By Richard Roe | Posted: Wednesday October 18, 2017
In the middle of the second week of the holidays, our Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award group set out on another epic adventure – walking the Hollyford Track.
We departed from school at 7am and arrived at Milford Sound just before 1pm. Here we boarded a (very) small plane which took the first group of 5 into Martins Bay before returning for the second group. The 20 minute flight followed the Sound out to the open sea then North along the coast, landing on a gravel airstrip at Martins Bay which looked far too narrow and short as we approached but fortunately turned out to be adequate. We couldn’t have ordered a better day and got to experience the extremely rare sight of Fiordland with no clouds.
Day one consisted of an easy 4km stroll from the airstrip to the Martins Bay Hut which is positioned at the mouth of the Hollyford River. We had seals swimming past within a few metres of the boys campsite, and within a 10 minute walk were able to get up close to a large nursery of baby seals and some Fiordland crested penguins.
The inevitable rain arrived during the night and accompanied us along the first half of our tramp to Hokuri Hut on the shores of Lake McKerrow on day 2. With no clearings large enough to take the tents the boys seemed quite happy to take up residence in the hut instead, particularly as the rain returned again that evening.
Day 3 was a huge day, as we skipped out the Demon Trail Hut and made it all the way to Alabaster Hut on the shores of Lake Alabaster in the Pyke Valley. While the distance of around 23km wasn’t too bad, there was a good reason this section of the track was known as the Demon Trail – large fallen trees obscuring the track in places, slippery rocks, mud and very uneven terrain made it quite challenging. With the second group arriving at the hut as it got dark at 8pm to be told it was full (when in reality there was plenty of space) wasn’t a particularly warm welcome, but the boys coped admirably. After all, a mattress on the floor was still a lot better than the tents back out in the rain!
We had a relaxed start to day 4 and got a chance to explore around the Pyke Valley area before heading off to our final hut at Hidden Falls in the afternoon. The weather had started off fine and calm but reverted back to the Fiordland speciality as we walked, and for the rest of the evening.
Our final day started off very cool but with clear skies. The easy walk out to the road-end carpark took just over two hours and the views of snowy mountain peaks and huge waterfalls were fantastic. We had time to squeeze in a visit to the nearby 275 metre tall Humboldt Falls before boarding the van and returning to Dunedin.
A great group of boys with rapidly growing outdoor competencies contributed towards making this another very successful expedition.