Day 24: STILL SOGGY…
We awoke again at around 6am and had our usual hot breakfast while packing sandwiches for the day’s tramping.
Like the forecast said, the weather remained soggy. Our clothes in the drier weren’t completely dry and the boots were still waterlogged. So we had to make do with what we had and grin and bear it the rest of the way…
We started the tramp at around 7:30am. Ten minutes later, we could look behind us and see Sutherland Falls’ upper two tiers in the distance amidst the mist and haze of the heavy rainfall. The low clouds obscured the uppermost sections.
I guess that was too bad because this was said to be one of the more scenic spots to view the famed Sutherland Falls. But with Mother Nature being as stubborn as she was on our time through the tramp (no pun intended), I guess we just had to keep on and not sit and wait hoping for the view to improve on this morning.
The track continued to descend before it started to flatten out and follow a boardwalk that skirted a cliff and kept us from having to slog through a very dense bog. This section was called the Gentle Annie.
Much of the morning hike was pretty much a mix of dense forests and narrow valleys cut through by the Arthur River. Although it was different from the wide open Clinton Valley, it was a bit monotonous especially given the relentless rain that soured just about everyone’s mood.
Even the odd waterfall here and there that we had seen along the way started to blend in with the rest of the wet and gray scenery all around us. Indeed, today was an exercise in perserverance both physically and mentally.
It wasn’t until 9:30am that we finally made it to the Boat Shed Shelter. Here, Cory was serving hot drinks. He even had to shoo away an independent tramper hoping for a drink. I guess that kind of testified to how miserable the tramping must have been for the independents.
Meanwhile, the sandflies were still buzzing around while the shed felt a little bit humid despite all the wet weather around us. We didn’t feel the need to linger here for long though the hot drinks hit the spot.
After this brief rest, Julie and I continued onwards. We crossed a long swing bridge over the Arthur River then entered a boardwalk area through a very dense jungle. I forget if this dense jungle had a name to it or not.
Not long afterwards, the boardwalk became stairs as it led to an overlook of the interestingly-shaped Mackay Falls.
The falls was split by a rock at its base giving it somewhat of a wishbone shape. Not far from the overlook was an odd rock called Bell Rock. You could go inside the “bell” so to speak as it could fit three people standing up. Neither Julie and I bothered with this though.
It was now 10:30am as we continued along the track.
Once again, it was mostly flat and soggy. The rain already soaked through the now-useless Gore-Tex jacket. The trail also had several muddy areas that were slippery and deep in some places. There was one moment when I was so preoccupied with my footing in the mud that my head whacked a low-lying branch from a tree.
Shaken but not stirred, I continued. Julie didn’t even notice my mishap.
There were also some tree avalanche obstacles where we had to scramble across fallen trees and exposed roots. These made for some interesting maneuvres to get through, but we persevered and trudged on in the rain.
Finally at 12:45pm, we made it to the Giant Gate Falls Lunch Shelter. Unlike the previous shelters, this was in the open air so you had to fight sandflies and keas.
The nearby swing bridge offered views of Giant Gate Falls. I wanted to get that familiar view I had seen during my research of the swing bridge before the scenic falls. However, that required a daring scramble into the swollen creek that fed the Arthur River downstream from the falls. I wasn’t in the mood to do that scramble so I passed on it.
The tramp continued along flatly through more dense forest as it skirted parts of Lake Ada. More ephemeral waterfalls tumbled alongside the track. However, even I had suffered from waterfall fatigue as I had already seen way too many.
Finally by 2:15pm, we made it the Sandfly Point Shelter! True to its name, there were heaps of sandflies in the area. Surprisingly however, most of them didn’t get too far inside the enclosed waiting area.
It was 3:10pm when the first wave of trampers could be transported from Sandfly Point back to the Milford Sound. The weather remained brutal, but that didn’t stop me from standing outside in the rain to take more photos. Even Bowen Falls looked majestic in its misty grey shroud.
This room had a large living area and a separate bedroom. The bathroom had a large bathtub that doubled as a spa. We wasted no time getting into the green waters of the spa. By the way, the waters in the lodging were green because they came straight from the fresh water of the area. They were fresh and didn’t look poisonous from what I could tell.
After unwinding and getting our drenched clothes into the drying room, we engaged in some small talk at the lobby at around 6pm and had a satisfying dinner at 7pm.
After the dinner, the guides gave out awards for finishing the tramp and also gave a short little presentation on the options for viewing the Milford Sound tomorrow.
It was 10pm when Julie and I retreated to our honeymoon suite and slept the night away…