Kel: Our trip started with a 4 hour bus journey to Te Anau, followed by a boat crossing to the start line. The boat trip was absolutely beautiful. A bit windy but worth being up on top deck. We then had about an hour walk to our first lodge and then had time for a nature walk before dinner. The lodges were a bit like school camp, in fact the whole trip was a bit like adult camp, but so so worth it. We shared a bunk bed room with another couple (in 30s ... turned out there were mixed ages!), had hot showers and then a lovely dinner before the introductions started. We were the only Scots, and you were introduced by country. People like Scotland eh. We got a big cheer before we even started talking. Our intro was a bit cheesy and M said I talked too much ... but what's new eh? They seemed to like it. The majority of the group were ozzies .. and then there were the Americans, who did not let us down and were very entertaining, whether they knew it or not. We met a lovely guy called Paul from Chicago who is over in NZ for 6 months with his family so had loads of good chats/gossips with him over the days to come. He's even met Obama so we were well impressed.
The next day was the first proper day of walking, 16k in all. It absolutely pissed down (even had puddles in the bottom of our bags at the end of the day) but it meant that the rivers were in full flow and we got to see some stunning waterfalls and wetlands in their true form. We were looked after with a hot drink stop mid way then the hot showers, 3 course meal, a wee glass of vino etc at the end of the day. The guides were excellent too and really encouraged you to look around, listen for birds, and generally appreciate nature, rather than just bombing your way through it.
Day 3 was the biggie. This time 15k but up Mackinnon Pass (it was a Scot who laid out the trail in the 1860s) and back down the other, very steep side. Again, it was pissing it down! We made it to the top pretty quickly and it was great to get inside to a hot cuppa at the top and our lunch. We downed a nip or two of whisky, took a couple of shots although you couldn't see a thing (should have looked like this http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~burkhard/Tramping/Milford/Milford.html) and then made our way back down. Then Matthew's bad knee started really creeking. Then mine did too - noooo! The grey brigade were absolutely fine but we were total disasters by the time we got back. M ended there but I decided to go on to visit Sutherland falls which were very spectacular, before calling it a day. Back to the normal lovely facilities, and more booze. Hugh, a Northern Irish guy on the tour, literally had everyone in stitches with his drunken recollection of bungy jumping (he's in his 60's), a right wing American guy was telling an aussie gay guy exactly what he thought and vice versa... so it was quite an entertaining night.
Day 4 should have been ok. 21k or a half marathon, but mainly on flat paths. However we were like tweedle dumb and tweedle dee fast forwarded 50 years hobbling about the place and popping lots of nurofen. We were really slow in the morning but then got a second wind to make it to the end for the second boat crossing at 4pm (we missed the 3.15pm) Another few whisky nips and a seat and we were a bit better. Worst part was was that no one else made the 4pm so we had to sit and wait for the rest of the group to finish by about 5pm. Never mind. We heard one couple got helicoptered out because they were so so slow. On day 2 they turned up at 7pm when everyone was eating dinner so it was no surprise really. Anyway, we got on our boat trip across the most stunning Milford sound. The sun was shining and we got some great views to snap away at. We had a hotel stay on our last night, everyone got a certificate etc and apart from the helicopter couple, everyone else made it. Even the scary 10 year olds (two sets of twins, highly competitive). The parents of the little darlings decided to dodge them at dinner so Paul, Matthew and I plus 2 guides had to share with them instead. How cheeky eh. One parent came over and said how awful she felt, so Paul said if you feel that bad buy us some wine (which she did, expensive stuff too!) Much more booze and a visit to the pub and we were done for the night.
Next day was the proper boat trip to the Milford sound where the sun shone again (yes - perfect timing!) and we got to see dolphins and seals along the way. Just beautiful. A 5 hour bus trip back and my knee totally seized up. We hobbled back to our luxurious hotel before the adventures began again in the van.