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Light in the Shadowlands

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January 2023 Issue

Gertrude Saddle, Fiordland National Park

Possibly the only thing more stunning than Milford Sound is the journey to get there. For those wanting to spend more time admiring Ata Whenua Fiordland, a walk into the Gertrude Valley is sure to hit the spot.

Pulling into the car park by the HomerTunnel to be faced with a ple-thora of warnings and info boards might be a bit unsettling for the unprepared. But not to worry, if you’ve checked the weather forecast and have one of those rare sunny days in Fiordland, you’re good to go.

The track is well marked and easy to follow and begins by meandering up the valley beneath impossibly steep mountains. Near the end of the valley, the beaten path climbs past sporadic cairns to cross the river just below a waterfall. Along the rock slabs are orange track markers and steel cables. This section can become treacherous after rain or when icy.

Black Lake is about three-quarters of the way. It’s a great swim spot, albeit bone-chilling.

The saddle is a little further up. There is revealed a view that will leave you speechless. A grand landscape stretches out in front: Gulliver River far below, mountains leaping from the valley, and Milford Sound peeking through between them. You might even see some tour boats cruising the fiord.

There is plenty of room on the saddle to find a spot to yourself to enjoy the views and sunshine before returning the same way.