• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

New Zealand - Pain, Blisters and A Million Dollar View. Chapter 4.

We climbed and climbed.

Past Hirere Falls with our first view of Mackinnon Pass and the impressive Pompolona ice field.

You suddenly feel tiny, surrounded by the sheer scale of the rock walls towering above on either side as you walk up the Clinton valley and the ever-changing vegetation.

The final stretch to Mintaro was a brutal incline. Up and up and up we went, carefully watching our footing over the uneven terrain while our hamstrings, back, and shoulders scream at us to stop.

I could feel the blisters forming on my feet as I stumbled, panting up the hill to Mintaro Hut. I silently thanked my body, dropped my pack on the deck, and hobbled inside.

We claimed a bunk room and started gathering our things to make dinner. I could hardly walk and felt sore in places I didn't know I had muscles. I flopped down on the bunk and gave out a big sigh.




Everything hurt as I tried to stand up and walk.

We all giggled as we walked gingerly into the kitchen to make dinner.

I woke up early the next day to the sound of squawks from a bunch of Keas who decided to camp outside the hut and cause a ruckus. They were perched on the outdoor tables, watching us as we headed to the loo.

The ranger had warned us not to leave any belongings outside because these birds would steal, destroy and cause havoc if you do.

I found Andy already awake. So we sat quietly outside at the table, just admiring the scenery.

It had rained all night, and the ranger said we couldn’t leave due to flooding, so we had to wait.

Finally, the sun came through the clouds, and we were on our way for another day of hiking.

The track started with a gradual zig-zag climb to reach MacKinnon pass and the memorial to explorer Quintin McKinnon.

As I walked, I fell into a trance, hypnotized by the incredible views of Lake Mintaro and the valley below.

At the top of the climb, the track winds up and over the MacKinnon Pass, the highest point on the trail.

I had to stop and catch my breath at the summit when I felt wet drops hitting my face.

It's raining.

No, it's pouring.

The temperature drops fast, and my face feels like I shoved my head into a bank of snow.

Now it's hailing golf ball-size stones.

Things just got dire.

Over the next few hours, I recall the seriousness of paying attention to every step I took over the never-ending jagged rocks and uneven terrain, carefully judging each move.

Praying I would not trip and face plant into one of these boulders.

I stopped and ensured I had sound footing as I looked back on the stunning Clinton Valley.

To the north lies Arthur Valley and the Milford Sound, a view crowded with mountain peaks. From here, the track winds downhill, crossing beneath Mount Balloon and the Jervois Glacier before following a boardwalk beside the Roaring Burn River with numerous waterfalls.

Shortly after the boardwalk, a sidetrack leads to the stunning Sutherland Falls - the highest in New Zealand. The 580-meter fall drops directly out of Lake Quill, fed by several glaciers, and plummets to the ground.

The rain finally stopped, and after we finished soaking up the beauty of the waterfall, it took about another hour to reach the Dumpling hut. It was a long strenuous day, but my eight hours of walking fell away from me soon enough.

“I’m so glad you girls decided to come with us,” said Peter. “It just wouldn’t have been the same.”

He grabbed Beth and me and pulled us close to his chest, wrapping his long arms around our bodies and squeezing. Then Andy threw his arms around the circle. We all stood there in silence, eyes closed, embracing one another. This moment summed up our experience, what we all felt but were unable, or perhaps unwilling, to express.

I felt a peace and happiness I hadn’t felt for a very long time.

Some things just fill you up, you see.

For some, it’s people, cities, and parties.

For others, it’s an intellectual endeavor, museum, and artistic creation.

For me, at this exact point in my life, it was this. This wild, vast, silent place and the authentic connection it offered.


This is a true story that chronicles my rebellious journey when I was 24 years old, backpacking around the world looking for solace after the end of an abusive marriage (ok to escape). An intensely graphic and heartfelt memoir of self-discovery is about how getting lost can be where you belong, how traveling to new cultures and meeting new people helps you heal (they don't judge), and how to find your voice and remember who you really are, and want to be. It is certain to inspire anyone who has ever woken up in a life they don’t want to be in. Many life lessons and some bad decisions (sorry, Mom) along the way. Buckle in! It's going to be a bumpy ride. xoxo, Barbara Barbara Murphy-Shannon, Psy.M. is a Business and Email Marketing Coach. Love to hear your thoughts. Reach out at Barbara@barbaramurphyshannon.com