After my last rather grumpy post I thought that I should sing the praises of a belated ‘Indian summer’ that we are now enjoying. The last five days have been perfect and, as icing on the cake, we are still in Fiordland which has meant it has been great for hiking through the mountains and enjoying the stunning scenery in this part of the World.
We started off at sea level with a walk along part of the South Coast Track on the south east coast of Fiordland. It was a diverse landscape ranging from; sandy beach to egg like rock beach to drowned forest beach. Whenever we stopped the sandflies would swarm in for the kill. These sandflies did not follow hiking etiquette whereby you only attack those who are too lazy to apply insect repellent.
We moved our base north from Papatotara to Manapouri. When we arrived we were confused, what was going on? There were people swimming in the lake, sunbathing on the beaches and when we exited from the car we had to lose a couple of layers of clothing. Maybe I was a little harsh on that weather man in my last post. He probably deliberately downplayed a good forecast in fear of being abused by disgruntled winter refugees such as myself.
Still harbouring a few doubts as to how long the good weather would last, I suggested that on our first day should be a hike up to Luxmore Hut on the Kepler track. “How far is it?” I consulted my track guidebook, “18km and half of it is downhill”. “How high is it?” Now I admit that I was not really expecting this question so I hurriedly muttered “a climb of about 800 meters” adding “not much more than on Mt Taranaki”. “It will be a good test of our readiness for the Tongariro Crossing”. “Ok I’m in” was the surprising answer.
Well the 18km turned out to be 24km (7hours) and the ascent was a pretty tough four-hour slog. Ruth started indicating that she was running out of gas but fortunately I could see on our topographical phone app that we were close to the edge of the bush-line. I coaxed her along the remaining few hundred meters trying not to show the fatigue I was feeling as well. In the end we are pleased we persevered, the views from the top were stunning and it was a great place to have a very leisurely lunch.
We had the day off yesterday only undertaking a modest bike along the Lake front and an evening walk and, as a result, today we were ready to assault the Key Summit off the Milford Road. “How far it it?” was the stock question. When I told Ruth that it was a mere five km (3 hours) and only roughly 3-400 or so meters in altitude gained (we would already over 500 at the car park), she was so enthusiastic that I started suggesting longer walks, she declined on my ‘steak knife’ offers.
You are really ‘pushing the envelope ‘expecting to get five straight days of good clear weather down here, even in a ‘drought’ year. But somehow our luck has changed and the day dawned cool and clear and with the promise of another warm afternoon. It was all spectacular, the drive and especially the walks. However, we agreed, when reviewing our photos later on in the day, that they simply do not do justice to the experience of walking in such dramatic countryside.
Even the rain forecast for tomorrow seems to have dropped off the radar. I rushed in to give Ruth the good news, “we can do the ‘Shallow Bay’ walk on the shores of Manapouri tomorrow”. “Oh (sigh) I thought it was going to rain”.