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A group of Japanese trampers on the world-renowned Milford Track have proved ‘an inspiration’ to others on the Great Walk - - with six of them ranging from partially to totally blind.
Part of a 12-strong hiking group from Kyoto and Tokyo which drove back to Queenstown this afternoon, the six each walked the 54km track with a carer acting as a personal guide, and the group was also accompanied by a tour guide.
Spending three nights on the track and a fourth in Milford Sound, the last to arrive at the lodge each night was 74-year-old totally blind tramper Toyo Hiko of Kyoto.
“When he finally arrived at Mitre Peak on Thursday night at 7pm it brought tears to the whole group’s eyes,” said Ultimate Hikes Senior Guide Ant Wilkins.
“The most inspiring and impressive thing for all our guides and lodge hosts was that the blind and partially sighted Japanese walkers just went ahead and did it without complaint, making the rest of the group feel very humble.
“There were no complaints at all about the usual sore feet or tiredness from anyone.”
The six walkers ranged in agility and ability with some taking the track with the rest of the wider group.
“It was eye opening to all of us to realise the power of the other senses,” said Mr Wilkins. “This 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.”
Mr Hiko, a member of the Kyoto Mountain Children Hiking Club for 28 years, said he had found the track challenging, but very much enjoyed it.
“I’m still young so I hope to keep walking, but next time I want to go to somewhere in New Zealand where there are hot springs!” he joked.
Sixty-six-year-old partially sighted tramper Shigeharu Tsuzuranuki of the Six Stars Mountain Hiking Club of Tokyo, said he had been planning the nine-day trip to New Zealand for the group for the past two years.
He has hiked in Europe and elsewhere overseas previously and said the only purpose of this trip was to complete the Milford Track.
“I enjoyed the Mackinnon Pass, it was very dynamic with lots of water and green, very beautiful scenery,” he said.
“The trip was very good and organised, and everyone including the guides were very willing to help us. We all enjoyed it very much and I will definitely come back.”
Bookings for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 walking season can be made online at www.ultimatehikes.co.nz or through the reservations centre – 03 4501940 or firstname.lastname@example.org.