Subject: Re: re:Hiking the South Island
<< If you could possibly let us know the hikes you undertook, the length and time it took to complete and the degree of difficulty>>

Hi Richard - Sorry it took me so long. I'm kind of scattered here - but I'll try. As far as walks are concerned, we did most of the Routburn - 1st Summit Mt. (trailhead is, I believe, on the same road that you take to go on the boat trip from Milford Sound.) This is a short walk but beautiful and the top has tundra-like scrub and a wonderful view into the glacial Lake Marion plus all of the mts. near Milford Sound (walking up) I think the walk for us was about 1 1/2 hrs up -- maybe less. We did this on the way back from our excursion to Milford Sound - The trail up the mt. splits and the Routeburn goes left and Summit goes right. We then (on another day -- hiked the actual trailhead to the Routeburn -- went up to the Harris Saddle where we lunched and returned. If we had a way to go back to the other side, we would have completed the walk, but we didn't so we returned to our car. This trail is very beautiful (as they all are - vistas into glaciers, wonderful meadows and glacial streams of icy turquoise.) There are many suspension bridges on this track - so if this bothers you, bonne courage! I, personally, hate them, but they are not high and somehow I managed.

My favorite was Gertrude's saddle. This is a hike into a hugh bowl and up to the top, where, on a clear day, one is supposed to be able to see the fijord ending in Milford Sound. (We did not complete it as we started to hike too late and the shadows were obscuring the carins to find our way back... so, we picniced and returned. The trail starts just before the tunnel to Milford. (All of this information can be obtained from the Park Service in Te Anu -- The people who work there, like all New Zealanders, are very friendly and helpful. This hike is extraordinary in that one walks the valley floor in a riverbed and they you climb up - Somehow, being in the bowl was quite interesting! We loved it. We also hiked along the south coast (on the southeast side) wherever we found paths leading to the elephant seal, the sea lions and the beach.

As I said before, we loved hiking Mt. Roy out of Wanaka, and we hiked in Arthur's Pass - doing the Punchbowl falls (about 1 hr. RT) - not strenuous - we hiked it late in the afternoon when we arrived, before dinner. And... the next day - we did a very arduous hike: Avalanche Path going up and Scotts path down. The Ranger said he hoped we were prepared as there are no level parts on this hike... He was correct. It was a georgeous hike, but it was very steady! We heard a very loud noise at one point like an explosion, only to turn quickly to see part of a glacier break off - a once in a lifetime experience.

These were the best of our hikes - It's all georgeous as you well know. I only hope you are as fortunate as we were as we had perfect weather - even on our trips to Doubtful and Milford Sounds - I would recommend seeing both as each was extraordinary a different way! Enjoy - I hope this helps. Regards, Susie, MASS.