Sunday, February 3, 2013

NZ: Kepler Track

Sometimes you want a trip with loose ends, planning, an indefinite itinerary, difficult elements, etc.  Sometimes you want just a fun hike to a pretty place.  The Kepler Track was the latter.  I took a bus straight from Dunedin to the Fiordland National Park visitor center, camped that night at Brod Bay, then hiked over Mt. Luxmore and down to Lake Manapouri/Shallow Bay the next night, and then had an easy hike back to town.  Big fun.

Some photos here.

I don't really have a story to tell, but will offer a few things about the Kepler for those interested:

-Trampers here don't think much of the Kepler - it's too easy, too close to things, and isn't a "real" track.  One guy I talked to called it a "cheat" and noted that it doesn't actually go through the Kepler Mountains.  I respond that you need to get over yourselves and have a good time hiking the Kepler (in good weather).  There's a long beautiful stretch above treeline with endless views (in good weather).  It's relatively easy hiking so it's possible to mix up the itinerary with longer days (in good weather).  In bad weather, stay away - I can't imagine being up on that ridge all day in a storm.

-I didn't stay at the huts, and maybe that's a good thing:


DOC notice of norovirus outbreak in the Great Walk huts.

-The Kepler also has a reputation for being crowded, but both nights I had a long stretch of beach to myself.  The first night was at Brod Bay:


Very pretty, but home to absolute hordes of sandflies and mosquitoes.  After dinner I dove into my tent and spent half an hour killing bugs.  I fell asleep to a literal drone of insects.  I've read several accounts with the same story.

The next night I had a booking to camp at Iris Burn, but it was a similar story with the bugs.  Plus I was a bit annoyed by no less than four signs warning campers not to come in the hut:





Feeling unloved (and plus it was early afternoon), I tramped down to Shallow Bay where my hut pass is good as gold (as they say).  I had a nice stretch of beach to myself, and due to having a tent I didn't have to partake in the epic party going on at the hut nearby:




No bugs here, although I've heard there can be.

-The next day was quiet hiking on the silly-wide trail:


-I like Te Anau with its tidy mix of quiet tourism and normalcy.  I didn't comprehend last time around that in town you are only looking out at a little end of the lake - I walked out to the harbor for the windy view of how enormous the lake really is:


-Too bad I missed all the free beer, though:


-I'll (possibly) have a longer post at some point about backpacking abroad - important stuff like how people use backpack covers and wear head-to-toe Gore Tex in the sunshine.  But the big point is that most people like to carry light packs and hike straight from one hut to the next, whereupon they pull out a good book and call it a day.  If you don't follow that routine - skip past a hut, tent out, etc. - you can have even a busy place like the Kepler to yourself (if that's something you're looking for).

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