Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reflections on the Milford


The Arthur River

Sunderland Falls

Dumpling Hut

Sandfly Point, End of Tramp

I need to read up on some geology, geography and climatology. The mountains here are not very high. The highest, by far, is Mt. Cook, 12,000 feet, inland and far to the north. Yet there are all these enormous glaciers and evidence of even greater glaciers in the past. On Lake Te Anau we passed over the 45th parallel. Here in NZ, we are not nearly so far south as Missoula, MT (no glaciers), is north. And Missoula is far higher than anything here but the highest peaks. (The 45th, BTW, passes through only 3 nations: Chile, Argentina, and NZ). There is a super-abundance of moisture here and consequent rain forest. But why the ice? Not altitude, and not latitude, at least by my lights.

We were pleased to have done the Milford. Among trekkers, it has got to be on everyone's list of treks to do. For me, there was a certain monotony—same canyon features, same beech rain forest, same falls, a mildly interesting pass, and then back into the trench, more canyon features, forest and falls. Sunderland was a treat. Milford Sound, the fiord, is very scenic, by any standard, but it's not part of the tramp and one can drive one's car to see it. DOC facilities, staff, and track were, as in the past, superb. Other trails are "maintained"; DOC tracks are positively groomed.

The sand flies did live up to their billing. According to Maori legend, one of the hut wardens said, it was the Goddess of Darkness who gave us sand flies, to remind us to keep moving. Perhaps the most important thing we learned on this tramp, other than to keep moving (we already knew that!), is that the flies don't bite at night. They really don't. A gift of the Goddess of Darkness.

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