An improbable Christmas on the Hollyford Track

If you were to make a list of the rainiest places in the world Fiordland would be near the top. Milford Sound famously has an average annual rainfall of 8m a year with over 200 rainy days. The Hollyford Track is not far from Milford sound so when we set out to walk it this Christmas we expected to get really wet and be looking at cloudy skies and mist most of the time. Sure enough this is how the walk started,

but after a few hours the rain had cleared and we started a dream run of 6 consecutive cloudless days. What follows is our account of walking the Hollyford Track in rather improbably warm and gloriously sunny conditions.

By the first night the rain had cleared and we looked up at snow capped peaks from our cosy lodgings at Hidden Falls hut. Inside the hut there were a few old accounts of hikers who followed our route over 100 years ago. It certainly sounded pretty tough back then with the chief hardships being starvation (relieved only by eating now endangered birds), getting lost, being stuck in pouring rain and being eaten alive by vicious sandflies (yep, those are still around).

The next day we made our way to a real gem of a hut on the shores of Lake Alabaster. By the time we arrived we were actually hot and sweaty enough to want a swim in the freezing lake. After a very brief but refreshing swim we went for a stroll and spent many pleasant hours reading books and sipping tea in the hut.

Later that evening quite a few fellow trampers started to arrive at the hut. Things got much busier but also a lot more sociable. Luckily for us the people who arrived were a really nice bunch and we ended up sharing huts with them for the rest of the walk.

Jan was a bit apprehensive about day 3 as it marked the start of the “proper” part of the walk suitable for “experienced trampers”. As it happens it also featured the first of many three wire bridges. We had read about these in other blogs and Jan had blown them up into something of a monster in her mind. Luckily they ramped up slowly in scariness so that by the last one (pictured) Jan was ready to tightrope 20m above a raging rock filled river.

Crossing these 3 wire bridges in perfect conditions wasn’t too much of a bother (for Ira!) and we could not help but imagine what it would be like to have a little water to slick up those wires and increase the feeling of precariousness.

The next day was Christmas Day and we awoke to a delicious breakfast of pan fried Brown Trout that one of our fellow trampers had caught the afternoon before (thank you Kiwis!).

But the real Christmas present was another nice day. We thought we might need it as today we were to face the “demon trail”, famous for its relentless slippery rocks, tree roots and undulations.

Instead of wet weather demons (that would have really made the trail hard) we saw plenty of devilishly huge dragonflies buzzing around in the sunshine.

Against the odds we awoke to yet another glorious day on Boxing Day. Perfect for a stroll around the lake and out to the sea to Martin’s Bay. Along the way we could see back up the lake all the way to the snow capped mountains we had left behind several days before.

Martin’s Bay was a magical location with a great view from it’s hut window. We’d heard that this place had the “worst sandflies in all of New Zealand”. While it did have its share of these nasties we’d say that they were somewhat held at bay by strong winds when we were there. I would not have liked to have seen them in calm conditions though. Although this hut had a great overall design it had one major flaw … dodgy ill fitting windows. This meant that even inside the hut there was only minor relief from the sandflies. We are still scratching our bites several days later.

With the help of aeroguard we were able to really enjoy our time at Martin’s Bay. Perhaps the nicest element of it was the sense of accomplishment we shared with the 9 other trampers who were following the same route. We celebrated with a fire on the beach and some delicious Paua which were plucked from the rocks by two very dexterous members of our party.

By now we were so accustomed to sunshine that it was no surprise that our final morning was beautiful again. As a perfect cap to our adventure we flew out from Martins Bay around the coast and into Milford Sound.

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