Meet the Attards

Over the Hills and Far Away…

If you know me, you know how much I love Led Zeppelin. Michael tolerates it, and I love him for that. My all-time favorite song is also the perfect title for our next adventure here in New Zealand! Taking a boat ride to view the beautiful Milford Sound and then our 3-day hike over the hills and far away into Fiordland National Park on the Kepler Track.

So feel free to rock out to a little Zepp for us…that’s what I’m doing while writing this post 😀

Milford Sound is one of those places that you actually want it to be raining when you visit. Why, you ask? To see all the ridiculously beautiful waterfalls! It is perhaps one of the most picturesque places in the entire country…so you will just have to wait and see for yourselves when we post our selfies on Instagram. We are planning a morning boat ride in the Sound and exploring the area before heading south to Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park.

By the way, did you know Fiordland can be spelled either with an “i” or a “j”, as in Fiordland or Fjordland? I just learned that today! Anyways…

The Kepler Track is one of the Great Walks here in New Zealand and most hikers can get the 60km (37.2mi) done in 3 or 4 days and is graded as an intermediate level trail. It is recommended to complete the hike in the months October-May, can be hiked in either direction since it is one big loop, and has two points of entry/exit. This area of the park has complex avalanche terrain and it is not advisable to hike the track it in winter, which is why we are doing it at the tail end of summer. With short daylight hours, freezing cold, and icy, snowy conditions, hiking this trek in the winter is only for professionals. Plus, who seriously wants to hike for 7 hours a day freezing their butts off?! Uh, not us. The Department of Conservation is serious about keeping people safe and making sure it doesn’t get too crowded on the trail or at the campsites, so you have to book tickets for the campsites ($18/person per night). There are slightly nicer huts to sleep in, but they lack privacy and at $54 a night per person, we decided that was a bit steep for a lousy cot. But you kind of want a place to sleep after hiking all day, so we opted for the comforts of a simple campsite and the $18 price tag.

Day 1 we are starting out at the Rainbow Reach carpark and hiking to our first campsite at Brod Bay. Day 2 will be checking out Luxmore caves while on our way to campsite #2 at Iris Burn Hut. Day 3 will be all downhill hiking back to the Rainbow Reach carpark. This will split the mileage up somewhat evenly throughout the 3 days.

I’ve included some nifty maps and track elevation profile below so you can see the layout of the land.

We will be keeping an eye out for the world’s only alpine parrot, the cheeky little Kea. These large parrots can be entertaining for tourists, but can also wreak havoc on camping gear, car windshield wipers, and pretty much anything they can find to destroy. I’ll try to snap a picture of one if I see it.

As with any big trip, if you fail to plan ahead, then you had better plan to fail. That’s why we have done our homework for this 3 day trek through the mountains. There are 5 main things to remember:

  • Plan your Trip: Seek local info on what to bring, the best route to take, and allow enough time for the journey.
  • Tell someone your plans: Safety is our #1 priority…we would really, really like to not have to use our Int’l Health Insurance or the SOS on our Delorme GPS. Our host family knows about our trip and where we will be, and we plan to check in with them throughout the week.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions: New Zealand weather can never seem to make up it’s mind. Kind of like what Ohio weather does for the entire month of March. Plan for the worst, expect the best…but also expect it to go bipolar on you in the next 5 minutes.
  • Take sufficient supplies: That being said about the weather, you need to pack for sunny, rainy, and frigid cold weather. Layers are your friend. We did manage to stuff our big, puffy winter coats into the bottom of our packs along with camp necessities, an extra day’s worth of food, first aid kits, and waterproof rain gear. You can pack alot into a 80L and 75L pack without it weighing a ton! With a 3 day trek through the mountains, you need to be self-sufficient in all areas. And yes, we will even have to poop in the woods like the bears do…if they had bears in New Zealand.
  • Know your limits: The track requires about 5-7 hours a day of walking, depending on your fitness level. Michael and I are not too proud to realize when something might be above our skill-level to tackle. We have completed a 3.5 hour test hike with our packs just to make sure the weight distribution checked out and that we could physically handle scrambling over rough terrain with them on. If we run into trouble, stick to the STAR method. Stop/Think/Assess/React.

On this trip, I remembered to bring our coffee, tea, and yummy superfood greens! Lots of trail mix for snacks along the way too. Fiber is important if you’re going to be doing as the bears do 😉

If you want to know more about the Kepler Track or the other Great Walks in New Zealand click here!

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