Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 4 - The Milford Track

Wekas were the highlight of the Day 4. The first weka of the day was shy, poking under the bushes along the trail and completely ignoring us. We couldn't get a good look at it. I wouldn't have even seen it if another walker hadn't shown it to us. The next weka was just strutting down the middle of the trail, like a hunched old man. Lucy almost walked right up to it, but I glimpsed it over her shoulder ahead on the trail. Our two-family group madly snapped photos and at the same time tried to stay still and quiet. Our final weka of the day was hanging out on a bridge giving the impression that it was accustomed to the steady flow of walkers and wasn't going to change plans on our account. The weka reminds me of a Kiwi with a shorter beak.

Mackay Falls didn't have the raw power of the Sutherland Falls, but it had symmetry, sweeping lines and seemed to glow and shimmer in the early morning sun and mist. The kids were more taken with Bell Rock, but I spent our break gazing at the falls. Unfortunately, we didn't get a good photo of it.

Colin seemed powered by conversation. He walked and chatted with each person he met on the trail. He sped up to stay alongside, initiating conversations that seemed more free-association musings and questions.

I heard him ask one fellow hiker, "so, do you think I have drank enough water in my life to fill an entire car?'

Not waiting for an answer, he continued on about "how much better it was to hike in Milford with water everywhere than on the Lycian Way in Turkey where Liam almost died without water and the water was brown and dirty. In fact, my mom found a wasp nest in my bed."

Eventually Colin would slow down and fall behind his trail companion. But soon another victim would try to pass him and off he'd go walking at top speed in conversation again.

Several miles before lunch, Colin was running out of conversation topics and hikers when our guide Donna came along and suggested they try to come up with type of chocolate for every letter of the alphabet. Down the trail went Donna and Colin. "Cadbury chocolate." "Dark chocolate." "Extra dark chocolate." "Frosting chocolate." Donna also mentioned we were having chocolate mud cake for the celebration dinner at Mitre Peak Lodge, which helped to reinvigorate Colin.

Lunch at Giant Gate Falls helped all of us recharge. The fine mist from the falls kept the sandflies at bay and we sat at the edge of the pool across from the falls. We only had 3.5 miles to go, I encouraged Colin. Funny, on the trail Colin looked exhausted, but at lunch he immediately perked up and joined Lucy and Liam skipping rocks. I have no idea what Liam and Lucy were up to or discussing on the trail because they stayed out front and out of range of the parents.

After lunch, everyone hit the trail with renewed energy. Colin was chugging along, but by the last mile he started to resemble a weka. He was waddling along, muttering to himself or me. At one point, he missed a turned in the trail and started to disappear straight into the bush. Doug and I grabbed the back of his pack and turned him around. I walked the rest of trail hand-in-hand with Colin singing silly songs to pass the remaining miles.

I started the last day of the hike worrying how Colin would manage and wondering whether he'd be able to make the 13-mile (21 km) walk? His longest walk to date was 7 miles. Along the track there are mile markers that tick off each mile. Colin walked marker to marker. Even at the end, when he was stumbling along the last mile of trail, he insisted on carrying all his own gear. I was so proud of him.

Liam was an ox. He walked unfazed by distance or load. He ran the last couple of miles with Lucy and Donna. I am was proud of Liam too, but mostly I am hopeful he'll soon be carrying my load on our backpacking adventures.

Each arrival at Sandfly Point shelter was greeted with cheers and applause from fellow hikers. Seeking refuge from the sandflies in the shelter, we waited for our boat, commiserated about sore feet and joints, and celebrated with chocolate biscuits! Sitting in the back of the boat crossing Milford Sound under a huge blue sky was heaven.

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