Fiordland’s ancient and untamed natural realm mesmerises me on every visit. Whether it’s a day trip to Milford Sound, or a boat ride across the Manapouri to access Doubtful Sound, every visit leaves me tingling in awe at nature’s raw power and spell-binding grandeur, writes Mike Yardley.
Earlier this year I took my abiding love-affair with Fiordland to the next level, by undertaking a three day guided walk on the Hollyford Track.
As a willing virgin to multi-day trekking, I enlisted my sister to join me, given her seasoned experience tramping all over the South Island high country on a swag of multi-day treks. To be honest though – the hike we were undertaking was not exactly the most gruelling of assignments, as we were joining Ngai Tahu Tourism’s 3 Day Guided Wilderness Experience on the Hollyford Track. It is the only major low altitude track in Fiordland National Park.
A PAMPERED PATHWAY
Add to that the lure of well-appointed private lodges with twin share rooms, piping hot showers, flush toilets, first-rate cuisine, jet boats and chopper rides, which were just some of the all-inclusive, guaranteed frills and indulgences, to soften any qualms about physical discomfort. It’s a very pampered pathway from the mountains to the sea!
We joined our nine fellow guests, from the US, Britain, Russia and Australia, for a pre-departure briefing at The Spire Hotel in Queenstown. Although all members of our group had dutifully arrived with all of the recommended gear, Ngai Tahu Tourism had ample spares on-hand for the ill-equipped. At first light, we departed Queenstown on our scenic coach transfer down to Te Anau and into the Eglinton Valley, to the start of the track in the Hollyford Valley. Shortly out of Te Anau, my cellphone lost its last little bar of connectivity. I was unplugged, liberated and officially off-the-grid.
Our lead guide for the three-day hike was Justin, who had a pitch-perfect resume for guiding in the Hollyford. Sporting a mountain-man beard, the gregarious 30 year old exuded an instantly agreeable easy-going, free-spirited Kiwi demeanour. Originating from Nelson, he’d served several years in the army, before guiding in Patagonia and the Scottish Highlands. In the off-season, top of his bucket list is to motorcycle from South Africa to Norway! He was like a walking, talking wilderness Wikipedia, with a trusting, first-hand sense of authority, knowledge and reverence for this wild and woolly pocket of New Zealand.
Click HERE to find out how the remaind of Mike's first day went...