Kepler Track 9-13 Feb 2021
Covid-19 delayed plans for the 20/21 summer season, and when Kepler Track bookings were opened in November they were abruptly closed again after an unexpected surge of bookings. This allowed little time for OAC members interested in the Kepler to book with the required prepayment. As a result some members unfortunately missed out leaving only three with bookings confirmed. With safety in mind we joined the Milton Rotary Tramping Club.
Leaving home on 2 Feb we flew to Dunedin to allow for a week’s sightseeing in the Catlins area and Dunedin surrounds before meeting our fellow trampers in Dunedin on 9 Feb and traveling with them to Te Anau to stay for a night before starting the track.
We had prepaid for our packs to be helicoptered up to Luxmore Hut so that we could enjoy the 1200 m. climb without carrying full packs plus 2kg of food for the next three nights. However we received with dismay the news that helicopters could not land at Luxmore due to low cloud.
Kepler Day 1 To our delight we could see the cloud clearing from the tops and we greeted the very welcome news that they would fly after all. We were on our way with day packs carrying only lunch, water, rainwear and extra warm clothing. After the easy flat shady walk along the West shore of Lake Te Anau we began the climb and arrived at Limestone Bluffs by lunch time. Our leaders boiled the billy for tea or soup, an unexpected luxury. Continuing on our upward trail the climb became steeper and more zigzag. We heard the sound of the helicopter flying overhead, unseen due to forest cover but reassuring. Emerging from the bush we walked the last part of the trail through snow tussock as the mountain vista unfolded and looking back we could see far below Te Anau nestled on the lake shore. After carefully making sure our boots were inside out of range of any mischievous kea,we found the hut comfortable and warm in the living and kitchen area where we enjoyed a very satisfying 2 course meal - all carried up by helicopter, and rain began to fall.
Day 2 This morning the hut warden read out the weather report: “-2 degrees, 53 kmh wind “ Then added “marginal climbing conditions, do-able, but take great care”. Now carrying our main packs, and wearing many layers of warm clothing and rain wear, plus our share of food for the next 2 nights, we set off on the narrow rocky trail up Mt Luxmore. There were 23 in our party and we were instructed to keep close together to help one another to stay upright against the diabolical wind gusts carrying snow, and sleet. After a 200m climb we were all relieved to cram into the Forest Burn Emergency Shelter for a brief respite from the elements. On setting off again we started on the down and up trail to Hanging Valley Shelter where we stopped for lunch and magically a billy boil-up to add hot water to our personal packets of powdered soup - so good! Now in clear calm conditions and able to enjoy panoramic views over the tops and into the valleys we descended sharply by zigzags and a series of stair cases to re-enter the bush and enjoy the bird life—riflemen, South Island robins, a kakariki and others, all quite tame and trusting. Every few meters we passed a DOC stoat trap to help these birds along. At the end of a tiring day it seemed a long way to our night’s resting place, Iris Burn Hut - 6 hours.
Day 3 Leaving the Iris Burn Hut we crossed a small rise, then settled into a steady mainly downward trail through beech forest and eventually along the bank of the scenic Iris Burn until its mouth where it joined Lake Manapouri. From then on we were treated to sun drenched views between the trees across Lake Manapouri. Soon we reached Moturau Hut, set on a beautiful site above the white sandy shore of Lake Manapouri’s Shallow Bay. With the cold and wind far behind us now, many went for a paddle but no-one seemed keen to totally immerse themselves in this gorgeous but mountain fed water. As this was our last night together our leader thanked us all for our co-operation and good cheer throughout, and arranged us in rows on the sloping ground for a group photo which we expect posted or on line in the near future.
Day 4 The next 2-3 hours were a gentle stroll along a smooth track carpeted with beech leaves, lined with forest giants - beech, rimu, totara and others, They are left to fall as they die and are soon covered in a variety of ferns and “meadows” of rolling moist green moss, a truly beautiful sight. On arrival at Rainbow Reach our bus was waiting for us to load packs on board and either stay with the bus or walk the final 9.5 km. packless, following the bank of the Wairau River to our start point at the Control Gates, thereby completing the Kepler circuit. After a final boil-up and lunch we were on our way back to Dunedin.
However this was not the end of our adventure - the bus broke down and in spite of efforts by the driver, instructions from base, and our knowledgeable farmer guards we waited 2.5 hours by the roadside for a replacement bus which brought us back to our Dunedin start point.
Thursday 11 February, Karamatura Track, Huia.
