Historic walk marks track opening
Have you walked the Milford Track?
Poll: A group of trampers will walk in the footfalls of pioneers when they set off from Te Anau and into the wilds of Fiordland.
The Department of Conservation is celebrating the Milford Track's 125th anniversary with a heritage walk of the world-famous attraction. A party of about 40 trampers led by DOC Fiordland ranger Ken Bradley and including Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith will set forth from the head of Lake Te Anau and make for Milford Sound today.
Though the track attracts nearly 18,000 trampers in a good year, it was a lot different 125 years ago when early pioneers including Quintin Mackinnon - the man credited with opening up the track - forged their way through the rugged Fiordland wilderness.
Mr Bradley said the heritage walk would allow the trampers to discover the history of the track from expert guides dressed as the original pioneers.
They would include impersonators of Mackinnon, Samuel Morton, who first walked the Mackinnon Pass six years before the man it was named after, and Sir Thomas McKenzie, a former premier of New Zealand and supporter of tourism in the wilderness.
"The expert guides, many of whom form part of the track's history themselves will share their stories and experiences and detail the area's past, culture and biodiversity," he said.
The existence of the Milford Track was closely linked with the existence of Te Anau. The track drew visitors to Te Anau when it was first opened and continued to entice people to the town, he said.
"The track is the prime reason why people - especially independent trampers - come to Te Anau. Without the Milford Track, Te Anau would suffer a big hit economically," he said. "Retailers tell me they can tell when the first day of the tramping season is because of an increase in trade."
Ray Willett, who began guiding on the track in the 1958, said its significance for Te Anau was best summed up by writer William Anderson in his book Milford Trails. "Before the discovery of Mackinnon Pass, Te Anau slumbered on the edge of the unknown. Mackinnon's exploits gave birth to a thriving community," Mr Willett said.
The walk is a fundraiser towards the reconstruction of the historic Beech Hut alongside the Milford Track, to recreate the style and atmosphere of early huts and tell the story of the track's rich history.
The Southland Times reporter Neil Ratley will lace up his tramping boots today and join others on the heritage walk which and finishes on Sunday. He will detail his experience in the Southland Times on November 9.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Check out what's on in your community or post an upcoming event.
Subscribe to a digital replica of The Southland Times.
Southland Times subscriber news and information.
Click here for information about advertising with The Southland Times.