Friday, 10 April 2009

"Oh Lord, I've never been a religious man, but I'll devote my life to you if you send me a helicopter NOW"

The Milford Track is said to be the best walk in the World, and one of the wettest. Both true. It was the only 'epic' I'd specifically committed myself to before I left the UK; you have to book your place on it months in advance. As predicted, the weather gods were indeed saving themselves for this, and on Day 2, they gave it everything - about 500mm of rain in total on various parts of the track. After 2 hours of leading us miserably through thigh deep streams, the ranger announced that if we went any further (1st photo) we'd be neck deep or worse, and that while he wasn't ruling this out, he would radio his base to discuss ferrying us over the submerged stretch by helicopter. Everyone secretly prayed to his/her own personal Gods for the whirly option, and thankfully they answered us (2nd photo). It took about 15 trips and 2 hours to ferry us all over the 5 impassable kilometers, and the 5 minutes it took were more than cool enough to compensate for the hours of misery beforehand, and even the additional hours of misery that evening when I discovered that my cagoule, pack and contents were rather less waterproof than hoped.

Soaked trampers (NZ-speak for hikers) aside, the Milford Track is at its best in the rain, with spectacular temporary waterfalls cascading down 2000 foot cliff faces everywhere you look - I could see 20+ at several points. And Milford Sound is a picture book place to finish up, though it's a strange feeling staggering off the boat at the end of the 4 days into a visitor centre full of endless busloads of Japanese tourists. I had a similar experience in Macchu Picchu at the end of the Inca Trail a few years ago. Must be weird for them too, can't imagine we smelt very good.

But this all seems a bit inconsequential right now. Checking emails on my return to Te Anau, I learned that Roger Bagshaw had died suddenly. He was a couple of years below me at school, and though we didn't have much direct contact, we met regularly via our mutual friend Ian Brown (usually in fairly liquor-fuelled circumstances) kept in touch through Facebook more recently, and I'd made arrangements to see him in Christchurch later this month after his return from the Hong Kong Sevens. He was the life and soul of every night out I ever shared with him, very hard to believe he's gone. See for how much he meant to friends old and new.

Now staying with another school friend, Soren O'Reilly, plus his family (4 boys from 7 to 13, so unlikely to be a relaxing few days!), near Invercargill.


  1. You'll look back on your trip and laugh.

    And yes, you will pong far as the Japanese are concerned but not because of your dampness. Chinese and Japanese think people who eat dairy smell. I know this cos I once got on a packed bus in Hong Kong and the Chinese preferred to stand rather than sit by 'the European.' Got a bit paranoid, I did, until my British pal told me. The irony was, I was dairy-free at the time!

    Sorry to hear about your friend Stuart.

    J x

  2. Envy you the Milford - had hoped to do that when in NZ in '06 with Steph but did the Rees/Dart and the Kepler instead.

    Maybe next time...

    though that might be a while - Steph gave birth to Sierra Jane on March 16 (7lb 7oz) so long distance hikes are on hold for a while, though perhaps there'll be time when she's through university.. in about 2032.

    Sorry too to hear about your pal Roger Bagshaw - I hope the news of Sierra's arrival has brought a bit of a smile back to your face.