17. Queenstown to Milford Sound (The Last Leg)

This was it, our last few days hiking in New Zealand. We were delighted that Stefan would be walking with us for the first part of it! We all set off bright and early in a shuttle bus to the to the start of the Greenstone Track which is a 2hr drive from Queenstown around Lake Wakatipu.

Mixed emotions a plenty – the first few hours passed by with lots of chatting about life after the trail and reflections on our time hiking the Te Araroa. The trail follows the Greenstone River through beech forest and gorged terrain, this made for a perfect last swimming spot on our journey.

 

Lovely spot for a dip!
Lovely spot for a dip!

 

Jumping in to the Greenstone river!
Jumping in to the Greenstone River!

 

It took a couple of hours to reach the Greenstone Hut. Just before the hut was the most impressive part of the walk – we crossed a narrow gorge with beautiful turquoise water rushing through 20m below. A final peanut butter wrap and it was time to say our farewells as we turned off the Te Araroa trail towards Milford Sound.

 

Gorge on the way to Greenstone Hut
Gorge on the way to Greenstone Hut

 

Saying farewell
Saying farewell

The Greenstone Valley is a wide bottomed glacial valley with lots of grazing cattle from a remote working homestead. It was also one of the original links to the West Coast and as such the walking was easy and pretty flat the whole way. The only issue we had was our path being blocked on several occasions by cows and/or bulls! Not ideal!

 

Greenstone Valley
Greenstone Valley

The views of the towering mountains above the valley floor are definitely the most interesting aspect of the walk through the grassy flats. We were lucky to see lots of wispy cloud being blown between the peaks which made for quite stunning views across the upper horizon.

We reached the Mckellar Hut by 6.00pm to find the outside area littered with tents! We panicked that we’d missed out on a bunk but the inside was virtually empty (we had 5 people in a 12 bed room). It turned out so many people camped as it was $5 vs $10 for the hut. As we had the annual hut pass it was pretty much free for us – it really is the deal of the century at $99 per year! I have to say it was the nicest hut we’ve stayed in! Running water, flushing toilets, plenty of space, nice views from the deck and a hut warden to keep things nice and clean.

After a final meal of dehydrated potatoes, peas and beef jerky we popped a small bottle of bubbles (thanks again Stefan!) and hit the hay in preparation for an early start.

 

Time to celebrate!
Time to celebrate!

We had a bus to catch at 8.20am from the Divide car park (11km’s away), so in pre-dawn darkness our alarm rang out at 5.00am. It was still pitch black by the time we hit the trail. Head torches on we plunged into the darkness of the forest (Harriet dealing very well with her fear of the dark.) It certainly gave our last morning on trail a rather adventurous feel to it! We crossed into Fiordland under the cover of darkness which for us was a special moment having spent our winter here. We felt privileged to be able to appreciate the dawn on our last day from such an amazing section of the trail. We left ourselves just enough time to drop our packs and dash up Key Summit to get above the tree line and really savour the views over Fiordland. After a few moments of sheer bliss and soaking in the jaw dropping views we powered down the final section of the track to catch our bus into Milford Sound. Walk over. Training complete. Finished. Done. Dusted.

 

Entering Fiordland under the cover of darkness
Entering Fiordland under the cover of darkness

 

Dawn on the Greenstone
Dawn on the Greenstone

 

Dawn on the Greenstone
Dawn on the Greenstone

 

These boots deserve a good rest!
These boots deserve a good rest!

 

Finished!
Finished!
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