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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Sutherland Falls

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 15 November 2008 | Views [1521]

Today was day three on the Milford Track. I was still in “dreamland” as everyone else was getting ready to tackle MacKinnon Pass. At 8:30 I washed up hurriedly and packed up everything and ran out the door. Since I walked up to MacKinnon Pass yesterday, I kind of rushed it. It was cloudier than yesterday but there was still no rain. Heavy rain is on the forecast for tomorrow, so I have to have my raingear out and ready if it pours. It would really be something to write home about if there was no rain at all in four days on Milford Track. Much of Milford Track is at risk for avalanches and rock falls, so there a couple of signs on the way up to MacKinnon Pass. The time to get up there is normally two hours but I got there in 1 hr., 22 min. The view today was also spectacular. An interesting thing about Pass Hut is that you don’t need a hut pass. That’s a joke because no overnight stays are permitted except in emergency situations. The view from the hut toilet (interestingly) is amazing! As a late breakfast I ate wheat flakes and fruit salad. My other camping food wasn’t too good but this one turned out to be really good. The wind was powerful outside, and I was reading that this is the fifth hut constructed because the first four were blown straight into the valley. Who knows how long this one will last, and when the sixth hut will be constructed. A number of people were helping George carry his stuff, and I got a photo with him, Laurel, and a couple of other guys.

After eating and relaxing for about 20 minutes, I decided to start heading down into the valley. The wind was powerful enough that I was nearly blown off the hill, and cold enough that I had to dig out my raincoat and gloves. With my camera in hand, I kept snapping away at the beautiful valley. The sky was blue, the snow wonderful, and the waterfalls spectacular as I descended deep into the valley. Once I got down to the bushline, I was walking through dense forest, stopping at every waterfall for photos.

One section had a wooden walkway, and some routes are emergency routes due to avalanche risks. The descent to Quintin Lodge is 900 metres more or less and altogether was about four hours. At 2:30 I made it to the lodge and was relieved to get my heavy pack off. There was free tea in the hut, so I filled up my billy. I then made another as I got ready to make the 45 minute walk to New Zealand’s highest waterfall: Sutherland Falls. I brought along my raincoat to get up close and personal with the waterfall. When I finished my tea I hung my billy from a tree and decided to pick it up later. Along the way I was talking with a young couple named Daniel and Rachel from Norfolk, England. Daniel is a runner and has run in marathons in several countries. They are part of a guided tour on Milford Track, which is much more convenient but substantially more expensive! There is a sign 580 metres away from the falls to show in perspective the height. At the falls I got a lot of photos and then put my camera down so I could walk behind the falls. After realizing how wet it was, I took my boots off because I didn’t want a repeat of Stewart Island (and you know what I mean). I got behind the falls and I was soaked but I didn’t care because I haven’t had a shower in five days.

When I travel, I take the bull by the horns and just do whatever, even if it means carrying wet clothes. Daniel and Rachel took photos of me, and getting wet felt so good. If I had Milford Track all to myself I would have skinny-dipped in the plunge pool. Part of the way back I walked barefoot but I put my boots back on when my feet were dry because the rocks were too rough. My billy was lying on the ground, dented, and my spoon was gone. After looking around for a few minutes I couldn’t find it. I thought I’d stop at the lodge and ask if they have a plastic spoon. The walk back took 45 minutes. At the lodge, Daniel gave me his email and he got a spoon and let me have a muffin because they have good food at the lodge while we independent walkers are all eating freeze-dried camping food. In the hut I made a hot cuppa and talked with George for a bit. He has a bone condition and had a heart bypass 11 years ago. Even worse, he was recently diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. That’s very sad, but his dream was to walk the Milford Track and make it to MacKinnon Pass. He is a retired farmer, and he thinks that it is all the pesticides he used that caused the cancers. That’s one reason I decided to be a WWOOFer. The chances of living beyond 3 years with oesophageal cancer are only 25%, but my advice is to always think positive. My hat is off to him; few people even when they’re 30 or 40 are just too lazy to do anything like that. George gathered his gear to go to Dumping Hut while I finished my tea. I then made another to drink along the way. 15 minutes into the walk I caught up with George. I offered to carry his bag, but he had several other trampers already carrying some of his gear. Sutherland Falls looked really spectacular. George asked me to take a photo for him because he was shaky. The downhill stretch was getting to him, so he asked me to carry his pack. I made sure to stay a few metres ahead or behind him just in case he needed any help. It drizzled very lightly; the first rain I’ve seen on Milford Track. The walk to Dumpling Hut was well over an hour. I put George’s pack on a bottom bunk for him and chose a top bunk for me. In each hut I’ve slept on bunk #9. After getting situated I decided to make lamb fettuccine for dinner. I sat with Emma, Sue, and Richard while I ate my dinner. Honosha’s husband shared his chocolate bar with us. After dinner I made two cups of tea and then Ian, the DOC ranger came in and told us about what might happen in the event of heavy rain tomorrow. He said that if the valley is flooded tomorrow that we may be taken out on a helicopter or we may have to stay in Dumpling Hut for an extra night. I packed a little bit of extra food for that reason. I have been in heaps of airplanes but I’ve never been in a helicopter. At 10:00 the lights went out, so I washed up and then decided to hit the sack. Tomorrow, depending on the weather, I’ll either ride in a helicopter or I’ll finish Milford Track! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow night!

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