Kepler TrackTraversing New Zealand's Wild South Island
The landscape is ever-changing, and the weather notorious for its inconsistency: storms subside as abruptly as they materialise; warm mornings can be supplanted by blizzards at midday.
Southwest of the town of Te Anau in New Zealand’s South Island lies the curving bend of Kepler Track. Flanked by two lakes, it offers astonishing views of Fiordland National Park. Sprawling valleys, deep gorges, limestone bluffs, and evergreen forests dappled with moss are just some of the sights, wonders that rescue dusty geographical terms from their sedimentary beds and bring them to life in a three-to-four-day hike. The landscape is ever-changing, and the weather notorious for its inconsistency: storms subside as abruptly as they materialise; warm mornings can be supplanted by blizzards at midday. Along the way, the hiker – or tramper, as those who walk through wild country are fondly dubbed – will encounter both ice-capped mountains and tussock grasslands on the 60 km circular loop.
One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Kepler Track did not, like most, evolve from Maori greenstone trails or crude pioneer roads. It is built for leisure, not out of wary necessity. Perhaps this is why, despite the staggering landscapes it traverses, it is often described as a moderately easy hike. Lake Manapouri, named after the Maori term for ‘anxious heart’, describes the ancient feelings of canoers caught in unprecedented storms; on Kepler, trampers enjoy lake-edge strolls along the same shores. There is the opportunity to wander through Fiordland’s glacial valleys, to amble past waterfalls, and saunter through forests pierced by the chirps of the native brown kiwi. A reconciliation with the untameable, Kepler Track is a bridge between the fearsome beauty of the South Island’s natural landscape, and the infinitely more delicate humankind that wishes to behold it.
- Words: Julia Merican
- Photos: Ash James