Last week Jean’s clinic was closed and we decided to plan a last minute vacation to experience one of the places we came all this way to see, Fiordland in the southwest of the South Island. First up was one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Kepler Track. The Great Walks are the most publicized and maintained of the New Zealand tramping tracks with staffed huts during the season which require bookings. Shelter, water, bathrooms, bunks and gas cookers are all provided. And in our case at Iris Burn hut on Kepler a very engaging and charismatic hut ranger, Robbie.
The first day was indeed a great walk in to the Iris Burn hut, rain only coming just before we finished our day.
The second day the weather was much worse, record rainfall and high winds. We started anyway but up on the alpine section of track the winds were really high. We encountered a group up on the ridge that had a woman with them that was experiencing severe hypothermia. Two of her friends were helping her down and they were moving OK, at first Jean and I continued on. But Jean decided maybe she could be of some help and it wasn’t that fun with the rain slamming you in the face from the side so we turned around back for the hut. Once everyone got to the hut Jean helped the ranger evaluate the woman’s condition and decided on a helicopter evacuation since it would otherwise be a couple days before she could hike out on her own. Meanwhile I went up with another woman in their party to retrieve some packs they had left to be able to help her down the mountain. So I got my hiking in for the day even though we ended up in the same hut as the night before. I also hiked to a nearby waterfall that was raging with all the recent rain.
The next day we had to hike out the way we came in so we missed the second half of the track and Luxmore hut. However we loved what we did see of the Kepler and I am thinking of running the Kepler Challenge if I can get an entry.
We then had a rest day in Te Anau which we were both glad for.
Next up was an overnight kayak in to Doubtful Sound. Here we got absolutely blessed with conditions. Skies cleared as we made the schlep over to the start of the kayak which involves a shuttle from Te Anau, a boat ride across Lake Manapouri and then a bus ride on a road over a pass to Doubtful Sound, a road that connects to nowhere else. We saw dolphins, waterfalls, birds.
We didn’t encounter much wind except for on the last day when we used it to sail part of the way back to our cove. We had a great guide, Josh. The only downside was the masses of sandflies at our camp. They are vicious little buggers.