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The Rest of the Kepler Track and back to Te Anau

2010 July 27
by rob

March 1, 2009

I didn’t sleep as well as I would have like because of my general discomfort and people kept slamming doors. The hut was full during the night. There were so many people!

The sky was grey and it was raining softly. I felt like I was in no hurry to depart Iris Burn hut that morning as I ate my standard tramping breakfast of oatmeal with honey and instant coffee. It felt like I’ve had this sooo many times. I longed for my classic muesli with fruit and sour yogurt.

I was almost the last person out of the hut. I started walking rather slowly. The last stragglers from the hut quickly passed me on the trail. My walk today was about 16 km and ended up taking about 4 hours, including a short side trail to the pretty Iris Burn Falls.

Iris Burn Falls

Iris Burn Falls

I spent some time trying to capture photos of the forest in the rain. I found that getting a photo of a water droplet on a leaf was nearly impossible with my Canon PowerShot SD800IS camera. Its macro mode never wanted to focus on the water droplets. I could have done it with my Canon PowerShot G10, but I decided not to bring the bigger camera on the tramp.

I trudged along slowly, but took few breaks; there was nowhere comfortable to sit in the forest while it was raining. I let people pass me because I couldn’t stand their presence. My tolerance for noisy people in the woods was gone. All people annoyed me. My spirits were very low. It was a sad paradox, but I couldn’t escape to the wilderness to find the peace and solitude I desired. Instead, I was cramped into noisy and crowded huts and forced to listen to noisy chatterers and yammerers in the woods. Normally these things wouldn’t bother me so much, but I was already sad and cranky and couldn’t deal with it.

I had to make a decision. I had intended to do the three day Rakiura Track on Stewart Island in the near future and had budgeted exactly enough time to do it. I was at my limit, though, and I’d be really upset if I had to walk in the rain there and was crammed into huts for three more days. I decided I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it! I should have chosen to do more backcountry treks if I wanted solitude. The Great Walks were way too easy.

I soon realized that I’d be extra sad today if I ended up at Moturau Hut today and got a bad bunk. Every hut seems to have a different configuration of bunks. I didn’t want to get stuck on a top bunk or squished in right beside someone. I decided to race through the last part of my walk that day to get to the hut.

To console me, I had to remind myself that I was in a very pretty place. The lush forest around me was covered in many places with thick layers of spongy moss. The trail bridged rock-filled streams in many places. I finally got a really cool picture of a mushroom:

Mushroom

Mushroom

As I reached Moturau Hut, near the shores of Lake Manapouri (the same lake I crossed on boat on my way to Doubtful Sound), I claimed a good bed. The room I chose only had four beds, and they weren’t stacked in bunks. This hut wasn’t as large as the last two I went to. I was absolutely exhausted. My arms, legs, and back hurt. I crashed on the bed in my very stinky sleeping bag. My tramping gear and I all smelled very foul. Since I had decided to skip out on the Rakiura Track, this hut would the last one I’d have to sleep in. It was also the tenth one, fulfilling the vow I made on the hills of Mount Tongariro back in January. I felt relieved. I had accomplished my goal. I wouldn’t have to deal with this stinky stuff anymore and could start getting rid of it. Some stuff I could mail home. Some stuff I would give away. I’d be able to successfully travel light again. It would be good.

The hut was surprisingly empty that night. There were only twelve people (small mercies), although some of them were loud and annoying. My dinner was freeze-dried nasi goreng with veggies. I read more of The Gate and was really getting into it. It talks about many of the same topics and events that The Killing Fields talks about, but from a completely different perspective. Otherwise I ignored the people in the hut. They didn’t interest me.

March 2, 2009

Again, I didn’t sleep very well. I felt very restless. Thankfully, the weather was looking good today. I still didn’t feel like talking to anyone, but the better weather was raising my spirits somewhat. If I ever did have aspirations to being a thru-hiker and attempt very long trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, then I definitely had to get better at tolerating the rain.

I found out that the reason the hut was so empty last night was because many people bypassed it and walked straight to the nearby track exit at Rainbow Reach, which was about a two hour walk from the hut. That’s good news for me! Less people help me maintain sanity!

Since I remembered to pack my board shorts, I had the option of going swimming in nearby Lake Manapouri, but wasn’t feeling up to it. I decided to walk instead. The trek today was about 15 km and took me about 4 hours. Along the way, I passed by a huge wetland with the awesome name of “The Amoeboid Mire”. There were some birds there that looked suspiciously like Canada Geese that honked happily.

In order to avoid — or even listen to — people, I tried to take strategic breaks if I heard them catching up behind me. I let them pass me and waited until they were long past before continuing. These breaks were mostly sit-down breaks. I had to be careful about taking too many pictures since my camera battery was almost drained and there was no place to charge it anywhere on the trail.

At one point, a small grey robin hopped around my feet for about five whole minutes. It was poking in the dirt and twigs like I wasn’t even there. I reckon that it must of liked me since I probably smelled a lot like the forest itself by now! Before long, however, the robin was scared away by a pair of other trampers singing very loudly while marching down the track. I could hear them from very far away. Idiots!

When I got to Rainbow Reach there was decent mobile reception and I was able to call Tracknet to arrange for a pickup from the track exit back at the Control Gates. If the weather was bad, I could have escaped here at Rainbow Reach, but the weather was beautiful so I decided to go all the way and complete the whole circuit properly. I made it to the finish with a whole hour to spare so I laid on the grass beside Lake Te Anau. I talked on the phone with my parents and SMSed various people. I also watched a helicopter fly back and forth from a nearby pad up in to the mountains. I assume that it was flying up to Luxmore Hut and supplying it.

My ride back to Te Anau was short and only cost NZ$6. I checked back into Bob and Maxine’s backpackers, claimed my stuff, and had a very long hot shower. Bob offered me a ride to the bus stop in the morning for my 7:25 AM bus to Invercargill.

I left the backpackers and walked to the centre of town. I had discovered that I lost my awesome green mossy-top Aussie kangaroo flip flops (my “skippy flippies”) somewhere on the track. I assume I had left them sitting on the front balcony of Moturau Hut and my Camelbak water bottle was finally damaged enough that I should replace it. Sadly, since it was the end of the season, I couldn’t find any flip flops worth purchasing and all the water bottles sucked.

I went to the highly acclaimed Red Cliff Café by myself for dinner and had a few beers to celebrate the completion of my final tramp and the glory attained for sleeping in ten huts. The restaurant was really great. I went all out and had the venison with stuffed kumara and green beans for dinner. There are many venison farms on the South Island, so along with the kumara (a sweet potato local to New Zealand), it was a very appropriate meal.

Venison and Stuffed Kumara

Venison and Stuffed Kumara

For dessert, I chose the dessert wine and passionfruit crème brûlée. It was all so good. Clearly, I deserved it. The meal was expensive, but I really needed to treat myself.

Once I got back to the backpackers I gave away my cook stove, fuel, pot and cup since I didn’t need them anymore. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone so tried reading. It was hard, though, because people were so noisy. Someone set off a fire alarm a couple of times when they started a big fire in a frying pan while cooking their dinner. Oh god.

I had exactly one month left of traveling before I returned to Toronto. I was quite ready to go back. I didn’t want to give up so easily, though, since I was looking forward to going to the Cook Islands. Canada wasn’t ready for me to come back yet, either. Winter still held the place in its iron grip. I’d have to tough it out!

I went to bed early, but had insomnia and laid in bed for hours. To waste time, I used the computer in the middle of night. I was definitely in a bad state.


Rob Szumlakowski
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

One Response leave one →
  1. November 2, 2011

    Clever writing. Vividly.

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