This week, bookings opened for the Milford Track. The DoC website struggled with the load of people wanting tickets, and it took Mark and I three hours of trying to get through and get ourselves some tickets. By 9pm that night (12 hours after bookings opened), there were no tickets remaining for the day we wanted to start walking, or for more than a month after.
Looking again, 2 days after bookings opened, there are only a handful of single-tramper spaces available between mid-November and early March. It seems incredible that in 2 days more than 4 months worth of 120-beds-a-night hut space has been nearly completely booked out.
The Milford track is a 53.5km, one-way tramp that is New Zealand’s original “Great Walk”. Access at both ends is by boat, starting on Lake Te Anau, finishing on Milford Sound, under the watchful gaze of Mitre Peak. It involves 4 days, 3 nights of walking, although the first day is around 5km, so hardly a day at all. Accommodation is in huts that offer flush toilets, electric lighting (for a limited number of hours in the evening), and gas cookers. Freedom walkers must take all their own food and cooking utensils.
Alongside the DoC huts, there is a system of guided walking huts. These huts offer 3 meals a day, real beds (with sheets and blankets), hot showers, cash bars and drying rooms. Doing the Milford as a guided walk costs over $1200 per person. We opted not to take the guided walk option. I am somewhat sad about this, as there are no accommodation options in Milford for us the night we come off the track, so back to Te Anau for the night will be our only option, while the guided walk includes a night in their lodge at Milford.
While many trampers feel this track is over-rated, and over-touristy, this is a walk we have wanted to do for years. It is logistically and financially prohibitive to get to though. Booking in May (which is late for great walks bookings to open) for a walk in December that is 1200km away requires a lot of pre-planning, which then also all relies on actually getting passes on the day bookings open. We’ve been talking in detail about this trip since early January, confirming dates and travel preferences, and first floated it as an idea 3 years ago.
Now we wait! And hope that the Kaikoura road is open again by Christmas, so we don’t have three consecutive driving days immediately before starting the track.