A group of blind and partially-sighted Japanese trampers proved an inspiration to others by completing the Milford Track.
The 12-strong hiking group from Kyoto and Tokyo, based in Queenstown during their stay, spent three days and nights on the 54km Great Walk.
Last to arrive at the lodges each night was totally blind 74-year-old Toyo Hiko.
“When he finally arrived at Mitre Peak on Thursday at 7pm it brought tears to the whole group’s eyes,” says Ultimate Hikes guide Ant Wilkins.
“The most inspiring and impressive thing for all our guides and lodge hosts was the blind and partially-sighted walkers just went ahead and did it without any complaint, making the rest of the group feel very humble.”
Six of the 12 walkers have impaired vision.
“It was eye opening to all of us to realise the power of the other senses,” Wilkins says.
“The group used touch, listening and smelling to get the most out of their Milford Track experience.
“They ‘saw’ the water on rocks and the wind in the trees.”
Hiko, a member of the Kyoto Mountain Children Hiking Club for 28 years, says he found the track challenging but enjoyed it.
“I’m still young so I hope to keep walking but next time I want to go somewhere in New Zealand where there are hot springs,” he joked.
Partially-sighted tramper Shigeharu Tsuzuranuki, 66, of the Six Stars Mountain Hiking Club in Tokyo, spent two years planning the nine-day New Zealand trip.
Tsuzuranuki, who has hiked in Europe and elsewhere, says the sole goal was to complete the Milford Track.
“I enjoyed the Mackinnon Pass. It was very dynamic with lots of water and green, very beautiful scenery.”