the Kepler Track - down Iris Burn
Sunday 10th February
We slept very well - Camilla thought she was at home when she woke up -
which may have been due to the long day we'd had, or possibly to the
matresses on the floor being more comfortable than on bunks.
We were up and away around 8.45. The track descends steadily, following
the Iris Burn downstream, though the river is mostly out of sight.
It was pleasantly cool under the forest, even at noon, with the occasional
open space, including one large clearing right near the beginning, near a
big slip. Camilla found a fresh chicken egg, which she thought might have
come from a ferret trap and I thought might have been dropped by walkers.
Approaching Lake Manapouri, the track follows the river and then the lake.
With no sandflies around, Camilla and others went for a swim.
There were birdcalls and we saw some birds - tui, warblers, a
(lost?) shearwater that came upstream a little then went back over
the lake - but we had more fun looking at fungi, which were plentiful.
When we arrived at Motorau Hut (around 4.50pm) I walked in, looked around,
spotted a shelf of reference books, and excitedly showed Camilla the fungi
and fern books. People were startled that we could walk 17 kilometres
and then get excited by books without first taking off our packs.
There were fewer people here, since many had walked out that day - one
exit is only 1.5 hours away. But the hut is right on the beach (the shore
of Shallow Bay, Lake Manapouri), which was pleasantly warm in the sun.
And there was a whole shelf of natural history books to check out...
(Camilla later bought the fungi book, and I was tempted by a book on
The talk by hut warden Rata was great: he had previously taught adult
education and was only hut warden who provided a shelf of reference
books (most of them his own); there had been no rain for three weeks,
so we couldn't light a fire on the beach; the shuttle bus from Rainbow
Reach had been $10 until a few weeks ago, when a second company started
offering the service, and now it was $8 (a fascinating insight into
the micro-economics of the tourist industry); though the water here was
discoloured, that was just tannin and it actually tested as cleaner than
the water at either of the other huts we'd stayed in; etc.
It was gusty during the night - I was on an upper bunk near the window
and the occasional blasts of cool moist air were rather pleasant.
Monday 11th February
We got away by 7.50. We packed for rain but it didn't happen -- it was
overcast and still, perfect walking weather. There's a short sidetrip
to a viewing platform amidst some wetlands. There my second battery
finally gave up the ghost, which was unfortunate because when we came to
the footbridge across the mighty Waiau I couldn't take any photographs.
Murielle had also used up all her film.
We had a brief wait for the ($8) shuttle back to Te Anau, while we
said goodbye to some of the people we'd got to know on the walk.
a Takahe Porphyrio mantelli (cropped)
The shuttle took Murielle to a doctor; we arranged to meet up later.
In Te Anau we had a scramble to get everything organised. We booked
places in a dorm in Milford Lodge that evening - we were lucky to find
vacancies - did food shopping, washed clothes in a laundromat, changed
to clean clothes (but couldn't find a public shower anywhere), had a
compact flash card burned to CD and started recharging camera batteries,
and so forth. We also managed to fit in a visit to the Wildlife Centre,
which has Takahe as well as a range of other birds.
We ran into Cameron (another SUBW person) at the DOC office and he
and Alex turned up in the Fiordland Bakery at 2.30 when we met up with
Murielle. She was trying to coordinate rest of her trip by email and
between that and finishing off drying our clothes and eating we didn't
set off for Milford Sound till after 4pm.
Next: Milford Road + Milford Sound
Previous: Kepler Track - across the tops