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Located amidst temperate rain forest and mountains in Fiordland National Park, the Milford Track is a widely known hiking route in New Zealand in the southwest of the South Island. A phrase often attributed to New Zealand poet Blanche Baughan, the track is commonly known as The Finest Walk in the World! The article was originally titled A Notable Walk but was changed by an editor to The Finest Walk in the World, and the tag line stuck, which was eventually published by the London Spectator in England.
The Milford Track!
Starting at the head of Lake Te Anau and finishing at Milford Sound at Sandfly Point, the track spans a distance of 53.5 km. It traverses an alpine pass, wetlands, and rainforests. It is one of the nine Great Walks and is well maintained by the Department of Conservation, as a popular route.
Lake Te Anau
The Lake Te Anau end of the track can be reached either by climbing over Dore Pass from the Milford Sound road, or by a ferry. Either the regular ferry which runs for trampers during the peak season or sea kayaking, Sandfly Point can only be reached by the sea.
View From Ferry
Access to the trail is highly regulated, during the summer peak season of late October to late April. Travelling only in the northward direction, hikers must complete the track in four days. On the trail, camping is prohibited. Backpackers can tramp the track as part of a more expensive guided walk with a guide company, or independently. Fifty Guided, and forty Independent, a maximum of ninety walkers can start the trail per day. Despite the high cost of the guided walks, usually these ninety places are booked out for many months in advance.
Hikers need to keep moving even during bad weather, due to limited hut capacities and the one way ticket system. The Department of Conservation regularly calls in helicopters which fly backpackers over flooded sections of the track at no further charge during periods of especially heavy flooding.
Each night must be spent in a hut maintained and owned by the Department of Conservation if hiking independently. Hikers have to carry their own food and equipment; the huts for independent walkers have basic facilities, which include cooking facilities, restrooms, and bunk areas.
Backpackers stay in lodges operated and owned by the company on a guided walk. These lodges have facilities such as drying rooms, electric lights, lounge areas, beds, catered meals, and hot showers. While on the trail, guided walkers need only carry lunch, their sheets, toiletries, and clothing.
The track can be hiked in either direction, over any number of days, and is essentially unregulated, during the off season from May to mid October. As facilities at huts are removed, numerous avalanche paths cross the track, and some bridges are removed to prevent damage, it is much more dangerous and difficult backpacking in this season.
If you get to New Zealand, the Milford Track is a must do!
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