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Archive for May, 2016

Warning:  Long post and lots of photos

Back in August a group of me and four other ladies decided to book our spots on the Milford Track in Fiordland National Park.  The week of April 4 couldn’t arrive soon enough!

Unexpectedly, I became pregnant in October.  The question of whether or not to still go through with the hike came up.  I decided, after talking to my midwife, that I would stick to the plan.

The Milford Track is a four day, three night trip.  We left early on Monday, April 4th, heading straight for Te Anua with multiple stops along the way enjoying cafes and Ferg burgers.

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Lake Te Anua at sunset.

Day 1: Tuesday: 5 km

The Milford Track is pretty much inaccessible without boats on both ends.   The boat ride to the start of the track is about 1.5 hours long on Lake Te Anua and it was definitely a gorgeous trip.  Once you arrive at the start of the track, you only have an easy 1.5 hr walk to Clinton hut.  The hut being so close to the start of the track seems pretty useless in my opinion, but it was still nice to just hang out and talk with other adults.

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Getting on the boat at Lake Te Anua.

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The gang.  From left to right: Melanie, Julie, Olivia, Janie, and me.

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On our way to the trail head.  No turning back now!

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The pile of packs belonging to our Milford Track buddies for the week.

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Only 54 km to go.

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23 Weeks Pregnant.

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Melanie and Julie having a prayer meeting.  They should have prayed for better weather…

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The Milford Track is divided into two groups.  The first group of people (which we were part of) carries in all their stuff and sleeps in the DOC huts.  The second group of people didn’t have to carry anything, slept in queen size beds, had hot showers, ate freshly cooked food…well, you get the idea.  This picture is the guided group’s first night stay only a five minute walk from the boat.  It definitely felt like segregation a bit along the way. We took solace in knowing they paid up to $3,215 each!

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Words just can’t describe the views.

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Even on the Milford Track the flush toilets are closed for cleaning.  Talk about pampered tramping, which I wasn’t complaining about.

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Trying out the latest camping gear….plunger coffee.

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Do you see the lion?

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The Milford Track is a walk in a rainforest so the track is mostly covered in moss and trees.

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One of the best places for a yoga position.

Day 2: Wednesday: 16.5 km

On the second day we attempted an early start as we knew bad weather was coming in that afternoon.  The second day walk is fairly easy as the track follows the river through the valley heading towards the Mackinnon Pass.  Then there is a gradual ascent to the hut for the last hour or so.  We pretty much timed our arrival at the hut perfectly as the weather started to turn.   Once we were settled in at the hut, we sat around enjoying hot chocolate and snacks.

When you are doing a great walk in season, there is a DOC warden present.  Every evening, there will be a talk from the DOC warden about dos and don’ts and what to expect the next day.  The five of us knew bad weather was coming for the third day.  The DOC warden confirmed that the storm was still coming which included gale force winds, snow down to 1200 meters, and heaps of rain.  It was expected to come in over night.  The DOC warden warned us that it was probably going to be a late start in the morning and that she would have to hold us until it passed.  But, she would provide us with more information in the morning.

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The Mackinnon Pass is in the far distance.

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Without it even raining, waterfalls stream down the mountains throughout the valley.

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Getting closer to Mackinnon Pass.

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Mintaro Hut.  It was a welcome sight. My feet were extremely sore by the time we arrived.  After some inspection of my feet, I discovered that they were swollen.  Talk about an unexpected pregnancy complication.  It also didn’t help that I was trying out new in-soles and I forgot to trim my toe nails!

Day 3: Thursday: 14 km up and over MacKinnon Pass

It poured and howled all night long.  Morning came with panicked, controlled chaos as we were awoken by the DOC warden informing us to pack and get out NOW.  The worst part of the storm was still yet to come.  I do remember thinking that these known weather conditions weren’t suitable for tramping, but I had no choice and had to leave.  I still feel uncomfortable about my own the lack of control over this.  Had this been a non-great walk tramp and it was me and Jeff knowing the same weather conditions and track conditions, we would have waited the day out in the hut.  The only reason why it was ok was because DOC can rescue folks with a helicopter.  Needless to say, we were off and out quite quickly.

The swelling in my feet had disappeared, but were still really sore.  Our group walked in two groups as I am a slow hiker and pregnancy makes me slower.  Plus, I didn’t want to over do my pregnant body.  But, I think it’s more an attitude change since having children.  I used to walk really fast while hiking to get to the next destination, but since having children and taking them hiking, I’ve realized there is a different type of joy experienced when you slow down and essentially smell the roses…or moss for the Milford Track’s case.  Julie, Olivia, and Janie carried onward while Melanie and I slowly walked to the top.  It took about three hours to get to the ridge.  Once on the ridge, we were no longer protected from the gale force wind and the worst of the rain.  It was so windy we were being knocked over.  Then it started to hail.  Talk about painful! We couldn’t see “the view” that I’ve heard so much about from the Mackinnon Pass, but the walk on the ridge was gorgeous as it was covered in tarns on both sides.  There was a shelter on top of the ridge and by the time we arrived, we were very wet and hungry.  We reunited with Julie, Olivia, and Janie and enjoyed some hot soup.

