South Island, Pt. 15: Lake Marian

When I was preparing for my South Island trip, I asked the advice of the travel desk at IEP. One thing which really stuck in my mind was the description of the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound: “quite grim”. Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in New Zealand, and according to its official website it is in fact one of the wettest places in the world. Thus, in addition to being poorly-maintained, narrow, plied with tour buses, and tortuously windy, the road is also constantly wet.

Of course, I was keen to give it a go.

Guess what? I survived. I also don’t have any pictures from the drive, because I was of course focused on driving. Anyway, the place where I drove to was the hike to Lake Marian.

Lake Marian and the surrounding area has the reputation of being clear, beautiful, and lush. Despite the rain, which was heavier than usual even for the Milford area, I decided to drive out there and give it a go.

The trail starts out with this suspension bridge over shockingly clear blue waters. The recent rains had turned this river into an absolute torrent, which did not make the bridge seem any safer!

The first bit of the track is pretty accessible. This photo is reminiscent of Wainui Falls quite a ways North of here. The weather is similar as well!

This water really is remarkable, both for its clarity and for the ferocity of these rapids!

Let me Zoom and Enhance, which on the Nexus means clambering down and holding the phone close, to show you just how clear this water is. Of course, legend has it that compared to Lake Marian this water is practically turbid! Legend also has it that if I wasn’t lazy and used a real camera, the top of that photo wouldn’t be completely overexposed. Just goes to show what legends are worth.

The trail quickly becomes…how to say this…not much of a trail at all. It really is slow going for most of the way, not because the trail itself is remarkably difficult but just because the terrain is so rough, the ground is so wet, and the trail is so difficult to find sometimes!

If it weren’t for the trail markers, there would be no chance of making it all the way to the lake. As it was I still wished for more frequent blazes to show the way.

The trail does involve some significant inclines, though it’s still the rocky ground rather than the topography providing the most difficult challenges.

The day wasn’t just rainy, it was misty. Mist is so lame; it’s like rain that’s too lazy to be rain. As you walk through it, you’re sort of making the air rain on you. I could totally see a horror film being shot here though. Blair Witch Project 3 location scouts, take note!

Uhh, which way?

As I recall, I wandered around here for a bit trying to find the path. I need to start taking notes; I don’t remember if this is the real path or a fake path I followed thinking it was the real path!

I do remember this climb, though! Only like three meters, but it’s literally a straight-up rock climb with wet, muddy rocks. At least it’s well marked! (I don’t seem to have gotten a photo from the bottom. Lame!)

Very atmospheric!

This is another part where I found it hard to figure out which way to go. From this perspective, it’s a little unclear.

Sometimes you have to be right on the markers before you can see them, especially in the fog! If you’re playing “find the trail marker” at home, clicking the picture for a bigger version will be helpful. I wish I had a way to convey using text and pictures just how difficult it was to even find the way forward on this trail. I don’t want to make it sound super dangerous or dodgy, because it really wasn’t, but it certainly wasn’t as easy a hike as the distance and elevation figures suggest!

But after seemingly hours (or, according to camera timestamps, a bit less than an hour and a half), I came to a sight I did not expect:

Public toilets?

Seriously, who in the world built an outhouse way out here in the middle of nowhere?

And then, just a slight bit further on, the beautiful, majestic, picturesque lake that makes it all worth it…

…is what I probably would have said, if I could have seen any of it. (And yes, for those waiting for the answer to the riddle from yesterday: this is how one can walk up to a lake without seeing it.)

I heard tell from other travelers that the view up here is quite amazing, with the hills covered in small, temporary waterfalls from the runoff. Indeed, here is the view of those hills:

Yes, friends, that was my reward.

I do want to point out that what I could see of the lake was amazingly, shockingly clear.

Not a wasted trip; I’m glad I came. But admittedly could be better photo blogging material :). Perhaps I will get a second chance to hike back to Lake Marian some less foggy day and will be able to properly enjoy its picturesque charms.

Next post will be, much as it saddens me to say it, the start of my final South Island adventure. But since I just can’t let go, I will turn it into two posts in order to savor it as much as possible. And believe me, it’s worth savoring. See you then!


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