The Hike Out

kepler day 2
The Big Slip; sunny lunch by Lake Manapouri; Tiffany on a boardwalk bridge; Rainbow Bridge at the end

(This is the second of two posts about a recent hike my friend Tiffany and I did on the Kepler Track, a Great Walk on the South Island of New Zealand. To see photos and more, click here.)

It poured rain overnight when we were at the hut. I mean, poured. The sound woke me up a couple times and I felt really bad for the poor souls jut a few meters away in their tents.

Iris Burn Hut was surprisingly comfortable, although I was awakened early by the guys next to me, wearing redlight headlamps and packing up noisily. Tiffany and I got a rather leisurely start because I had miscalculated how long one section would take us.

While it’s not easy to get lost on a Great Walk (at least in season), but it certainly is important to “hit” your end point at the right time if you’re meeting a ride.

So it was with a little bit of a pep in our step that we walked just under a mile (one way) to the Iris Burn Waterfall. We didn’t spy any Whio (blue ducks) this time, but the waterfall was impressive and coursing heavily from the overnight downpours. It was about 9 am when we put our packs on and started our hike to the Rainbow Reach car park, our trail’s end.

DOC indicated 22.2 km (13.8 miles) for us and predicted a time of between 6.5 and 8 hours. Our pickup time was 3pm. So leaving the hut at 9 meant we had just under 6 hours.

That doesn’t leave much time for snacks!

Of course it all worked out. The second day of our tramp was much, much easier terrain, following a river valley down to the shores of Lake Manapouri.

I will say, however, that on my second time on this section of trail, it is still not flat or mostly downhill. There were a few decent inclines to traverse, though nothing at all like the elevations from the previous day. Just a warning to people looking at the trail topo map and may think it’s just a flat walk out…

We stopped for lunch at the Moturau Hut, which seems to be the least-used hut on the trail. At a mere 6 kms from a carpark/trailhead exit, it just doesn’t really seem to appeal to trampers at the same levels as the other two huts. I’m sure it would be nice to stay there, though, because it’s perched in a sunny clearing on the lake. Perhaps next time…

A small group of German tourists walked the last hour or so with us. Tiffany answered that common trail question: “where are you starting out from and where are you heading?” with our itinerary. “We’re doing it in days.” A blustery, charismatic fellow said, “Oh, I heard about you all. You’re the crazy women.”

Tiffany immediately replied, “Why go immediately to ‘crazy’? How about ‘ambitious’ or ‘inspiring’?”

By the end of our hike, he made his respect more clear and chose his words to say so with a bit more caution. 🙂

The wetlands, nearing the end.

Anyway, the final stretch passed quickly enough and we walked across the Rainbow Reach swingbridge over the Waiau River in time to meet our track transport back to our car.

On our way back to town I insisted we stop at the bird refuge to see the takahe. Such funny birds.

That evening, after checking into our B&B and showering, we ventured out to Ristorante Pizzeria da Toni for some delicious pizza. Tiffany had a Coke and I ordered a small carafe of Montepulciano which turned out to be way too much for me; James and I had shared one when we went out on a date in Te Anau, but all alone it was far too much and I ended up leaving a good portion on the table.

We rounded out the evening with a chilly walk to the tekapo statue. I felt a pang leaving Te Anau; it’s a sweet base for so many beautiful things in Fiordland.

kepler day 2 2
Takahe and my lovely hiking partner!; a delicious dinner after two days of trail food; me by my favorite grocery store in TA; a takahe.




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