New Zealand’s premier walking route celebrates a milestone
New Zealand is one of my very favorite countries. Its marvelous landscape of mountain and seacoast, its wonderful friendly people and its vibrant cities are unsurpassed. Next month, the Milford Track, one of the island nation’s nine Great Walks, celebrates a special anniversary. To mark the 125th anniversary of the opening of Milford Track, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has organized a guided, commemorative heritage walk between October 31 and November 3.
The guides, clad in period costumes, will add a nostalgic element to the 33.2-mile walk on the spectacular South Island as they tell historic tales mixed with their own real-life experiences. Hikers are also encouraged to dress in theme attire as described in the early guides, some dating back as far as the 1890s. At the end of the walk, which takes approximately four days, hikers are rewarded with the sight of the spectacular Milford Sound, described by storyteller Rudyard Kipling as the “eighth wonder of the world’”and on the bucket list of thousands of international travelers every year.
I actually have been on Milford Sound on a day trip from Queenstown, but it was winter and raining to beat the band. We saw nothing but streams and waterfalls cascading from the surrounding banks, so it is still on my bucket list.
Small town features a modest walkway honoring New Zealander Edmund Hillary
Sixty years ago today, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first people to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest and return alive. It took until June 2 for the world to find out in time for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Runners sped to Namche Bazaar so the news could be transmitted by radio to Kathmandu and telegraphed from there to London and from there to the world. Since then hundreds, maybe thousands of people have accomplished the same feat — some more than once –and dozens to have perished in the attempt. Now it takes no time at all for the word to get out, good or bad.
Just this week, 80-year-old Japanese mountaineer Yuichiro Miura summited and later said that he almost died on the way down, and Russia’s Valery Rozov, 48, wore a special wing suit to BASE jump from the world’s highest peak. Neither of the first ascenders lived to see some of these improbable feats. I wonder what they might make of them.
Tributes large and modest were heaped on the pair over the years. We came upon one in the town of Otorohanga on New Zealand’s North Island, en route from Tongariro National Park to Auckland. An alleyway between the main street and a parking lot had been turned into a covered arcade called the Ed Hillary Walkway, lined with photos of Hillary and other Kiwiana behind glass.