Blind, partially blind Japanese hikers inspire on Great Walk

The group of Japanese hikers, including six who are blind or partially blind, who successfully walked the Milford Track, with tour group leader Shigeru Onoda (at left) and Ultimate Hikes guides Ant Wilkins, Hisaaki Tanaka and Marco Wilkins. Not present is guide Sam Wilkins. Photo supplied.
The group of Japanese hikers, including six who are blind or partially blind, who successfully walked the Milford Track, with tour group leader Shigeru Onoda (at left) and Ultimate Hikes guides Ant Wilkins, Hisaaki Tanaka and Marco Wilkins. Not present is guide Sam Wilkins. Photo supplied.
A group of Japanese trampers on the Milford Track have proved ''an inspiration'' to others on the Great Walk as six of them ranged from partially to totally blind.

The six were part of a dozen-strong hiking group from Kyoto and Tokyo, who drove back to Queenstown on Friday afternoon.

The six each walked the 54km track with a carer acting as a personal guide. The group was also accompanied by a tour guide.

The group spent three nights on the track, the last to arrive at the lodge each night being 74-year-old Toyo Hiko, of Kyoto, who is completely blind.

''When he finally arrived at Mitre Peak on Thursday at 7pm it brought tears to the whole group's eyes,'' Ultimate Hikes senior guide Ant Wilkins said.

''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 relied on their sense of smell, touch and hearing to get the most out of their Milford Track experience, Mr Wilkins said.

Mr Hiko, a member of the Kyoto Mountain Children Hiking Club for 28 years, said he 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.