We agreed the previous night to not meet until 9 a.m. with breakfast in bellies to start our day. The two of us ate the oatmeal we had purchased from our gas station friend the night before, supplemented with a banana, and Doug sipped some hot tea. He seems to be coming down with a cold or suffering from allergies because it’s basically Spring here with all we’ve seen in bloom.
There was a bit of texting miscommunication, but we eventually caught up with each other at the Fiordlands National Park Visitor Center. Here we learned that over breakfast the other 2/3 of the gang had decided on a hiking route and had properly prepared to begin the trek from the Visitor Center. The two of us were not (unless you count slip-ons as hiking boots) leading us to need to return to our hotel room to grab our hiking gear. That’s OK. We are fast walkers. Off we went back to the hotel to get water, hats, and proper footwear. It was at this moment that Doug realized that drying his wet shoes with a hair dryer may not have been the best idea since the inserts of the shoes were now shrunken. Woopsies.
We weren’t gone terribly long, but we didn’t want them to wait any longer than necessary so rather than walk back we chose to hop in Little John and drive it. It sounds easier than it turned out being since the Visitor Center only offered 1 hour parking. That’s OK. We’ll just park on the street (essentially halfway between the hotel and Visitor Center).
Our plan was to walk with the gang for a portion of their hike through the bush then possibly leave and do our own if we needed more mountain views. Off we went on the track that would take us along the southern edge of Lake Te Anau to meet up with the Kepler Track. It was a fairly level hike, but offered stunning views of the surrounding mountains and local plants. Every now and then we would point out a purple bell or machine-gun bird only to be shot down and told we would make terrible botanists (We agree). While we were out there Doug also added “cotton bush” to our nomenclature, but after handling realized that it was a branch from a nearby cottonwood tree.
A quick ways in we passed through the Te Anau Wildlife Sanctuary to check out some local birds up close and personal. We saw some ducks, parrots, and a swan though the highlight was certainly the takahes, endangered flightless birds. We didn’t know why but there was a wall that separated the compound that seemed to keep Romeo takahe from Juliet takahe. On one side of the fence paced Romeo back and forth with quick peeks through the cracks in the wall and making little whiny noises. On the other side, sat Juliet who seemed mildly interested but soon walked away with a puffed tail. Ok, so not quite Romeo and Juliet. Maybe more like mating season.
On we went until we reached the start of the Kepler Track to use the bathrooms and determine the next course of action. The gang’s original plan had been to continue on for another 2.5-3.5 hours until we reached Rainbow Reach where we could catch a shuttle back. But, judging how long it took us to get here, there were doubts that we could make it in time for the shuttle at 3 p.m. So instead we compromised and decided to do some of the Kepler Track then turn around and return the way we had come. And, if you couldn’t tell, we were satisfied with the views thus far so we chose to join them.
On we went, over the Control Gates that regulate the water between Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri and into the bush of Fiordland National Park. A short while later we noticed that a beach had appeared so we all went down to try our hands at skipping rocks into Dock Bay. While no one saw it, Doug claims he was able to skip one 7 times. Yup. Sure. Four of us continued on, while Bruce and Judy turned back, for 30 minutes more before reaching another beach where we sat down to have some snacks and enjoy the views across the lake. By now it was 1 p.m. and we all agreed we should probably start our return so off we went pausing for picture, bathroom, and rest breaks every so often.
Around 2:45 p.m., we were approaching the Visitor Center when both Lynn and Doug had a zebra situation that needed to be dealt with (Zebra is a code word that Doug and Lynn use. We may or may not tell you what it means the next time you see us). So we separated from Phil and Sue at a rapid pace to address it before reconvening back at the Visitor Center. It was during this separation that Phil and Sue were able to meet some other tourists when they stopped them to ask if they knew what type of bird was on the shore nearby. One responded “What bird?” Another stated, “Well, I believe that’s a penguin” with a fair amount of certainty. Here is a picture of said bird (Note: It is most definitely not a penguin):
The four of us picked up Little John and returned to the hotel. Doug and Lynn were only there briefly because they quickly decided to make full use of the remaining afternoon. First things, first, though. Time for a snack! We put on some jandals and headed into town to find food before quickly settling on meat pies – venison for Lynn and pepper steak for Doug – and an L&P soda to share. After eating we continued on our way to see if we could get someone to cut our very disorderly hair. As was expected, there was no time for Lynn’s hair, but time enough for Doug’s so Lynn settled in their leather couch while Doug provided vague guidance, requesting that it be “shorter.”
When that was all taken care of we returned to the hotel to start some blog writing before heading out with the gang for dinner. We went to La Dolce Vita, an Italian restaurant that Bruce, Judy, Sue, and Phil had picked up a menu for and oddly enough was recommended by Doug’s stylist. We enjoyed some fresh pasta and salad before ending with gelato. Then, it was rest and relaxation for the remainder of the evening.
Daily Walking Mileage: 13.9
- The Kepler track is a 60 km loop, up and over mountains, requiring 3-4 days to complete. It is named after the German astronomer, Johannes Kepler.
- The Fiordlands National Park has placed stoat traps throughout the park to prevent further harm to the region’s indigenous birds. Stoats were first introduced in the 1880s to control rabbits and hares but are now considered “public enemy number one.”
- We have noticed in this region that there are a large number of deer farms alongside cattle and sheep farms. This may also explain the fact that venison is on most menus.
- L&P in L&P soda stands for Lemon & Paeroa. We equate its taste to a sparkling Pine-Sol. Paeroa is not a fruit, but the town that L&P is made in. The brand’s motto is comically, “World Famous in New Zealand.”