A professional engineer license requires yearly continuing education. I opted to leave the dark Alaskan winter in exchange for summer in New Zealand for some education credits. Providing environmental engineering in and around parks in Alaska gives me an interest in parks in other countries. Inspecting engineering technology in New Zealand allowed me to combine continuing education with one of my favorite pursuits – backpacking. Kiwis refer to it as “tramping”. My Alaska Air miles provided a free ticket from Anchorage to Aukland.
My first stop was the Te Matua Ngahere Walk, located in Waipoua Forest in the Northland region. This is home to the second largest living kauri tree, nearly 100 feet in height and 17 feet in diameter.
It was intriguing to find similar advanced wastewater treatment in this park to those I design in Alaska. The Orenco Advantex system was being utilized in this environmentally sensitive area.
During discussion with park personnel I brought up the topic of the famous Milford Track tramp. Reservations for this famous hike are booked years in advance, but luck was with me – a cancellation gave me a ticket. This would require immediate departure for the southern tip of the south island.
The Milford Track has been dubbed “the finest walk in the world”. I had my sights set on it long ago as I attempted an Air Force hop down under, with no luck. I stopped in Queenstown to firm up my reservations and gear before catching a boat from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track in Fjordland National Park.
After crossing this large glacial lake, the first of many suspension bridges is soon crossed. The track has a well-maintained trail passing through a beech forest before arriving at Clinton Hut. After many years of hiking Alaska, this trail seemed luxurious.
I tramped with a group of others through the 4-day, 54 kilometer trail. This is a great way to meet a new group of people. This was a diverse group from Germany, Uruguay, Netherlands, France, Korea, and other locales.
I carried my Alaska Mountaineering& Hiking (AMH) insulated French-Press coffee mug, along with a pound of good coffee. I was an instant celebrity every morning as I brewed fresh coffee. The Frenchman instructed me on the history of the French-Press. Martin & Marielle from the Netherlands enthusiastically heated water every morning for our French-Press coffee routine; they referred to themselves laughingly as “Dutchies”. I accepted their invitation on a follow-up bicycle trip in Amsterdam.
Over 300 inches of rainfall a year creates numerous waterfalls and mountain glaciers. A group of Korean trampers wanted a photo with an Alaskan.
MacKinnon Pass and the spectacular Pompolona Ice Field. A white-out blizzard greeted us at the top of the pass, the highest point on the track at 1154 meters.
Tramping down from the snow and glaciers to Burn River with numerous waterfalls. The track ends at Milford Sound with a boat ride out.