Journal entry for April 18, 2015
Distance Hiked: 13.1 km
My idea was to do the Kepler Track after the Milford Track, but heavy snowfall had closed sections of the Kepler. When it became clear after waiting for a few days in Te Anau that the snow wasn’t going to melt anytime soon, I decided to head south to Stewart Island first, and then return to do the Kepler later.
After waiting a day in Oban (the only town in Stewart Island), I found a window of good weather for the 3-day Rakiura Track. According to the forecast, the first two days were going to be fine, with chances of rain in the last day. I will gladly take two days of good weather out of three in New Zealand. I booked the huts that same morning and, since the first day was going to be short, took my sweet time to get ready, eating an early lunch at the hostel.
The beginning of the trail is 5km from Oban, and you get there by walking on a paved road. Two hikers were walking about 50 meters behind me. The guy was joking with the girl telling her that “this is the beginning of three days without showers, regular food, or clean toilets”. The girl didn’t find it funny.
The walk to the trailhead was nice. Being a small town, most car drivers wave hello to you as they pass by.
For some reason I was felling sluggish this day. The backpack felt heavy, and each step pounded my ankles and heels. It’s not like I was packing anymore than on earlier hikes in NZ. I even thought I might have packed a few things by mistake, like my laptop. The beginning of the track is at Lee Bay, with nice views of the coast.
The trail then heads inland for a bit. The track condition was great, gravel everywhere and no mud at all.
After a while I arrived at Moari Beach, which was beautiful. Since the tide was low, I was able to cross the stream without problems and walk on the beach. Otherwise there’s an alternative high tide inland trail.
Just a few minutes from Maori Beach Campsite you find the remains of the old timber mill that operated there about 80 years ago. Back then there was actually a village there with its own school, but none of that remains in the present.
At the other end of the beach you cross a bridge and go into the forest again.
Soon you reach a junction. The Rakiura Track continues to the left, but Port William Hut is actually 30 minutes to the right, which meant that I’d have to backtrack this section the following day. You climb up and down a small hill before reaching the hut. Even thought it was a pretty short day through mostly flat terrain, I was pretty sore and tired.
At the hut I met JP and Max from the Netherlands, and Ines from France. Not a lot of people do this track despite huts being only 22 NZD per night, the cheapest among all the Great Walks. There’s a water taxi that goes there so many people walk the first section, stay in the hut for one night, and return to Oban by boat the following day. The facilities are basic by Great Walks standard. It has firewood, running water, and bunk beds with mattresses. But no gas cookers, flush toilets, or toilet paper.
The hut ranger came to chat with us during dinner, and told us that people had spotted kiwis around the area, although only 1 to 2% of the people staying there actually see one. Knowing that, my expectations were low when we went out that night to look for kiwis. When didn’t find any, I wasn’t that disappointed. The ranger had also told us that the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) were also visible on some clear nights. I was more excited about seeing that than kiwis. But despite having a clear sky that night, I didn’t see any lights. Perhaps they were not visible to the naked eye, but there were some red lights in the distance in the long-exposure picture that I took of the sky.