Thanks to a hut full of people with no concept of “keep the noise down while others are sleeping”, Alana and I were up and wide awake around 6 am on our second day of hiking. Just a tip for anyone thinking about staying in a great walk hut (or really any shared sleeping space for that matter): Not everyone will go to bed and get up at the same time as you. For the sake of those who are sleeping, please try walking quietly rather than stomping, avoid dropping heavy items on the floor unless absolutely necessary, whisper rather than talk at full volume, don’t crank the volume on your boom box too high, don’t shoot off cannons indoors, etc. etc. The bunks are nice but I found myself wishing for the relative privacy of a two person tent.
Well now that I’ve got that off my chest, lets resume our story in the early morning, just after Alana and I have woken up. We decided against cooking breakfast this trip and instead went with a variety of ready to eat super-energy-power-nutrient bars and balls, you know the type. Our thinking was that cooking breakfast was kind of a hassle, and as long as we were getting enough calories and nutrients, what did it really matter. We could cut down on our morning routine, pack up all our cooking supplies the night before, and just have a quick breakfast as we prepared to hit the trail. It was nice not having to deal with cooking up a pot of oatmeal or whatever in the morning, but I did start wishing for something a little more hearty in the mornings.
We started walking around 6:40. The beginning of the trail was much the same as yesterday, green mossy forest all around. Today we had the addition of low lying cloud cover. It looked like it might rain, so we got out our jackets and pack covers. The Fiordland National Park area is very wet (hence the moss on everything I suppose). It typically rains 200 days a year with an annual average rainfall of seven meters, so good waterproof gear for you and your stuff is a must have.
Right as Alana began to complain that the trail and views were boring, things began to get interesting. We came out of the forest and could see water falls running down the sides of the mountains around us. The clouds began to part and we could see up to the tops of the mountains (which were all twice as tall now that the clouds were gone). We continued forward through some dried up river beds (in spite of what I said earlier, the area was in the middle of a two week drought when we were hiking) which offered spectacular views of the mountains as the clouds continued to clear up. The mountains soared straight up on both sides of the trail. Many still had large patches of snow near the top. The snow melted and flowed down the mountainside, creating all of the waterfalls we had seen that morning. The beauty forced our mouths into big ‘O’s around every bend. Alana swallowed her bored laments. There were also few sections of trail that had avalanche warning signs that advised you not to stop walking for the next 200-800 meters of trail. Later that day while we were relaxing at the hut we could hear a few small avalanches echoing through the valley.
The trail began to climb, and the views only got more spectacular. The trail was lined on both sides with the most adorable little yellow flowers. That’s right, I said adorable. I don’t care how tough you think you are, these little flowers would have you squealing and giggling with glee. Coupled with the mountains in the background, the views were truly magical. I can’t imagine that words or pictures will be able to capture the feeling of this place. You’ll just have to go experience it for yourself to get the full effect!
After our journey down the magical flower meadow path we entered another section of mossy green forest. Now that the sun was out, all of the green seemed to glow in the golden light of the sunlight coming through the tree branches overhead. It was a strenuous hour and a half uphill to get to the second hut. Our legs were stiff and sore by the time we got there. Our second day of walking took around five hours total.
After settling in I had a lunch of granola bar, trail mix, and cheese. We took a walk down to the lake near the hut. There was a beautiful meadow and sand bank surrounded by an impossibly high wall of rock. I was pretty tired so it wasn’t long before I headed back to the hut for my afternoon nap. It was supposed to be a power nap, but I ended up sleeping for a solid four hours. Oops. But hey, it was a long day, so no shame here. I grabbed a change of clothes and ran back down to the lake for a dip. Most our fellow hikers were preparing dinner, so I had a bit of privacy. Just in case, I found a secluded spot in the bushes to get nekked before jumping in. It was really cold, but incredibly refreshing. After a brief swim I got out and put on my warm clean clothes, feeling squeaky clean and good as new.
Back at the hut we cooked another amazing dinner of asparagus (in season here in New Zealand), garlic shoots, carrots, mixed with a ready made pouch of quinoa and lentils. It was really tasty and I’ll definitely make use of these bean/grain pouches in the future. I had a good poop after dinner. “Ew gross what the heck?!” you say. Remember its important to stay regular when hiking, regardless of what the toilet conditions might be (fortunately the Milford Track huts had clean bathrooms with flush toilets, and they darn well better with the price we payed). We went to bed even earlier, around 8:30, that night.