The Kepler Track
If you're in New Zealand, you have to accept the chance of getting wet. However, Fiordland sees more rain than the rest of New Zealand (although parts of Westland are very wet too). It's also very remote, so if you get in trouble, you have to know what you are doing. I heard this story of a couple of trampers on the Dusky Track that got surprised when the water rose very quickly that the track got completely flooded, and they had to be airlifted out of trouble!
Along the shores of Lake Te Anau
Of all the tramping routes in Fiordland, the 4-day Kepler Track must surely be the driest. Not dry, mind you. Being the driest in Fiordland is a relative blessing, because the average annual rainfall at Te Anau, the little base town for the tramp, is still 1200mm, and as it lies in the rain shadow of the very mountains where the track leads you, the Kepler Track is bound to see more rain than Te Anau.
The Kepler Track has yet another thing going for it: it's a circuit and you can get there on foot from Te Anau. Much better than the Milford Track, which isn't a circuit and requires a bus ride, let alone the Dusky Track, which requires water and air transport to and from the trailheads.
Oh, and it's designated a Great Walk, which means that the track will be very well maintained and the huts have facilities like gas cookers.
The first day is easy. It's a short walk to Luxmore Hut, just above the tree line. It´s dry all day, and we have quite a bit of sunshine. It's partly on the shores of Lake Te Anau, after that the track leads up to Luxmore Hut through the forest. No big views on the way up, but if the weather is clear, you'll have them from the hut.
The second day is the crux of the whole route, as it goes on for hours over the high mountain ridge above the treeline, fully exposed to the weather. At a few places, the ridge isn't very wide, yet it's not that steep that falling off would automatically be deadly.
In the morning, it's raining persistantly. Gradually, most of the trampers in Luxmore Hut leave for the ridge anyway. A few decide to stay another day or head back down.
Finally, around 2 o'clock, the weather is improving and we decide to start moving - I had reckoned we could still make it to Iris Burn Hut before dark. We get rewarded for going late, as the weather continues to improve. After an hour or so, the drizzle finally stops altogether. It´s very windy on Mt Luxmore though. Further along the ridge, we even get some sunshine! In the end, we arrive at the next hut around dusk.
The Takahe was thought to be yet another extint species in New Zealand, until a small group was found on remote Murchison Island in Fiordland.
There is a small breeding station at the Wildlife Center near Te Anau, and I passed by as I was walking back to Te Anau after the last leg of the Kepler Track. Funny looking creatures!
Quoting the New Zealand Department of Conservation:
This unique bird, the largest living member of the rail family, was once thought to be extinct. There were only four recorded sightings of takahe last century and then none were seen until 1948. In that year a few pairs were rediscovered in the alpine tussock grasslands of the Murchison Mountains, Fiordland.
Ferns all over in the forest along Iris Burn
Day three is a stroll in the park. Well, maybe not quite, but the route stays low and follows the Iris Burn downstream all day. Even in bad weather, this wouldn't be difficult. Mind you, there are some ups and downs in between, and some tree roots to overcome, so it's not wheelchair accessible.
The last day leads us back to Te Anau, on a level track through low lying forests and along the Waiau River, and finally along the shores of Lake Te Anau again. That's where I meet the Takahe.
Flowers near the Waiau River
External LinksKepler Track
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