to wide grassy plains with peaks in the distance as we approach Te Anau.