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New Zealand's Milford Track turns 125

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17 October 2013 by Alex Stewart

The Milford Track in New Zealand, described as, 'the finest walk in the world' is set to enjoy its 125th anniversary.

The five-day/four-night track traverses the heart of the wild fjord country on New Zealand's South Island. Initially pioneered by Quintin Mackinnon in 1888, the route has gone on to gain global fame.

The Fiordland National park is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Walkers on the track are treated to close encounters with native birdlife such as kea, weka and kiwi whilst traversing some spectacular scenery, past deep lakes, luxuriant forests and sheer glacier-gouged canyons to finish on the shores of Milford Sound, where they're treated to stunning views of the iconic Mitre Peak..

The first European resident of Milford Sound, Donald Sutherland, discovered the towering Sutherland Falls in 1880, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand, adding to the region's reputation. Sutherland started to build a track up the Arthur Valley to the Falls but access was limited due to the rugged terrain. It wasn't until 1888 that Quintin Mackinnon built a track up the Clinton Valley at the northern end of Lake Te Anau. He then crossed a pass that led to the Arthur Valley, Sutherland Falls and Milford Sound, connecting the trails.

The track has since been opened up under the guidance of the Department of Conservation and maintained as one of New Zealand's nine Great Walks. The Milford Track trekking season runs from 29 October 2013 to 30 April 2014.

To mark the anniversary, the Department of Conservation is running a special Heritage Walk, led by expert guides and Fiordland ranger Ken Bradley. Money raised from the walk will go towards the reconstruction of the historic Beech Hut; officials want to restore the hut in order to recreate the style and atmosphere of early huts. In addition, visual collections of early memorabilia and photos will be on display so that walkers can experience the area's rich history.

"The Department of Conservation wants to give walkers into what captivates and lures people to the famed Milford Track," said Ken Bradley.

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