March 9, 2014
The Milford Track is one of the best-known walking tracks in New Zealand if not the world. With such popularity, access to the track is very restricted during the summer hiking season. There are two ways to do the 4 day/ 3 night trek: with a guided company or as an independent tramper.
While trekking as a guided tramper allows you the luxury of prepared meals, showers and a comfy bed it comes at a price of over $2,000 per person. We therefore chose the independent route requiring us to pack in our own food and sleep in bunk rooms with no access to a shower, but at a fraction of the cost – about $500 for the two of us. During peak summer season independent trampers must reserve huts 4-6 months in advance. In September of 2013 the first dates I could get were for the first week of March 2014.
Day 1 – Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut – 5K/ 1-1.5 hours
I write this on a beautiful and rare sunny afternoon sitting on the banks of the Clinton River – clear green water ,white rocks, green hills and the sound of the water running over a shallow spot of rocks. Would be perfect except for the swarm of sandflies, the ubiquitous New Zealand biting fly about the size of a large gnat. Deet seems to keep them from landing on us and biting but not from hovering about and being generally annoying.
We began our day in Te Anau. Our luggage safely stored at the B&B until our return on the following Wednesday. We left our car at the long term parking lot at the DOC office and start our journey with a short bus ride to Te Anau Downs. The bus leaves from just in front of the office. We meet the 10:30AM boat out of Te Anau Downs that takes us along Te Anau Lake to Glade Wharf. While low clouds persist over the hills that surround the lake, the forecast predicts a clear sunny day emerging sometime in the afternoon.
The boat is only half full of through hikers with the rest of the passengers consisting of a large group of small Japanese women on a guided day hike.
We land about 11:45AM and start the short 5K hike to Clinton Hut. The relatively flat walk along the Clinton River is mostly through moss strewn forest.
There are a couple of pleasant 2 minute side trips, the most interesting of which is a bog area surrounded by peaks.
Even at a leisurely pace, taking every side trail possible and stopping for unch we arrive at Clinton hut by early afternoon.
But now the sandflies have chased us from the river and we sit at the picnic tables between the buildings that make up the camp – 2 bunk houses and a large main house.
Huts – All three of the huts on the Milford Track have about the same quality of facilities. Each accommodates 40 people in total and includes – basic bunk rooms that hold 10-30 people each, a large main room with cook tops and tables, bathrooms with flush toilets and sinks, but no shower. Toilet paper is provided. All the facilities were clean with an adequate number of units so we never had to wait long for anything. All toiletries, food, and cooking utensils and equipment (except the stove and fuel) must be packed in. Garbage must be packed out.
Trampers in general are a convivial lot, eager to chat, share information and swap stories. A good international mix of mostly Aussies, Kiwis, Europeans and Americans. Ages ranged from early 20s to 60+, although one man had his 10 year old son with him.
Everyone was considerate and respectful and we had no difficulties.