40mm of rain recorded overnight with no sign of it stopping anytime soon, so a wet start guaranteed. Ideally we were hoping for a clear day to get great views from the top of the Mackinnon pass, but this is a rare occurrence as one of our fellow trampers is doing his forth tramp of the Milford and has only ever once experienced a clear view from the pass.
Today will see us climb to the top of the pass at 1150m before descending into the valley on the other side, with a side trip to the Sutherland falls (tallest falls in New Zealand 580m high). Before finishing at Dumpling hut for our final night. Whilst only a 14km walk plus the falls, it will be a tough day due to the challenging ascent and descent.
We left in full wet weather gear and headed up the pass, the mountains were alive with flowing water cascading down every crevice it could find, it was certainly a spectacular show!
After reaching the pass, we took a quick break at the shelter where we recharged the batteries with a hot chocolate and no, there isn’t a Café on top! On our descent the scenery was spectacular, the noise of flowing water was everywhere and we had to negotiate our way across many newly formed streams of water crossing the track. From the valley floor we had 270 degree views of hundreds of waterfalls spilling down the mountains into the valley where they merged into a raging river.
Mum, if you were here you would think you had died and gone to heaven! (Although you probably would have with the difficulty of the days walk!) Apparently there is a quicker 12 sec option to get to the bottom, but we would be denied of finishing the track!
We were the last one’s to visit the falls and those that were initially behind us needed to skip the falls to have any chance of getting back before dark. This made us officially last into camp, just beating nightfall. We even got a special introduction to the hut warden who was hunting us down to tick us off his list so that he didn’t have to venture out in search of us. Apparently it isn’t an uncommon occurrence.
We then had to peel off all our wet ‘wet weather’ gear and extract our wet boots and socks and then check through all our backpacks to see what the damage was in terms of wet spare clothing. We faired reasonably well, however thoughts of a hot shower were just tormenting mind games that one must dismiss immediately before losing ones mind.
As is the standard drill of each hut, the hut warden gives a spiel on the expected weather forecast and what to expect along the track on the following day, along with the standard hut rules. Tomorrow, the weather was still expected to rain and as we were on the 2:00pm ferry from Sandfly point, we needed to get away by 8:00am to have a fighting chance of catching it.
Did I mention the Sandflies? The Milford track is apparently home to swarms of sandflies. The insects are quite small and will bite you after landing. Generally they won’t bother you if you keep moving, but are happy to hone in on you when you stop. Whilst we had read a lot about these nasty little fellows, we were either very lucky, or they are seasonal, or they are over rated as whilst we were occasionally bitten, they weren’t that big a deal! Maybe it’s simply because that is the only nasty beast in New Zealand that can actually inflict some form of harm on you. Whilst in Australia… Now where do I start??
Off to bed as we have an early rise!