12-16 May 2018
After a slightly late start from Vesna and Milomir’s place, our 3 cars departed for the long drive to Te Anau, with the usual obligatory stop at Fairlie for coffee and pies.
Ian had already arrived at the Lake Front Backpackers, and Joy arrived later on the bus. Next morning, we met our transport in front of the DoC offices for the trip to the boat at Te Anau Downs. There were 21 trampers on the boat ‘Calypso’ for the 2 hour trip to Glade Wharf, at the head of Lake Te Anau. The skipper gave a brief rundown on the track, and asked everyone to clean their boots in trays of ‘Napisan’ solution as a precaution against the spread of Didymo, before departing up the track. We started walking at about 11.20am. About 10 minutes past Glade House, we were stopped by a nice young Department of Conservation lady to check our hut tickets. Unsurprisingly, the track condition was very good, and more suited to light boots or good walking shoes rather than heavy tramping boots. We stopped for lunch at Clinton Hut to the sound of kakas and with fantails flitting about.
The day was cool but fine with high cloud. With short days the pressure was on a bit to get to Mintaro Hut at the head of the Clinton Valley The party spread out the last part with the front runners arriving at the hut in daylight and the last group arriving at 6pm in the dark. The 40 bunk Mintaro hut was nearly 3/4 full with independent trampers, with some coming over Dore Pass. It soon warmed up a bit with the fire, even the upstairs bunkrooms. Outside the Great Walks season, only basic facilities are provided at the huts – gas is not provided, running water is turned off inside the huts, and pit toilets replace the flush toilets.
Next morning, we made an early start just on daylight with clear skies and a light frost. After a two hour climb to Mackinnon Pass (1069m), we were rewarded with spectacular views of the precipitous walls in the Roaring Burn, the surrounding peaks and our route up the Clinton Valley. A chilly easterly breeze discouraged any lingering at the Quintin McKinnon Monument so we carried on to the new MacKinnon Pass shelter for a hot cuppa. A steepish downhill descent slowed some of the party then it was back out into the sun again at the tourist Quintin Lodge for a late lunch. Most of the party decided to make the short side trip up to Sutherland Falls. An earlier arrival at Dumpling Hut was appreciated which gave everyone a chance to relax and more time to organise the evening meals.
The 2pm departure time for the boat transport prompted an early morning start the next day, by all the hut inhabitants. Our fine weather window had disappeared, the sky became overcast and it began to drizzle. The track down the Arthur Valley was very straightforward, apart from sections of the track where work was underway to repair recent storm damage. We made a couple of brief stops to admire the Mackay Falls and Giant Gate shelter for lunch. The final section track to Sandfly Point through the forest, which resembled a road, had been constructed by prison labour between 1890 -1892.
Sandfly Point lived up to its name! Fortunately, the shelter offered some respite from the local insect life while we waited for the water taxi and watched a very fearless tomtit feasting on sandflies. It took a couple of trips to ferry everyone over to Deepwater Basin at Milford Sound. Our boat captain from the Te Anau Downs cruise doubled as the van driver and took us for a short tour of Milford before heading back to Te Anau. A pleasant debrief at the Moose bar finished the evening. For an out of season walk, we were very lucky with the weather.
We were: Dan Pryce, Lee Varty, Norman Burden, Angela Grigg, Vesna+Milomir Mojsilovic, Darcy Mawson, Kerry Moore, Bob Reid, Miriam Preston, Raymond Ford, Ian Beale, Joy Schroeder Peter Umbers (leader) (PU)