We still had the majority of the day’s walk ahead of us with a 1000 meter descent to our night’s destination, Dumpling Hut.  By the time we headed out of the shelter the track pretty much turned into a knee-deep river rushing down to the valley below.  Now, this is what the views looked like to me.  Imagine Victoria falls in Zambia.  Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Instead of a straight line of multiple waterfalls, it was essentially bowl shaped (as we were walking down into a valley).  At least 50-100 waterfalls were falling everywhere, including into the track we were walking in.  It, seriously, was absolutely gorgeous, not to mention dangerous too!  In some spots if you had one wrong slip you were going down the mountain!  I sadly have no photos as I didn’t dare take my camera out.  The other ladies in the group took photos and I will add some later when I receive them.  Melanie and I made it to the shelter at 2:30pm with the rest joining us around 3pm as they stopped to eat again.  On the way down I was worried about my body temperature, as I was shivering, so my focus was getting to the hut and getting dry and warm as quickly as possible.  When we made it to the Quintin shelter, we found that DOC had closed the track beyond the shelter.  They closed it at  noon because the track was flooded and impassable (Later that  night the DOC warden informed us that the river flooded 2.5 meters and at 4 meters Dumpling hut was under water).  Not knowing what was happening at the shelter, I quickly changed out of my wet clothes and into dry ones.  I’m so glad I did.  At the time, we didn’t realize that DOC was waiting for everyone to get down the mountain before rescuing us.  Going back to the two groups doing the Milford Track, the feeling of segregation became very apparent while we sat around waiting in our shelter. Just a few meters away from our shelter was the guided tour’s lodge.  You could see them dry, sitting on comfy couches, drinking hot drinks, eating, etc.  It was definitely an “us” and “them” situation.

At 5:30pm, we were informed a helicopter was on its way to take us to the next hut.  I quickly changed back into my wet clothes and prepared for my first ever helicopter ride!  Everyone was pretty excited about this!  I must say, I was taken aback by the lack of uplift in the helicopter compared to an airplane.  It felt no different rising into the air except for the fact that you were moving away from the ground.  Once arriving at the hut, we chose our beds, changed, and started to get tea cooking.  My feet were swollen again and my lower back problems were reignited.  Unbeknownst to me while I was cooking, my sleeping bag was being dripped on by my waterproof bag that all my stuff in my pack goes into.  I know!  Rookie mistake!!  Following tea and our DOC talk, I was emotionally and physically ready for bed.  I came back to a wet sleeping bag, which was the last thing in the world I wanted to deal with at that point in time.  After a moment of processing my emotions, I assessed the situation and remembered my space blanket (aka an emergency blanket)!  Problem solved.  I must say those emergency blankets do keep you warm!  However, it collects condensation.

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Our rescuer at Dumpling Hut!  The ladies think Jeff and I should name our third child “Steve” after the helicopter pilot.

Day 4: Friday: 18 km

We woke to beautiful, clear skies.  Not a breath of wind was blowing.  Not a rain drop anywhere near by.  I was slightly jealous about the folks getting to walk over the pass today with their amazingly clear views.

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The sun starting to shine on the top of the mountains behind Dumpling Hut.

The walk out is a long, but easy one.  I was slower than normal and my feet and lower back were literally in extreme pain. 8 km into the walk and I was pretty much done.  But, I knew I had to push forward.  I think we made it to the boat shed at Sandfly Point along the Milford Sound around 2:30/3pm.

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We made it! I feel like baby popped out a bit.

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The view of the Milford Sound from Sandfly Point.  The fog over the water to the far left is from a filming shoot.  The movie called Alien: Covenant was being filmed in the Milford Sound.  We were able to meet a few of the actors that evening.

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More of the Milford Sound from our 3 minute boat ride.

That afternoon we arrived at the Milford Backpackers Lodge where we immediately showered and enjoyed sitting around talking to a few of our fellow Milford Track buddies.  The festivities continued into the night.

We left Milford Sound the next morning.

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The driver of the van to Te Anua stopped before the Homer Tunnel for us to capture a photo.  The random man in the photo is our French/Australian buddy name Vincent who hiked the Milford with us.

Once we got to our car, we drove all the way to Lake Alexandria, or Lake Chamberlain to us, and stayed at Julie and Olivia’s family bach.  That night the ladies soaked in the Lake Tekapo hot pools while I stayed out and talked to Jeff.  The following day, after sleeping in, we all drove the 3ish hours back home.

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24 Weeks Pregnant

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Lake Alexandria

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