Glamping the Milford Track – Part #1

NEW ZEALAND – 31 January – 2 February 2020
Is it glamping when you stay in a lodge?  Not sure … I’ve always wanted to do the Milford Track and decided that (as it’s known to rain a bit)  I’d treat myself to the guided trip with wine, hot showers, real beds & sheets) and drying rooms at the end of the day.  Louise, Marcia and David decided to join me.  Probably not really blog-worthy as it’s a bit tame – after all we’d be walking on tracks the whole way – but as with most of my trips, you never can tell!

Day 1 – Queenstown > Te Anau . Glade House 
We boarded the bus at Queenstown, all 44 of us and 4 guides.  I have to admit to struggling a bit with so many people.  The bus took us to Te Anau for lunch and then on to the wharf at Te Anau Downs where a boat would take us to the end of the lake and then it was a punishing 1.6km walk to  Glade House.

Once the boat got underway, a bit of rain set in, and with the bow spray and the wind, most of us headed below deck where it was warmer.

Along the way we passed this small rocky outcrop with a cross on the left hand end of it.  Quinton MacKinnon (who opened up the Milford Track), departed to cross Lake Te Anau in 1892 but he never arrived. They found his wrecked boat and belongings but never recovered his body.  The cross was erected here and a memorial cairn was built at the summit of MacKinnon Pass

Nice view of where we would be going, heading to the left of this island and then right to the end of the lake.

Apparently this island has some caves on it, or overhangs, some fishermen landed here in a storm some time ago and sought shelter in some of the caves and found bones, indicating that the traditional owners had lived on the island.

The four of us at the start of the track (the obligatory track head photo).

And a mere 1.6k later we arrived at Glade House. The section of the house with the grey roof is the lounge and dining area, and to the left were all the rooms, with all sorts of combinations (queen bed only, twin singles, or bunk beds for four people).

The view from the bedroom that Marcia and I shared.  In the distance is a large hill, we would be walking up towards this hill and around to the left of it tomorrow.

The group and our four guides. There were people from many countries, Japan, USA, Sweden, Australia, Korea and a few Kiwis to balance us out.

After the photo shoot, Faith, one of our guides took us on the nature walk. We spent a lot of time looking for orchids (not finding any) and Faith pointed out many of the trees and plants that we’d be finding along the way. The most interesting plant was one that I’d seen a lot in gardens in Queenstown and it always looked half dead, Faith explained that it grew like that to stop the Moa bird from eating it, when the tree reached a certain height – out of reach of the Moa, it formed branches and more traditional leaves.  (Moa, now extinct, like an ostrich, 3.5m in height and weighing in at 230kg.)

The nature walk took us to this stream bed, bone dry! in the distance is the lake that we travelled on to the track head.

After the walk, we went back to our rooms, showered and then headed to the lounge at 4pm (when the bar opened) for cheese and wine, followed by dinner (3 courses).  You got to choose what you wanted for dinner from 3 different mains, for the life of me I can’t remember what we had on the first night.  After diner, there was a bit of a meet and greet when each group from each country got up and introduced themselves. Then a guide gave us a rundown on what would happen the next day.

At our briefing for the next day, we were told that a bit of rain was heading our way, probably for the next two days.  The generator being turned off at 10pm, was a good reason to go back to our rooms to make sure we were rested for the next day.

The usual itinerary was to get up at around 6.45am (once the generator was turned back on) head down to the dining room, make yourself a boxed lunch, then sit down to a full breakfast if you wanted.  Seemed to work really well.

Day 2 – Glade House > Pompolona Lodge – 16km

We headed off somewhere between 8.30 and 9am heading to the swing bridge across the river.

Louise psyched up!

The swing bridge, take note of the stanchion to the left of me, this will be important later on.

Another obligatory selfie of the crew on the swing bridge.

Going over the swing bridge (Louise, then David and Marcia)

When I stepped down from the end of the swing bridge, there was a lady walking towards me, obviously walking back to the start.  I asked her where she was going as I thought this was a one way route.  She was German and she said the DOCs Ranger had told all the independent walkers at the DOCs hut (a few kilometres away), that there was rain coming and that it was recommended that they didn’t go any further.  DOCs were apparently refunding their fees for the huts on the rest of the walk and hiring a boat to take them back to Te Anau.  WTF?  I thought about it and then decided that DOCs were just covering their butts, as we had guides, who knew what they were doing, they weren’t turning us back.  We passed quite a few people during the morning.

So, continuing upstream …, the river was really pretty, green water, and nice clean banks.