Today was a day for wooden steps, flights of them; in fact someone counted 1430 of them before giving up. And that doesn’t include the return journey! We were on the reopened Karamatura Track beyond Huia, and walked (stepped I should say) on to Donald McLean Track and up Mt Donald McLean. What a magnificent view from the top, over all the bush and hills to the sea. Hardly a house in sight. We had lunch at the lookout at the top, then it was back to the cars, via all those steps! Thanks to Alan Wild for a strenuous tramp. Elizabeth Hindmarsh
Sunday 14 February, Beach Haven Hellyers Creek Track
We met a full tide at Shepherds Park beach and we continued around the cliff edge viewing mangroves, estuary inlets and some interesting backyard gardens. Trudging nimbly over a narrow tree rooted track, we reached Beach Haven Road and entered the bush reserve again to find a fitness trail, toilets, picnic area and the rest of Shepherds Park. We ate lunch at Beach Haven Wharf and walked to the shops for icecreams and curiosity. Ruth Hyde
Saturday 20 February, Ihumatao and Otuataua 14 heritage enthusiasts joined me for an informative walk to the controversial and proposed land and housing development at Ihumatao. The locals had erected some interesting buildings and gardens. Also visited was the Ihumatao Museum featured on TV’s Heritage Rescue, but unfortunately it was under renovation. We continued to look at the Otuataua stonefields and the historic avocado orchard. There was good information on the signboards. The area is often overlooked and not visited by many people. We returned via the airport industrial area to view some interesting and innovative commercial buildings. An informative and enjoyable walk for those who attended. Mike Maran
Sunday 21 February FAB FEB FUN Vibrant, vivacious, variety. A swirling kaleidoscope of colour, sensations and movement. This was Maureen’s 80th birthday bash. So much was going on from a delightful granddaughter providing name tags to the efficient drinks dispenser (the punch as good as ours at Christmas). Then the music : the guitar player sang as he strummed items many knew from ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ to ‘Auld Lang Syne ’ which had us all joining in. A soloist was another star turn before the ‘surprise’: a graceful hula dancer enthralling all with this sensuous dance. No one could take their eyes off her. Spellbinding. Maureen warmly welcomed us, making OAC members part of the whole group of family and friends. She stressed the importance of working at friendships in present times as well as speaking of her own family lineage, acknowledging the past but living in/for the present. The invitation included afternoon tea. This was scrummy and being catered for was greatly appreciated. Of course there was a birthday cake: a traditional celebratory fruit cake to mark this important milestone - 80 years. A delightful day! Vaana Langdon
Monday 2 – Thursday 14 November Kapiti Coast – Wellington
10 of us made our way by three cars and one plane/train to Paekakariki Holiday Park where we had 3 Tourist Flats for 4 nights.
Wednesday saw us all up bright and early for an 8 o’clock bio-security check in at Paraparaumu Beach for our trip to the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve. 20 people on a fast boat to the Island (15mins) which is 10km long by 2 kms wide. We landed at Rangitira Point in the middle on the East side, one of two approved landings on the Island, where we met our guide and host for two days, Pania. She is a direct descendant of the original Maori tribe with Te Rauparaha in the 1820’s and her family have been on the island ever since.
Her knowledge and Whanau history made her the perfect guide for our conducted tour of the flora and fauna at Rangitira Reserve which is managed by Doc. Kapiti has been predator free since 1989 and farming ceased in the fifties so we saw a lot of birds including one of two Takahe, Stitchbirds(Hihi), Whiteheads, Saddlebacks, Robins etc. around many bird feeders and wonderful regenerated bush
We all opted to tramp to the lookout at the top (521m ASL) up the hard and steep Trig track (2km long but took 2hours.) Wonderful 360deg views over the whole Island, and could see the top of the South Island, and a very distant Mt Taranaki in the north. Only took 1-1/4hrs to come down despite being 1.8km longer but a much better track.
At 2.30 our boat returned to take us to Waioura Bay at the northern end where our tour company has a lodge, several glamping tents and cabins. We had 5 cabins reserved and were very comfortable. Pania greeted us with history and fauna details then some went in a hot tub (max 4 at a time) then followed nibbles and drinks followed by a Hakari (3 course feast) expertly presented.
After that we had free time to enjoy the locals... hungry Kaka, nosey Weka, fat Kereru, screeching Kakariki and raucous Tuis all in abundance. They say the Kereru there are 20% larger than on the mainland and we concur. They were plentiful also I counted 35 within 10 metres of our cabin at one time and they were feeding on grass and tree lucerne. We must have seen over 70 in 3 hours.
At 9.30 we were split up into two groups to find the Little Spotted Kiwi. Apt name as my group couldn’t spot one. The other group got a fleeting glimpse of one, but we all heard their distinct calls, male and female. We did see numerous Little Blue Penguins trekking inland at night to feed their chicks in the nests.
Thursday after a cooked breakfast and on another fine day, we went bird watching at the northern tip where we saw Royal Spoonbills, Black Backed Gulls (Karoro), Variable Oyster Catcher ( Torea), all nesting behind a freshwater lagoon. We got quite close. There were great views from a lookout over the exposed western coast. Then back to the lodge where a final hakari awaited.
Then our boat again back to the mainland. The skipper told us that 3 humpback whales were spotted the previous week in between Kapiti and the mainland and 2 Blue whales (very rare) were seen recently off the south western tip. A great experience, wonderful hosts and highly recommended.
Friday. A sunny day. We all caught the 9.15 train from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay (free with Gold Card) a 10min journey, where we started the Escarpment Walkway which slowly climbs above SH 1 and the Main Trunk to 220metres. We traversed about 1200 steps, over two suspension bridges, through tussock and bush, all with spectacular views of Pukerua Bay and Kapiti Island and the highway beneath us. Track was 10kms long and took us 4-1/2 hrs including many stops, lunch, and then took us back to our cars.