Kepler/Milford/Routeburn x 2/Greenstone/Caples Tracks | October 2014

I left it to Bob, my generous host in Te Anau, to organise the Milford track expedition, we plan to have an extra day at Dumpling Hut which is only possible during the winter season. I’m fortunate to have run into Bob, he’s an interesting guy with a dangerous sense of humour, someone who can hold a conversation, Ie, not talk exclusively about himself, I’m sure we will have an entertaining trip together.

The plan was then to continue immediately on to the Routeburn, then, wanting to also have a look at the Greenstone and Caples circuit, I had to zip back over the Routeburn.

First I had to fill in a few days, the Milford requires a minimum number for the out of season boat, they don’t go every day. I’m also working to Bob’s timetable, call me Mr Flexible.

Making the most of my DOC Backcountry Hut Pass there’s just enough time to do another three night loop around the Kepler.

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Day 1 | Shallow Bay Hut, Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

There's plenty of terrific track through the beech tree forest. | Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

Here I am back on the shores of Lake Manapouri, tuis really making a racket in the kowhais, the fire rampaging in the fireplace despite the lack of acute need, more to kill some stray sandflies.

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Day 2 | Iris Burn Hut, Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

Wow, the not particularly endangered species, the yellow-crowned parakeet. | Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

I chat to a Dutch woman who says her friends can’t understand her complete lack of interest in computer screens, social media and shopping, she is motivated by international travel and experience, not mediated, secondhand experience. We are nodding in furious agreement.

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Day 3 | Luxmore Hut, Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

The snow has almost gone from my last visit but the bad weather remains. | Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

They seemed particularly badly dressed for the occasion. The bloke, in the lead, had a cheap jacket without a hood and no beanie or gloves, his female partner similarly attired but with a plastic bag style poncho, perhaps acquired from the $2 shop, already looking worse for wear, her face grim, teeth clenched, no response to my cheery greeting.

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Day 4 | Back to Te Anau

Looking quite mysterious in the morning fog. | Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

I talk to one of the runners near the Control Gates, the end of the official trail, then she runs the last few hundred metres to the car park, jumps in her vehicular transportation and, phaff, she’s off.

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Day 5 | Clinton Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

The suspension bridge over the Clinton River at the start of the track. | Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

The fire is cranked up, the rain is coming down, 150mm expected before breakfast and all is right with the world.

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Day 6 | Mintaro Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

It's rather wet and you can't make out all those waterfalls, but there are walls of them. | Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

If the claim for World’s Finest Walk is overly superlative in its description, the fall back to claim the Milford as New Zealand’s finest track certainly isn’t.

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Day 7 | Dumpling Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

Jutta love the Old Man's Beard on the fuschias, maybe she just loves beards. | Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

And then there’s the Bobster, abandoned, but happy none the less, enjoying the track on his eighth trip. He’s another happy specimen.

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Day 8 | Dumpling Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

Some of the team leaving today, Simon, Marie, Jutta and Ann-Kathryn. | Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

Back at the hut I find that with the Sutherland Falls reprise, I’ve cracked out 27 km and spent a big six hours 40 minutes on the move.

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Day 9 | Howden Hut, Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park

The end of the track, Sandfly Point. | Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

I’d heard stories of large numbers of people squeezing in the Routeburn prior to the upping of the hut fee to $54 so imagine my surprise when I lobbed into an empty, cold hut, plenty of wet logs to cut up.

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Day 10 | Lake Mackenzie Hut, Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park

Emily Peak at the end of Lake Mackenzie. | Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park

A French bloke stopped to roll a couple of cigarettes, one behind the ear, before being dispatched as quickly as the first, explaining why he couldn’t afford to go on the Milford Sound cruise. Okay.

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Day 11 | Routeburn Falls Hut, Routeburn Track, Mt Aspiring National Park

That's the Darren Range over the Hollyford valley. | Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park

There’s a short toddle up a hill, all on the zigzag, until you burst out with the massive view above the Hollyford, eventually Lake McKerrow comes into view, and later all the way down to Martins Bay, with some imagination you can make out breakers. I sat for almost an hour just soaking it all in, what’s the rush?

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Day 12 | Lake McKellar Hut, Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Area

The track is not as perilous as this makes out above Lake Harris. | Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

No fire despite a full woodshed, wood rather wet, from a recently lopped mountain beech tree, the three blokes, all Poms, claim they have no matches.

Maybe they are waiting for their mother.

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Day 13 | Steele Creek Hut, Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Area

The top end of the Greenstone is not so much Great Walk-like. | Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Park

Without being derogatory this structure would be flattered to be termed “hut”.

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Day 14 | Steele Creek Hut, Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Area

I stumbled across some red deer, on the other side of Steele Creek | near the Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Park

The stag wasn’t huge and had modest antlers, eight points according to my photos. They wandered up, and back, over a 40 meter range, then up again, I counted seven in total, a couple of fawns and spiker.

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Day 15 | Greenstone Hut, Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Area

Great bit of not much used track up Steele Creek. | near the Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Park

No one here cares about your life elsewhere, so what, it’s how you present right now, this minute, that matters.

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Day 16 | Mid Caples Hut, Caples Track, Greenstone Conservation Area

I took the Lake Rere diversion down to Lake Wakatipu. | Greenstone Track, Greenstone Conservation Park

So here was I mulling over the prospect of sharing another hut with zombie foreigners and instead we had a most chatty evening about the meaning of life, both of us rather unimpressed by the rush of modern life, the poverty of a screen relationships, and both wanting a more simple existence.

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Day 17 | Back in Te Anau once again

Final day heading down into the Greenstone Valley once again enroute to The Divide. | Caples Track, Greenstone Conservation Park

There’s a burst of barely believable grandeur, the Fiordland that is absent in the wider, flatter, lower Greenstone Valley.