Three days on the Hollyford

OUR GROUP: The writer, in bandana, and his fellow hikers.
BREATHTAKING: Snow-capped mountains while crossing a clear stream on a swing bridge — typical of the delights the Hollyford Track has to offer.
Hollyford Track.
Hollyford Track
TIME FOR A BREAK: Crystal clear waters, a sandy beach, wispy clouds drifting by nearby peaks — all sights to enhance the experience for walkers on the Hollyford Track. Add the odd waterfall and majestic ancient trees, and you have a feast for the senses.

Tim Warrington takes us tramping on the Hollyford Track . . .

It’s quittin’ time,” my calves screamed from my hiking pants.

Almost 20km into day one of a three-day/two-night Hollyford Track expedition, my legs had turned to jelly and each step felt like I was wading through custard.

But with the finish line almost upon us — Pyke Lodge now only metres away — and a hot shower firmly in my sights, I made it, just as my muscles officially went on strike.

Queenstown to Milford Sound by foot, flight and fiord — tramping close to 44km, and while I found the first day tough going at times, it was oh, so rewarding.

I beelined for the shower block. My pack, by then a Sisyphus boulder, slipped from my shoulders and I climbed into the water stream, fully clothed. Bliss: I was zen again.
River water is pumped, filtered then gravity fed to the lodge, and like the solar panels on the roof, designed to make the building as eco-friendly as possible. I emerged from the shower, dressed and mingled in the living room where cultures converged.

Chatting over the divinely tender venison, all roads eventually lead to “how are your feet?” and none of the other trampers disagreed with the track info, “if you have a reasonable level of fitness you will find it pleasantly challenging and highly rewarding”.

In this remote part of New Zealand, we were Australians and Americans, Brits and Kiwis, and at 42, I was by far the youngest.

Jeannette from South Carolina, almost 30 years my senior, had been my compass for the day. Where she went, I followed. But I couldn’t keep up and when we stopped to re-group I would invariably find her in some pretzel-like yoga position — serene and breathing calmly. Then I would arrive — huffing and puffing, sweaty and decidedly not serene.

Jeannette travelled with husband Marshall who turned 65 on the second day of the trip. This was the second hike of their overseas trip and they loved every minute.

I retired to my room early that first night, and as the generator snoozed to conserve energy I pecked my day’s travel notes on my laptop by snatches of moonlight.

I fought the call to sleep a while longer before I finally hit the z key.

The next morning, great scudding clouds looming ominously, caressed the mountain peaks to the east, but as we hikers
click-clacked our day packs, Mother Nature nudged the showers away and delivered us another fine day.

After a hearty breakfast I could face almost anything — even another lengthy hike. Water bottles at the ready, we set off. My new Kathmandu pack is made with the recycled plastic of 17 water bottles. It was a nice touch, and fitting for a walk where so much care is taken to minimise the footprint of its travellers.

Beauty remote and wild

Our guide Graeme’s encyclopaedic knowledge was astonishing. He was not merely a side character on our adventure but the captivating focus — a guru of flora and fauna.

We pounded our way past a mighty crush of ferns, vines and trees diffusing shards of sunlight from the canopy above.

The track was relatively flat but negotiating the spaghetti tangle of tree roots and tangled mat of undergrowth could, at times, be a punishing duty of concentration. A fellow tramper clapped me on the back and said, “pleasurable torment, hey chuck” before disappearing into the bush.

By day two I had found my stride.

The raw beauty of the rugged West Coast had utterly seduced me. Mountains, forests, rivers and sea converged in a treat for the senses that lightened every step. The mountains, jagged and snow-capped as if painted by a child, shook with the occasional avalanche. Glaciers snaked like ivory molasses down mountain passes.

Day two’s anthem was the sound of swatting and spraying: sandflies everywhere. Stiff joints and aching muscles were quickly forgotten at Lake Alabaster. We lingered for a while, silent save for the click of lens shutters — landscapes this beautiful call to the camera. Water bottles refilled from a mountain stream, we set off again.

Day one’s hike was the longest: the hardest. Day two was only 15 kilometres and I vowed to stride with greater pride.

The frequent stops we made to hear Graeme narrate the story of the ancient land on which we tramped never seemed rehearsed. He was informative, poetic and funny.

Hikers of all ages tramp the Hollyford each season. The Hollyford Track incorporated into Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, runs from late October to mid-April. Our group of 12 was four short of the maximum allowed at any time, plus two guides.

Hollyford is not just about physical endurance, or a feast for the senses, the mental drive to keep going was never far from my thoughts.

I had seen postcards of Fiordland, but in life not art, the Hollyford Track exceeded all my expectations. By the end of day two, as I tucked into baked blue cod at Martins Bay Lodge, the only thing more satisfying than my favourite fish was the sense of accomplishment — notching up another 15 kilometres.

Early on day three was a stroll across the dunes, down to the rolling surf. Walking on the sand finally fermented rebellion from my aching trotters so I removed my boots and dipped a toe or two in the bay.

We returned to the lodge for a light snack before being choppered to Milford Sound. It seemed the real message of the Hollyford was best read from the air. The terrain we had travelled these past three days was far more remote and wild than realised at ground level.

