Wednesday, 20 April 2011
My heart belongs to Te Anau part one...
Te Anau is missed off the main tour bus route (I'm not sure whether this is a curse or a blessing and judging by the split local opinion I think the jury is still out on this one) and is a low key and much more relaxed sort of place than the likes of nearby-ish Queenstown.
Te Anau is an ideal place to stay before embarking on the Milford Track, which is how I found myself to be staying there. And having completed the Milford Track I'm going to stick my neck out and say while it is "a fine walk" it is not "the finest walk in the world" (it's nice valley walk with a bit of a climb). And I'd go further in saying that the fact that about a million people frogmarch round it each day is rather surreal and actually spoils it a little bit.
That "finest" quote was made by the poet Blanche Baughan in 1908 and it stuck. Although to be fair she actually originally called it a "notable" walk and the editor changed it (ah the media) according to Wiki. The Milford is meant to be at its best when it's pissing it down and seeing as I was blessed by the sun god, I'm prepared to admit that I might not have seen it at its "finest". However, the quote has stuck, made the history books as well as every travel guide around, helping to make the Milford the most well-known New Zealand tramp (this is the term Kiwi's use for longish walks - I've no idea why) and helping to swell numbers on the Milford (you have to book months in advance - although you can be lucky like me and get a last minute place).
The Milford track is now so busy that never-mind-the-weather you have to move on each day. They also have a very strange two-tier hut system with "luxury" huts (which reportedly will set you back $1850 - why do people do this??) and normal "pleby" huts. Strange.
(Below: the MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track)
Anyway enough of this rant, the point is it's easy to end up thinking that the Milford is the only kid on the block when there are lots of other walks that are just as lovely - if not more so- and the Kepler is one of them. And it's a walk that Te Anau people seem to love. Firstly, it's on their doorstep. Secondly it's much easier on the feet with the path being relatively even. In fact it's popular to run the 10km stretch between the control gates on the edge of the lake and Rainbow Reach. It takes about an hour.
Every year, lots of totally insane people gather at the start of the 60km track and run the whole thing - the record is something like four hours. A positive about not living in Te Anau is that I can't be tempted to give this a go. Instead I decided to go to Stewart Island and walk the ten day Northwest circuit...
(Top: Lake Te Anau on a sunny day, Below: a moody Lake Te Anau)