Well, we finally got to use our rain gear on the Milford Sound track, but even then we were lucky!
Despite our earliest wake-up time yet, daylight savings ended in NZ so we actually got an extra hour! The rain was pounding down as we got dressed and ready in the dark, and we met out the front draped in brightly coloured ponchos like a group of oddly shaped parakeets. The rain had eased by the time we were in the street, and we had a pleasant 5min jaunt to the Department of Conservation where we were meeting the bus.
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The bus arrived just as we were getting antsy about it being late, confused about daylight savings. It had to run a filter burn off so we were taken back to the depot where we switched busses. We also had two hikers that had completed the Kepler Trail before us, and were off to do the Routeburn Trail that day.
Grace, and her 64year old mother, were from Melbourne. While Grace sat in the back of the bus and promptly fell asleep, Mai sat in the front seat and regaled us of her adventures, since discovering hiking 10 years ago. She was a character, loved the fact we were mostly women, loved the rain and the atmosphere it evoked, loved the company, the sharing, and the storytelling. So when it was time to hop off to begin their trek, she insisted on sitting on the bus with us another hour to Milford Sound, and being dropped back to the Routeburn Trialhead on the way home.
By the time we finally made it to Milford Sound, we were late, and busting for the loo. There were only two loo’s, so we were made even later by the fact we waited patiently for eachother to go! Thankfully we made it ahead of a group of about 20 kayakers!
Once we were on the water taxi we discovered that she had participated in the Homer Tunnel Nudie run the night before. The Homer Tunnel was started in the 1930’s by men who were out of work during the great depression. The idea was that it would keep them busy and reduce crime, and as far as I know it worked! It was finished in 1954, and the remains of the bakehouse that fed the builders can be seen on the side of the road to this day. The nudie run is an annual, community event where the participants can wear shoes, and a head torch, but otherwise run the 1.2 kilometres naked. I’m not sure if they raise money, or do it for the entertainment, but it happened and our water taxi driver participated in it! She had a scratch on her face from where she’d tripped over, but seemed otherwise unharmed by the experience!
Milford Sound is obviously connected to the ocean, and we were waiting for Karla to ask again about the whale, but she didn’t dare (or didn’t wonder)! If you don’t get the joke, then you need to read Day 2 Kepler Trail here! We keep telling her that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but she refuses to ask any now!
The rain continued to ease as we came to the aptly named Sandfly Point. We were grateful to have Dave with us as he was a Sandfly magnet. While we were swarmed, he was swarmed even more, he had to keep jiggling and moving for the entire 4hrs we were there to protect himself.
We were also lucky that it had rained, because all the waterfalls were teaming with crystal clear water. The track was a moist, luminescent green, and relatively easy to walk. We saw two wild Weka, one of the many, rare flightless birds that the predator-free New Zealand South Island is famous for (natural predator free anyway, i think there are introduced foxes and other animals that are a bit of a disaster for a bird that can’t fly). In the whitewater of the waterfall we also spotted two Whio, a duck that thrives in the rough waters of New Zealand’s rivers.
The rain stopped in time for us to sit down by the biggest waterfall for lunch, about 5.5km in from Sandfly Point, and we watched the weary Milford Trackers shuffle across the swinging bridge on their way to their first hot shower in several days. On the way back to our water taxi Rod thought he’d demonstrate his wife’s faceplant (they’d completed the Milford Track together a couple of years ago), accidentally, actually faceplanting while he was at it! He went to put his hand down on the moss, which was camouflaging a great big hole in the ground, fell through the hole and entertained the hikers around him with a proper stack! No one was harmed in the making of the video 😉
Despite coming back to the Motel late, Karla and Clare till managed a dip in the lake. We are 5 for 6 in our Cold Water Challenge, with just one more day to go! We also have just one more hike on these weary limbs, another spectacular, yet different one called Marian’s Lake before we turn around and make our way home again tomorrow.