Published: January 11th 2010January 8th 2010
It was time to get back to seeing more of the great outdoors as this is really where New Zealand shines, so we headed to Te Anau; the gateway to Fiordlands National Park. The journey was a little nasty due to having to nurse a hangover the whole time but after a day of relaxing I was ready and raring to go.
First stop was a day trip to the illustrious Milford Sound. A two hour drive saw us arriving there in a small haze of rain. This was to be expected as we had been warned that it is not unusual for Milford Sound to get 7 or 8 metres of rainfall per year. As we were unable to walk the Milford Track due to its massive popularity we settled on a cruise through the Sound. We spent an hour and a half cruising between impressively high mountain tops, one of which is amongst the highest peaks to come directly out of the sea in the world. We basically headed out along one side of the sound and back along the other, taking a minute for the driver to steer the boat directly into the bottom of a huge
140 metre waterfall. Such is New Zealand that you cannot simply have a relaxing cruise, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We had a quick stop off to look at some seals, although after having kayaked right next to them in Abel Tasman I was not particularly blown away by this. The scenery however, was as incredibly stunning as it is said to be. Due to the excessive rainfall, a huge amount of small waterfalls cascade down the steep cliffs giving the illusion of pulsating veins protruding from the rock. Spectacular is an understatement and photos will never do these breathtaking views justice. On returning to Te Anau that evening we packed our bags ready to set off on the Kepler Track. This is another of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and is a 60km circuit taking you up and over a 1500metre mountain top. We decided to set ourselves a real challenge and aim to complete it in two days.
We set off at 8.30am the next morning, taking the short 5 minute drive to the beginning of the track. Our first day was the hardest as it involved the 1500 metre ascent and descent over 29km.
We were feeling fresh however, after 2 weeks of no hiking our bodies were ready for the challenge. On reaching the top we were greeted by an absolutely extraordinary hut. Rather than the usual literal hut, it was more of a double-decker lodge, and as opposed to the usual outdoor pit toilet, there were fully functional indoor toilets, a novelty indeed. We stopped here for some lunch and discovered a wonderful surprise. A short 10 minute side walk would take us to a big cave to explore. We left our bags and armed with our head torches set off. We were not disappointed, the cave was massive, full of stalagmites and stalactites, with plenty of low areas to crawl under, and narrow gaps to squeeze through. We spent a good 45 minutes exploring the caves intricacies before returning to the hut and continuing our hike across the peak. The weather turned a little bit cold and nasty at this point, with a chilling wind cutting right through us, but we soldiered on with our heads down. Unfortunately there was not a fantastic amount of visibility at this point, so no views could really be fully appreciated. However, on rounding a
corner the cloud lifted and we were greeted by some spectacular views which stayed with us as we hiked right across a ridge before heading back down below the tree line once more. Our first day was a success and needless to say once our tents were constructed and our stomachs were fed we had a very satisfying sleep.
He second day was not easy, although the remainder of the track was basically a steady downhill all the way home, this was 31km, and the last 2 hours were extremely challenging. Our feet were sore, our backs were aching from carrying our packs, and this was not helped by the unforgiving rain that was intent on soaking us. Not to be outdone we bowed our heads against the wind and struggled on, at a steady, if not slightly slower, pace. To see the end was absolute bliss and I would say that this hike was by far the most physically challenging so far due to its intensity over such a condensed period of time. The usual recommendation for this hike is 4 days so we did feel pretty proud by the end, although we later found out that some
crazy fitness fanatics have been known to run the entire track in just 4 hours!! Suddenly the pride seems slightly less deserved. Either way it was great to get back out into the bush and enjoy the natural beauty of New Zealand.
There are more photos below