I have completed the first four day, three night tramp, the Milford Track. I will write the gory details as I am able. I took voracious notes. I will say this much, I have met and exceeded (because I had no choice once I started) my physical limits. While I am now glad that I did it, I would not have done it if I had known fully what it would be like. The toughest climb day (3000 feet in less than two hours, on paths filled with jagged rocks) had constant rain, with gale force winds at the top. The wind was filled with ice granules and strong enough to actually blow me over even while weighted down by a 35 pound backpack. We walked through rushing streams forming waterfalls cascading for hundreds of feet above and below. At one point I counted 14 opposite me and another six on my side. Going down was especially difficult as anyone who has done down hill hiking knows well. I was very grateful to be using hiking poles. Yes, I fell more than once, but was not hurt.
That was the hardest climb day and the worst weather. The other days provided better weather but the trails were still the jagged rocks — ankle busters. I felt as if I had barely survived the day before when the last hour (of about six) was steady and steep uphill climbing on paths exclusively of large jagged rocks – for about 1200 feet. That was at the end of a ten mile walk.
The first day we walked only a very few miles, the second day around 10 miles, the big climb up and down was a little less than 9 miles. The last day was a little over eleven miles.
Yes, I was terrified at times, awestruck at other times, encouraged by others and feeling as if I had truly challenged myself and survived. It sounds dramatic. Thousands (14,000 each year walk that track) do it. Yes, as I found out today, there are many who have been taken out by helicopter from the top. Those who are seasoned hikers would not describe this as such a challenge as I have. However the difficulty might be described by anyone else, for me it was a major challenge. Having completed it feels like a major accomplishment in my life.
There are so many people who provided encouragement along the way as we gathered in the huts each night. There are two of whom I have become very fond. For no good reason they included me and showed special concern for me throughout these last few days. We met the first night at Rosie’s Backpack Stay, did the walk together for a good part of the time, and had a sad farewell this morning. What a blessing their friendship has been through this part of my journey of healing.
At the end of that hike I decided not to do the next one. I had met my limits and then some. After enough time to let the experience settle and a conversation with Alistair and Rosie, the hosts at this Backpacker Stay, I am going to go ahead tomorrow and do the second one. The path is not as rocky or as difficult to walk, even though the elevation at the high point will be higher than the last Trek.
There is so much more to say about the people, relationships, the international flavor (only three of the 40 from the US), the scenery. I hope to manage to get it all down in succeeding posts. For now, I need to get some rest so that I can head out again tomorrow on another four day, three night trek (Kepler Track).