The list of things we didn’t do in New Zealand’s Fjordland is much longer than our list of accomplishments there. The 3 great walks had been booked months out, Milford Sound was pretty far out of the way, and the helicopter/airplane/boat tours were out of our budget range. We settled on a loop hike towards the south end of the park. It involved 3 days, 2 hut stays, and an unmarked ridge walk. The weather was even supposed to be good, so we set off for Lake Monowai. There was a free campsite next to our trailhead, so we enjoyed a short walk and some lakeside scenery while gearing up mentally for what was sure to be a challenging walk. The daily distances were very reasonable, but if it’s not a Great Walk, the trails seem to get neglected. Also, there was even a warning at the trailhead about the disrepair of our return route, so we were both a little concerned about how many mud bogs we’d have to dodge, or trees we’d have to climb over.
Saturday’s destination was Green Lake. It wasn’t a bad hike, steep in some spots, muddy in more than a few areas, but there were a couple nice lookouts and the day ended at a nice hut on the shores of Green Lake. A short swim proved too cold for diving, but felt great on the muscles. It was a really nice sunny afternoon, maybe a little too cold and windy to sit outside, but an excellant day to enjoy the ‘luxuries’ of being indoors with big windows and a great view.
Sunday was suppose to be our ridgewalk. We’d climb back up the way we came about a mile, then head up the saddle and take in a long ridge walk down to a small hut along the lake. Our plan continued to Monday when we’d wake up early and tackle what I’m sure would’ve been the nastiest trail we would’ve seen in New Zealand. Instead, we were socked in on Sunday. Our clear view of the saddle the day before was now covered by at least a 400 ft vail of low hanging clouds.
Our one and only hut mate was a pregnant, British expat turned kiwi veterinarian. She gave us the extremely kind offer of bailing out on a shorter exit hike with her and shed drop us off back at our car. We could either wait it out or pull the trigger. There was already a decent drizzle and the thought of going back to our car on the same, longer route that we took in, wasn’t very appealing. There was the option to just relax and enjoy the Green Lake hut one more day but our time in New Zeland was limited. In the end, we opted for the bail out. Keira was enjoying some of her very last free time out in the Fjordland before heading back home to Dunedin and thankfully she was kind enough to give us a lift and even made us some hot chocolate.
The rain never really let up, it just hovered in a soft mist most of the day, even after we’d left Fjordland National Park and headed to the southern coast of the South Island and made our way east. We eventually made our way to a campground along a river, showered and cooked up our final backcountry meal pouch that we wouldn’t get the chance to use. New Zealand makes some pretty descent dehydrated backpacker meals and they are available everywhere. They’re a little small for 2 people at the end of a long day but I’ve been able to add a can of corn, beans or mashed potatoes to bulk up our lightweight space meals.
Our trip to the Fjordland was kind of a failure. I know the weather there is usually pretty bad so what happened wasn’t all that unexpected, despite forecasts of clear skies. I just felt like we didn’t give this National Park the time it deserved but we were short on time and looking forward to our week of r&r in Christchurch. The famous Milford Sound was even a little too far out of our way to justify the long out and back it required. Then again, NZ will be here down the road and there were more than a few spots we’d still like to explore.