Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rainy hike on Kepler Track

Te Anau has a lot of great hiking, including access to two of New Zealand's great walks, the Kepler and Routeburn tracks.

Our campervan and rainbow on Lake Te Anau
After night of hard rain, we woke up to sun and a big rainbow.  More rain was forecasted, with hail and snow at higher altitude, so we decided to tramp on the Kepler track, going in on the flatter, more protected side, rather than the side that climbed up above the tree line.
Me all suited up for hiking in the chilly rain


The hike started by going over two small suspension bridges, which kind of rocked as you walked across. The bridges were beautifully built. As Dan put it, New Zealand takes its tramping seriously.

It continued under this dense beech tree canopy- hardly any rain was getting through the trees!  The pink triangle in the photo marks a predator trap, which you can just see to the right of the base of the tree.  New Zealand's native bird populations have been devastated by introduced predators such as rats, stoats and possums.  Many of the birds are flightless and thus very vulnerable to predators, particularly when the birds are young.  But, the stoats and rats also climb trees and can get into the nests of the flying birds. There were traps placed every 100 meters along the trail, part of an effort to protect the birds.

I loved the mossy, ferny landscape. The path was very soft and springy!

We hiked out to one of the Kepler Track huts, chatted with the ranger, warmed up by the stove, then returned. "Hut" is kind of an understatement, as the structure was actually quite large and robustly built, sleeping about 40 trampers a night. There are about 90 huts throughout NZ in various spots.

All in all, an enjoyable hike. We got really really wet, but I was warmly dressed and didn't mind the chill at all. The hike ended up being about 11 miles long. Towards the end of the walk, I got some twinges in my left foot, which didn't worry me at the time but would foretell some coming troubles.
When we got back to town, we headed out to the local horse race event, set up on a street in the town, with betting and all. The rain had largely blown through at this point, and we watched the races, and listened to the local pipe band (bagpipes). Kind of a small town, country moment, which was very enjoyable. 

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