01 March 2006

We're back from the Kepler Trek. Unfortunately I can't upload any pictures from the internet cafe I'm at. I can, however, give a quick rundown of our past few days.

We started our hike on the 26th. The first day was a total of 13.8km which is about 8 1/2 miles. The beginning was through very pretty rainforest and then we started the uphill portion. All in all it took us close to hours to get from the carpark to the first hut (Luxmore). The last half hour or so was above the bushline along the ridge - no protection from the winds which we blowing at close to 70km/hr. The hut was really nice with a kitchen and a lounge on the first flour and bunkrooms and flush toilets on the second. The kitchen/lounge had solar power lights and heating, running water and gas stoves, so it was the nicest camping I've ever done! In NZ you usually don't even have to filter your water, you can just dip right into the stream and drink up! (As long as you make sure there's not a sheep farm upstream!) After we got the hut and claimed some bunks we walked to some near by caves where we did a wee bit of spelunking. We climbed down for about 45 minutes and saw some really beautful formations. It was a tight fit at some points but definitely worth it! We cooked a delicious dinner of pasta, mushrooms and onions with some fried tortiallas and had snickers bars for desert. Then we headed off to bed to rest up for the next day.

The next day's tramp to the Iris Burn Hut was 14.6 k, or around 9 miles. This was supposed to be the most beautiful day with the best views. Unfortunately for us it was raining and freezing and there were 80 km/hr winds. We spent the first 4 or so hours of the day crossing the ridgelines of the mountains, passed emergency shelters and finally descended around 800 - 900 meters to the hut. It rained the ENTIRE day. Once we got below the bushline and had some shelter from the wind things settled down, but up on top it got kinda scary for a bit! Mostly we were disappointed about the views, but we learned to appreciate the amazingness of what we saw, even if it was through clouds and mist and rain. It was pretty neat to think we were hiking ABOVE the clouds at some points, not just through them. At the hut that night we had some yummy back country pizzas. We met a Canadian pharmacist named Stacey who was taking 6 months to travel around the world, literally! She had been to NZ 6 or so times and was doing some pretty big hikes while she was there.

Day 3 was my favorite day of the trip. The distance was the longest at 16.2 km (10 mi), but the weather broke and we had blue skies all day. The walk was also mostly flat so I hit my stride and was making good time. I actually got ahead of Brian and Andrew while they were taking some pictures and when they caught up they were both like, what were you doing, running? That's a big complement to me because my motto for going uphill is slow and steady, and I stick to it! Anyway, this day was just amazing. Shortly after leaving the hut we came to an opening the woods referred to as a big slide which was cleared by a tree avalanche after heavy rains in 1987. It was amazing because we could see all the mountains around us, and off of every rocky areas was a LOOOONG waterfall. Usually we wouldn't have gotten to see so many waterfalls but since we put up with all the rain the day before we got a reward! After getting through that area we came to the most beautiful area I've ever seen. It was the greenest, lushest, most amazing enchanted forest you could imagine. There was bright green moss growing on everything and long pieces of soft green moss hanging from the trees. Every fallen log and branch was covered with green moss and lichens. There were ferns as tall as I was and tall straight trunked trees with little curly branches. And every leaf had a drop of water hanging on it so that every time there was any wind everything sparkled every color of the rainbow. I know it sounds cheesy but it was so beautiful it almost made me cry. I spent most of the day walking by myself, just walking around looking up in awe. I almost wandered off a couple of (moss covered) foot bridges. The hut that night was called Moturau Hut. It was on a bay called Shallow Bay off of Lake Manapouri. It, like the others, had flush toilets and all the other good stuff. Around 8 a pretty crazy looking storm started to roll in accross the lake. Brian got some pretty neat looking pictures of the black clouds above the lake and the mountains.

Our original plan was to hike out the long way the next morning and head to Milford Sound for our cruise. We were going to get an early start around 0630 so that we could get our 15.5 k out of the way by 1100 and get some showers and laundry in before the cruise at 430. But when calculated it out we decided we would never make it in time. Lucky for us it was possible to catch a shuttle after 6 km. So we got to start a little later and end a little earlier. This was especially nice because it was POURING down rain all morning.

We headed up to Milford Sound with another tramper we met, Felix, from Germany. The cruise was really amazing. Milford Sound is actually a Fiord. Apparently sounds are carved out by rivers and fiords are carved by glaciers. The weather cleared up right at the beginning of our cruise. The boat we were on was small so there weren't too many people around. We got some really neat views of waterfalls and saw some seals. Then it started raining so we went inside the boat and sat on some really comfy cushions and drank some wine and ate some cheese and bread Brian and Andrew had had the forsight to bring along. Then the rain cleared and we went back outside for some more views. After the cruise we had about a 2 hour drive back to Barnyard Backpackers where we stayed for the night. The people that own it also have a deer farm on the property. It never fails to amuse me that they FARM DEER here! There's nothing like driving down the street and seeing a herd of deer roaming around a farm! Anyway, at the backpacker they had a dog named Zach who wanted to play with Brian and a cat named Honey. You know we liked them!

Today we got to sleep in and then we drove to Queenstown which is supposed to be the extreme sports capital of NZ but is really just the touristy capital of NZ! We're getting some laundry and grocery shopping and such done and then tomorrow we have to do some car shuffling around before we leave for the Routeburn tramp on Saturday. Just 8 days left in NZ and we're trying to make the most of it!

Thanks everyone for all the great comments. There is one rumor related comment I'm going to delete just to keep everyone from getting in any trouble! Some things are better sent in email, even if they did make me chuckle! I miss you all (well most of you) but I'll see you soon enough!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Glad to hear from you guys. That sounds like an amazing few days. Can't wait to see the pictures from this tramp!


02 March, 2006 06:30  
Anonymous Toni said...

Kate & Brian:
Glad to hear about your latest trek. Sounds like you are getting a lifetime's experience in a relatively short period of time. Kate, please watch your footing! We want you both to come back to Ohio safe and in one piece!
We can't wait to see some more of your pictures.
Love, Mom M

02 March, 2006 07:52  
Blogger Beth said...

Absolutly fantastic! I am so happy for you guys being able to do this. Especially since I know how hard you worked before you did this! Hopefully Tom and I will be able to do something like this someday. But I think that I rather do it on bike and it had better involve LOTS of SUN and SAND. Be safe you two! See you soon.

02 March, 2006 08:21  
Anonymous Tito said...

Honey sounds like a pretty stupid name for a cat.

02 March, 2006 08:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like a great time. Be safe and we will see you guys soon.


02 March, 2006 08:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kate and Brian,

Wow! Your hike sounds absolutely amazing! Much more invigorating than it is here at K8W. I am so happy you all are there and having all these cool experiences!
~ Rebecca.

Hi Kate I miss you. Martina

03 March, 2006 10:58  
Anonymous DadL said...

I thought I should reassure you that spring has officially started here. The first sign of spring, which is the blooming of the mulchpileus gasstationitus, is now in full force.

07 March, 2006 09:06  

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