Here the rocky escarpments presided over a landscape which all seemed settled, as if for eternity.
High above the water our bird’s eye view seemed lost in time and it was hard to imagine a more honest place on earth.

Tim Warrington takes us tramping on the Hollyford Track . . .

It’s quittin’ time,” my calves screamed from my hiking pants.

Almost 20km into day one of a three-day/two-night Hollyford Track expedition, my legs had turned to jelly and each step felt like I was wading through custard.

But with the finish line almost upon us — Pyke Lodge now only metres away — and a hot shower firmly in my sights, I made it, just as my muscles officially went on strike.

Queenstown to Milford Sound by foot, flight and fiord — tramping close to 44km, and while I found the first day tough going at times, it was oh, so rewarding.

I beelined for the shower block. My pack, by then a Sisyphus boulder, slipped from my shoulders and I climbed into the water stream, fully clothed. Bliss: I was zen again.
River water is pumped, filtered then gravity fed to the lodge, and like the solar panels on the roof, designed to make the building as eco-friendly as possible. I emerged from the shower, dressed and mingled in the living room where cultures converged.

Chatting over the divinely tender venison, all roads eventually lead to “how are your feet?” and none of the other trampers disagreed with the track info, “if you have a reasonable level of fitness you will find it pleasantly challenging and highly rewarding”.

In this remote part of New Zealand, we were Australians and Americans, Brits and Kiwis, and at 42, I was by far the youngest.

Jeannette from South Carolina, almost 30 years my senior, had been my compass for the day. Where she went, I followed. But I couldn’t keep up and when we stopped to re-group I would invariably find her in some pretzel-like yoga position — serene and breathing calmly. Then I would arrive — huffing and puffing, sweaty and decidedly not serene.

Jeannette travelled with husband Marshall who turned 65 on the second day of the trip. This was the second hike of their overseas trip and they loved every minute.

I retired to my room early that first night, and as the generator snoozed to conserve energy I pecked my day’s travel notes on my laptop by snatches of moonlight.

I fought the call to sleep a while longer before I finally hit the z key.

The next morning, great scudding clouds looming ominously, caressed the mountain peaks to the east, but as we hikers
click-clacked our day packs, Mother Nature nudged the showers away and delivered us another fine day.

After a hearty breakfast I could face almost anything — even another lengthy hike. Water bottles at the ready, we set off. My new Kathmandu pack is made with the recycled plastic of 17 water bottles. It was a nice touch, and fitting for a walk where so much care is taken to minimise the footprint of its travellers.

Beauty remote and wild

Our guide Graeme’s encyclopaedic knowledge was astonishing. He was not merely a side character on our adventure but the captivating focus — a guru of flora and fauna.

We pounded our way past a mighty crush of ferns, vines and trees diffusing shards of sunlight from the canopy above.

The track was relatively flat but negotiating the spaghetti tangle of tree roots and tangled mat of undergrowth could, at times, be a punishing duty of concentration. A fellow tramper clapped me on the back and said, “pleasurable torment, hey chuck” before disappearing into the bush.

By day two I had found my stride.

The raw beauty of the rugged West Coast had utterly seduced me. Mountains, forests, rivers and sea converged in a treat for the senses that lightened every step. The mountains, jagged and snow-capped as if painted by a child, shook with the occasional avalanche. Glaciers snaked like ivory molasses down mountain passes.

Day two’s anthem was the sound of swatting and spraying: sandflies everywhere. Stiff joints and aching muscles were quickly forgotten at Lake Alabaster. We lingered for a while, silent save for the click of lens shutters — landscapes this beautiful call to the camera. Water bottles refilled from a mountain stream, we set off again.

Day one’s hike was the longest: the hardest. Day two was only 15 kilometres and I vowed to stride with greater pride.

The frequent stops we made to hear Graeme narrate the story of the ancient land on which we tramped never seemed rehearsed. He was informative, poetic and funny.

Hikers of all ages tramp the Hollyford each season. The Hollyford Track incorporated into Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, runs from late October to mid-April. Our group of 12 was four short of the maximum allowed at any time, plus two guides.

Hollyford is not just about physical endurance, or a feast for the senses, the mental drive to keep going was never far from my thoughts.

I had seen postcards of Fiordland, but in life not art, the Hollyford Track exceeded all my expectations. By the end of day two, as I tucked into baked blue cod at Martins Bay Lodge, the only thing more satisfying than my favourite fish was the sense of accomplishment — notching up another 15 kilometres.

Early on day three was a stroll across the dunes, down to the rolling surf. Walking on the sand finally fermented rebellion from my aching trotters so I removed my boots and dipped a toe or two in the bay.

We returned to the lodge for a light snack before being choppered to Milford Sound. It seemed the real message of the Hollyford was best read from the air. The terrain we had travelled these past three days was far more remote and wild than realised at ground level.

Here the rocky escarpments presided over a landscape which all seemed settled, as if for eternity.
High above the water our bird’s eye view seemed lost in time and it was hard to imagine a more honest place on earth.

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