All along the track there are feral animal traps, some more sophisticated than others. This one (not too far along from the hut) had trapped a stoat or weasel (not sure which). This particular traps are designed to trap and kill two feral animals per trap, and then they have to be cleared out by Rangers. The more sophisticated ones kill far more. NZ plans to be feral animal free by 2050 – Australia, what’s your plan? Not sure in NZ is including deer in that plan, that might piss off the hunters.

The water was so clear you could see the pebbles on the river bed.

You can see that I really liked the river eh?

This gives you an idea of the track, really well maintained, and easy walking.

One of the side trips was to a board walk through some wetlands, lots of interesting flora to see and a nice respite from carrying our packs.

spider web & spider with a gazillion   babies

Sun dews just like we have in Australia – insect eating plants.

One of the many bridges we crossed over creek beds (dry), apparently DOCs helicopter these to a safer place (away from avalanche areas) during the winter months.

A small waterfall we passed, there was actually a really big eel in this pool.

A Weka  at the shelter where we stopped for lunch, Wekas are about the size of a chicken.  The guides made us hot drinks at the shelter (how good is that?).

Louise is into terrestrial orchids. We spent a good time looking for them on our canyoning adventure, and she was hoping to find some on the Track. Sadly I wasn’t there to see the excitement when she found this one might be a common greenhood orchid (might have that wrong).

Bit overcast now, but the scenery is still great.


A waterfall that we could take a side trip to see, not much water!  You can see where people have walked out into the pool, was a bit cold and frankly it’s not what I’d call a great photo op.

More river pics, so peaceful, crystal clear. In one section of the river we actually saw some trout and they were big, around 40 – 50cm.

Marcia on the track, small waterfall coming up.

It was real hobbit country, lots of mosses and ferns.

This is the site of an avalanche from a few years ago.  We had to boulder hop our way over to the small bridge you can just see in the middle of the photo.  Up to now the weather had been fine, but it started to sprinkle a bit when we got to this point.  Not a problem though, the next hut was just minutes away.

Pompolona Lodge.

The entry to the lodge, which as far as I’m concerned was the best on the whole track. It was relatively new and the facilities were wonderful.  We were once again greeted with juice and snacks before being shown to our rooms.

This is the room that Marcia and I had, we had a view across the valley to the hills on the other side and our en suite was off to the right.

We cleaned up and then headed down to the lounge for tea and scones (complete with jam and cream) – how good is that?  Then the bar opened at 4pm and we were able to get a glass of wine, plus some cheese and crackers.

I can’t remember what the dinner was but it was really good, plus we had Cream Brule for desert (they could have just given me the Cream Brule and I would have been happy).

The guides then gave us the briefing for the next day.  We’d be starting out very early (7.30am I think), and as they were expecting some rain, they wanted to keep the group as bunched up as they could, as they were expecting a “couple of hundred ml”, they wanted to make sure that we negotiated the little rivulets safely, plus the winds on the pass would be strong so having the group spread out wasn’t a good idea.  Whilst I wasn’t looking forward to getting wet, I was really excited about the prospect of crossing some raging torrents.

In the space of 2 days, the trip had become blog worthy!  And then it rained – Part #2 tomorrow!

Banner:  Marcia on the way to the swing bridge
Thumbnail:  Ferns – one of the best part of the trip for me is the variety of mosses and ferns

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6 Responses to Glamping the Milford Track – Part #1

  1. Roy Cotton says:

    Brings back some fantastic memories cant wait for next episode

  2. Doug says:

    Did it in 2011? Great trip with Ultimate Hikes Queenstown. Followed up with Routeburn Track the following year. Milford was great but Routeburn greater. Thy really look after you!

    • marilyn says:

      Yes, Doug, I’d use them again, particularly on those trips that are subject to a bit of rain, nothing beats a hot shower at the end of the day!

  3. john l'estrange says:

    Gee, those packs look heavy!
    The bench out the front of Pompolana Lodge – is that for sitting on in the sunshine?
    Looks like a great trip (and I do like those do-it-yourself sleeping arrangements).
    Looking forward to part two, gives me something to occupy my evenings. The power came back on at about 4:00pm today (tuesday), it’s been off since Friday 8:00am. Quick trip to my shed for bushwalking gear and I was quite comfortable, indoors. I must admit to a couple of trips to Umina to see what electric light looks like.

    • marilyn says:

      Well, the guides did have big packs and yes, the bench was for “resting”. I’ve just finished sandbagging the lake side of the house, water hasn’t gone down in the past 24 hours and now wind picking up sending small waves into my garden, not happy Jan. At least I have electricity though!

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