My precious environment ... I can't wait to get back

Last updated 05:00 14/01/2013

BEAUTIFUL: The snowmelt rushing toward Milford Sound on the last day of Deb McAlister's walk along the Milford Track.

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I know that thousands of people have walked the Milford Track. I wonder how many of them did it with as much joy in every wet, dripping, cold step as I did?

The first time I came to New Zealand, I was already feeling my age (nearly 50), and the beginnings of the osteoarthritis that a sedentary life as a pudgy tech geek had left me feeling. But I loved tramping through the cities, towns, and wild places of New Zealand, and started coming back as often as I could.

On my first two trips to New Zealand, I didn't make it any farther than the parking lot for a bus ride to the Sound. But on my third trip, we walked the Tongariro Crossing, and I planned the trip I really wanted - the Milford Track - for the fourth trip.

Then I tripped, fell, and shattered my pelvis in three places. Doctors said I'd walk again, but that any hope I had of walking the Milford Track, or repeating our walk around Tongariro were gone. They didn't count on just how stubborn I am.

My walker and I went to the gym every morning at 5:30 a.m. and I cried my way through the workouts until one day, there were no more tears. It took me two years of daily workouts and walks around my neighborhood in Texas to get ready for Milford, but I was determined. No place on the planet would have motivated me to put in that effort except that one.

I don't think I've ever seen anything more beautiful. As always I count the days I spend anywhere else as just passing time until I can get back to South Island. (Yes, we tried to immigrate, but nobody wants old Americans with health problems, for obvious reasons.)

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