Ah yes, the Dusky Track. Eight to ten days through the heart
Fiordlands in New Zealand. One of my favorite, if not the
favorite place, in the entire world. It's a rugged wilderness
that has steep, glacial cut valleys that receive 8 meters (320 inches)
of rain a year where it rains 270 days a year. The entire
landscape has been shaped by glaciers and abundant amounts of
water. It's a very rough track that frequently turns into a
morass and is infamous for its mud. But, it's part of the
appeal of it all. So I was off by myself for nine days in the
wilds of Fiordlands.
After the track, I sent out a letter to my family telling them that I
was back from the track. My brother Eric wrote me and said:
"Photos please. Oh life
is so hard for you."
I wrote back:
This picture was taken by
accident as I don't normally take pictures of my privates (well, at
least not ones I show in public). So take a look at that mudpit behind
me and look at the slop on my thighs and take a wild guess how deep I
went in. So yeah, life is hard for me.
This mudpit is very, very typical
of the area. You'll easily
through a dozen (and sometimes several dozen) a day. No big
deal. If you avoid the mud and go around it, it damages the
and just makes the mudpit wider. So you do the right thing
through them and say, "Eh, I've done worse!"
Once you get out of it, you're pretty encrusted. I've gone
through mud up to my waist and in one case fell into soupy mud up to my
chest. When I pulled myself out, my jacket was shiny
black on the outside. Shiny black on the inside
too. I have
to say that
particular experience was one that I didn't particularily enjoy, but
all in all, it's worth it.
Sometimes you get to a section of the trail and say, "This could be
trouble!", but you go through it anyways. This time the track
took me nine days to complete. It rained the first seven days
did so for most of the day and in some cases, the entire day.
would usually walk 5-8 hours a day, so a day of six hours of rain, it
does get to be a bit much. The last two days of the track
sunny and pleasant but areas pictured above are almost always going to
be a mess as they never have a chance to dry out. Why would
want to do such a track? You'll see. It's really not hard to
Understand now? That much rain makes for one of the most
beautiful landscapes on the planet. This particular day, I
been tramping in the rain for four hours and I couldn't have been
happier. If one tramped the track and had eight days of
and sunny weather, you would have been cheated. In order to
experience Fiordlands, you need to have some rain.
The forests are incedible on a sunny day, but in the rain, the forest
floor is flooded, water is dripping everywhere, and the greens are
soooooooo vivid. When you have a professional photographer
photos of people in the sun, they shield them from the direct
sun. It's the same with the rainforest. In the sun,
greens are slightly washed out. When the clouds are out the
greens are so unbelievably vivid. Even more so in the rain.
Every day you will cross dozens of streams and creeks. Some
large, some small, but at the end of a day I won't remember how many
crossings of a stream of this size. As mentioned earlier, the
entire Fiordlands landscape is shaped by water. Two years ago
was on the track with a couple, Will and Cheri. Those two
recognize this stream in particular, remember it folks?
The track goes from an area near Lake Roe and crosses the Pleasant
Ranges. I hear they are very nice when the weather is
but it wasn't that way when I was there. It was alternating
between rain, hail, snow, and sun. Sun being very, very much
the minority, but very pleasant for the five minutes it was out that
day. The Pleasant Ranges are loaded with tarns (small
lakes). The track threads through the tarns and peaks and
comes to a 1000 meter (3300 foot) descent where one is often climbing
down a tangle of tree roots on a seventy five degree slope.
one approaches the end of the Pleasants, you can glimpse down the
valley and see Dusky Sound, the track's namesake. This
was taken just before the big descent and you can see the sound off in
the distance. From there, Dusky Sound
has an unearthly, ethereal look.
When I think of Fiordlands, I imagine that this is the effect that
medieval cathedral builders were trying to make upon people.
this isn't a natural cathedral, I don't know what would be.
One really nice area is Mt. Memphis. It's a very steep climb
900 meters from the valley to Centre Pass and then another 400 meters
(1400 feet) further to Mt. Memphis, but it's well worth the
climb. This is one of the mountain lakes...what where they
called? Yep, tarns. This tarn was crystal-clear and
dropped off at the edge of the water. A minute later I was
kneeling at the edge and slurping up water right from the
It's nice that in Fiordlands, you can drink water from
It looks really nice for swimming but it bitterly cold...I think I'll
just drink from it and leave the cold water to the penguins (which
incidentally I saw a few months earlier in Fiordlands). Oh,
not, here is one of them.
A Fiordlands Crested Penguin taken in Martins Bay on the Hollyford
Track in November. Cute little things, aren't they?
From the top of Mt. Memphis I took this 360 degree panorama.
picture is quite wide, so scroll to the right to see it all.
was on top of the world seeing to the edge of that world.
cannot describe it and pictures can't do much better.
So that's a little bit from the Dusky Track. Pretty cool,
huh? So yeah, it's a tough track and the conditions can be
pretty bad but is it worth it? Oh, I guess so.....
P.S. These picture were taken from travelogues of my three times on the Dusky. See Epic Tracks