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February 2016 Issue
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No. 11 – Experience Fiordland

Fiordland allows incredible views like this down the Routeburn Valley. Photo: Daniel Sallai Photography

We’ve seen it many times – that amazing image of a pristine view that just seems to scream: “Come here!” Fiordland is spoilt for such views, and because of this, outdoor enthusiasts tend to put it in the over-hyped tourism category. By definition, a place where everyone goes is not that much out of the ordinary.

My Fiordland is a little different. It doesn’t involve any time in Te Anau or Milford Sound. Rather, it’s go west and see where the land allows you to cross, and where it doesn’t!

There are endless valleys, rugged gorges and narrow passes that stretch in all directions. It’s topo map after topo map of untracked green forest. If it’s wilderness you want to experience, and not just read about, then Fiordland is a must.

Fiordland National Park has three ‘Great Walks’ – the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler. Then there’s the Humpridge Track, which ought to be another. More adventurous tracks abound including the Dusky, Green Lake and the trip out to George Sound, while Borland Road gets you to the likes of the Florence, Jaquiery and Emerald valleys, and the perfect place to start an off-track tramping career.

And sure, there’s a bit of effort needed to get there. But talk to anyone who’s spent time in Fiordland and they won’t bore you with the amazing places they got to. Nor will they focus on that odd patch of bad weather, or when they took several hours to get through a difficult stretch of terrain. Rather they’ll get that distant look that comes from not just knowing a place, but from being changed by it.

Three tiers for Fiordland!

Tackle this remote part of the world in three tiers of difficulty

Tier one

The Milford Track is known as the greatest walk in the world for good reason. Free huts for those under 18 and, because everyone’s walking in the same direction, much of the day can be spent in solitude. The sheerness of the valleys, the lushness of the forest and the deep river pools are unsurpassed. The walking’s easy, so gourmet things up by taking fantastic food.

Tier two

Spend the night at the campsite on the shore of Island Lake before heading to historic Clark Hut, three hours down-valley. It’s a true bush hut made of red beech, and recently renovated. From here, it’s possible to begin your off-track adventures. For instance; up the Jaquiery to look down into the Russet, or around the tops to walk out via the Florence. It’s a place to get lost in the intricacies of nature – if you’re into photography, take your macro lens.

Tier three

An epic route to the heart of the Fiordland experience is the 10-12 day wander that begins along the South Coast to Aan River, past Lake Marshall and into the head of Lake Hakapoua and the West Branch of Big River. Gain the Cameron Mountains just east of Arnett Peak, staying on the ridges all the way to the stunning lake at the head of the Richard Burn. From here it’s steeply down to Lake Kakapo and the Princess Burn, then back over to Sphynx Lake before doing a grovelly 1500m sidle to reach the start of the Dusky Track.

Either catch a boat back down Lake Hauroko or carry on to Lake Manapouri via the Dusky. It’s magical, challenging, but not too steep.

Route descriptions from Moirs Guide South remain enigmatic – one sentence translating into half a day on the ground. But not to worry, because the travel’s so slow it’s difficult to get lost.