The Kepler Track – 4 days or 4 1/2 hours

Another walk? Yes, the Kepler Track is just around the corner of Te Anau. I literally couldn’t let that chance slip through my fingers. And one rest day had to be enough this time. Although I maybe shouldn’t have stayed that long at the Halloween party in town…

During my food preparation a traveller mate I happen to meet since the Abel Tasman again and again gave me fruit, veggies and other food for free. Since I’m way out of budget at the moment – although I cook most of the time in the hostel and don’t spoil myself – free food is travel saving. So thanks David for not wanting to eat that apple, kiwi and sandwich with lettuce.

On my way along the lakeside, through the forest which reminded me of Germany and up the hill I had a lot of thoughts about home, friends, my grandma, local hometown festivals and how long I want to keep traveling. I wasn’t really fit and recharged, the cold still in my bones, so I was more than happy when a French girl who did a day hike caught up and asked me for the remaining time to get to the hut. Literally her nonstop talking about traveling, where she came from and some very honest side-notes about French people made me laugh a lot and helped me through the last hour of pain til the hut. I thanked her for it and she thanked in retur that I didn’t get annoyed by her talking nonstop. This would be again an early night in the hut.

The Charme in staying in one of the huts is definitely completed by the presence and personality of the rangers and their stories like Peter Jackson – “another Peter Jackson”, he added – a botanical and philosophical ranger who talked about local plants, creation of mountains, meaning of life and sun – and socksygen, the reason you should leave a window open in bunk rooms and dorms.

The beauty of the Kepler Track opens up especially on the second day when you walk along ridges in this amazing alpine world. The landscapes reminded me constantly of the Alps crossing in August. And I had to think more the once of my dedicated hiking and wine team back then. (You read my short blog of it and you’ll know.)

A couple of times three Kea parrots flew over my head, curved down, sat and stared at me before they head off again and did the same 50 meters in front of me. Always hoping for me to get some food out or to be too careless with my stuff so they’d get a chance to get into my bag and nick something out of it.

And I found the maybe windiest alpine toilet in the Southern Hemisphere. (If you ask, yes of course I tried it.)

Then after about 90 minutes the path went down again into the beech forest until I reached hut no. 2 in the early afternoon. There were so many sandflies. So many. I tried to take a short bath at the waterfall near Iris Burn Hut but the sheer try to get out of my clothes ended in 15 sandfly bites and more than 100 of them attacking me. Not kidding. As I still tried to get rid of my tights they were already all over my back, chest and feet. That was crazy. So in the end I’m still sweaty but got another bunch of hugs from these little beasts. I settled for the rest of the day in the hut with snacks, tea & coffee and some food planning for the upcoming long trip.

The third day passed by rather unspectacularly since it rained the whole time and I didn’t want to stop. So I arrived quick and dirty in hut 3. Staying in the third hut is kind of a luxury. Most people hurry on since the first car park is only about 2 hours away from the hut and a night in this kind of huts costs more than a private room in a hostel. But as the woman of the DOC said “it’s a nice hut” and I was not in a hurry I kinda spoiled myself with this night and got a pretty nice view of the lake and the changing weather.

After a couple of nights in huts you’re getting into a routine and so as soon you arrive your workflow starts. Getting a bed, register in the hut book. Unpack the important things. Eat a couple of crackers. Cook some water for tea or coffee. And getting another little something to eat.

And while you wait for the water to cook and you stare at the surface you ask yourself the important questions in life like…

  • why I am always hungry?
  • are sandflies nocturnal?
  • does the water always take the same time to cook?
  • when is it time to go to bed?
  • or why is there a grasshopper leg in my hot water?

The fourth day I got up early and rushed through the walk since I was looking forward to a warm shower and was all happy and smiling back at noon in Te Anau to my last pie in town.

What a beautiful walk that has been.

Wait, and why the title for this blog? Well, every year there’s the Kepler Challenge where people run the 60 kilometers non-stop. And instead of 4 days of walking the best time so far is 4 hours and 33 minutes to complete the circle. Crazy, isn’t it?

Side note: I just realized that my head must have clicked a couple of days ago – it is now totally accustomed to left side traffic. Even if I imagine a car I put the driver on the right side. Hopefully it clicks back as soon as I have to drive a car in Hawaii or California.

Side note 2: This Blog was finished on my iPad. After I noticed that my iPhone wouldn’t be enough for the next months I had a crazy idea and even more crazy family and friends who literally brought it all the way to NZ for me. Thank you Dominik, Paps and Bettina!

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