George Sound Track - Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
By Antonio Cala – The Adventure Junkies Route Name: George Sound Track Location: Fiordland National Park, New Zealand Duration: 4 days minimum (6 days recommended) Length: 36 kms Today we are starting a new series on TheAdventureJunkies called “Show Us Your Adventure”. The goal is to give you an opportunity to share with the community some of your best memories while traveling. The topic is outdoor adventures and what we specifically ask is for your favourite adventure you’ve ever done. For the first article of this series, I am going to share with you my favourite hiking route I’ve done to date. I have been hiking for over 10 years and I had the opportunity to experience trekking routes in all 5 continents. While there are many trails I could chose from, New Zealand’s George Sound Track stands out as my favorite. OVERVIEW OF THE TRAIL Situated in the heart of Fiordland National Park, in the South Island of New Zealand, the George Sound Track is probably a hiking trail you’ve never heard of. It’s not marketed to the public due its remoteness, difficult access and its challenging intensity level. From a tourism point of view, there is no need to promote it. The area is full of other amazing hiking routes that can easily done by most tourists such as the famous Mildford, Kepler, Hollyford and Routeburn Track. Just to give you a glimpse of the area, Fiordland NP has 24 fiords and only 1 of them accessible by road (Mildford). Another 3 (Hollyford, Doubtful and Dusky) are possible to access by established hiking trails or boat trips. That leaves the other 20 fiords completely untouched by civilization. A real nature lovers and hikers paradise. One of them, in particular George Sound. NOT AN EASY ACCESS The start of the track is at the northern end of Lake Hankinson. To get there, you can paddle in a kayak for about 4 hours, or get someone to drop you off with a skiff or a float plane. I was lucky to find a float plane company who was going to pick up some people in an area nearby, so I got a cheap and spectacular ride to the lake. SLEEPING OPTIONS There are 3 huts on route. The distance between the second and the third is very far so you will will need to bring a tent in case you cannot make it. One of the best aspects of this trail is you will have to play with the weather. If it’s good you go, if it’s bad you wait. And if it turns bad when you are on route, you better know what you are doing! MY JOURNEY: HIKING THE GEORGE SOUND TRACK All my “adventurer friends” didn’t have enough time to do this hike due to work commitments. A long time ago I decided to not let that stop me from doing things I always wanted to do, so I went ahead and did this adventure on my own. Extra planning was required. I promised myself to play it very safe. Also, I got as fit as I’ve probably ever been. The day arrived and suddenly I was flying over Lake Hankinson in a float plane. I was as excited as I was nervous. It would take me 2 days to get to the sound and two days to get back. I allowed a week just in case the weather turned bad and to have enough time to enjoy the sound. The first day of hiking was a great introduction. Not too hard and short. In about 3 hours I made it to Thompson Hut and enjoyed the afternoon exploring the surrounding. I realised I would need to sharpen my navigation skills, as there were lots of tree falls along the trail and losing my was very probable. The second day was the day I had been preparing myself for for months. I estimated it would take me 11 hours to reach the sound. 11 hours if the weather conditions were good and I didn’t get lost too many times that is. In case I couldn’t make it, I would have to camp at the top of Henry pass, the only place on route where pitching a tent was possible. It turned out to be a challenging day like no other, but also an incredible hiking experience. I crossed a dense rainforest, climbed a mountain pass, went through waist-deep mud pools, crossed 3-wire bridges and waded into lakes. I only lost my way 2 or 3 times. After 12 and a half exhausting hours and totally knackered, I finally reached George Sound. After the challenging previous days, I spent 2 full days relaxing at the Sound. I would collect mussels just off the shore near the hut and used my fishing line to catch fresh blue cod. Weather was great, nobody was around and I’ve never felt that close to nature like those 2 days I spent there. The way back was a bit easier as I knew what to expect. Without major complications I made it all the way back to the Hankinson hut where I spent another day trying to fish for trout in the river. The next morning, Vern, the skiff driver, came to pick me to bring me back to civilisation. My days in George Sound track were over but my memories about this magical place will last forever. WHAT I LIKED THE MOST o It’s a remote place. Absolutely nobody is around. Pure wilderness at its best. o It’s a challenging route, which makes you push your limits to reach the sound. o The George Sound. An incredible beautiful place. o It’s a diverse hike. You have dense rainforest, a mountain pass, river crossings, deep mud sections and lake wadings. o Possibilities of spotting a kiwi bird. WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE THAT MUCH o As anywhere in Fiordland, there are plenty of sandflies. o Being so remote, the risks are also higher in case something happens to you. RECOMMENDATIONS – TIPS o BRING A PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACON. In case you get hurt just press the button and a helicopter will come to pick you up. You can hire one in the nearby town of Te Anau. o ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME. Weather can turn nasty and block some sections, so you might have to wait to be able to continue. A minimum of a week is highly recommended. o Make sure you BRING A TOPO MAP OF THE AREA. A good GPS device is also handy. You can get more information about the route here.