Day 3 of our Kepler Track adventure dawned on a group who’s calves had seized, backs were aching, and shoulders were refusing to take a backpack.
To make it worse, we knew we had to hike even further today – although by all reports the trail was easier, there was a mountain called “Heartbreak Hill” somewhere on it, which didn’t bode well for our dysfunctional ankles and shoulders…
It all started in the morning, when Kepler 10 (Justine’s radio code) turned up late and out of sorts. She was stubborn regarding the radio etiquette, and we were equally as obstinate in our refusal to learn.
While we were waiting for Grumpy-Kepler-10-Bum Cindi and Kass came down swinging a pair of knickers from their stocks – they’d recognised Karla’s underwear… what does that say about the amount of time we’ve spent together?? I didn’t ask how they recognised it, as i am not sure i want to know!
Today we walked in a literal fairyland. Lusher landscape than we had ever seen before, shady, cool, covered in bright red toadstools with little white dots, and peppered with little blue ducks. It was magic.
We made excellent time, despite the contents of Kass’s backpack being distributed among the group. She was not well yesterday so we took turns in fussing over her that little bit extra to make sure she made it to the end – including cooking her lunch. About half the day she was telling us about the heart shaped rock she found, and then we realised she was bloody carrying the thing in her pockets! Kass, carrying rocks while the rest of us took her gear! It was quite incredible what a light pack and decent lunch can do for a girl, Kass was high on carbs and tap-dancing the second half of the hike.
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Unfortunately, our Jack Rabbit jumped right off from the group today. Her enthusiasm and immersion in the hike meant she lost track of us. Karla made a solid effort to try and catch her, but when lunchtime came she found a spot for us to settle down and we hoped that Carol was already at the hut reserving us our bunks.
The last dregs of our group happened to notice a path off to the right to the lake, just as it came in to view. Kass decided to pop her head down it and there Carol was, enjoying the lakeside, for over an hour while she waited for us! It was lucky Kass stopped because if they went past we would have missed her all together.
Towards the end of the day Rocket Rod radio’d the group to stand-by, sounding tired. We acknowledged him, and were met with radio silence. There were attempts at contact which sounded like something had or was happening, so Karla took off to make sure he was all right. Justine was put in charge of keeping the rest of the group together, while Clare also left them and started walking with urgency down the trail.
The radio had just chosen that moment to stop working.
The relief was magnified by the beauty of our new hut. Right on lake Manapouri, the second deepest lake in NZ at over 400m, it was so magnificent even Rocket Rod was convinced to appreciate it properly by immersing his whole body in it!
From Amazing Jen’s Mary Poppins bag came a full size tube of Harissa Paste that Ali and Justine were using to flavour their dehydrated meals. The deal was that they share their chocolate pudding with Jen, but when the time came, they did not, despite it looking like a runny dog turd. Jen bailed Justine up later in the evening, and Justine had to part with a precious snack sized snickers bar to make up for it!!
On another note, how does Ali’s hair continue to look so silky and pretty after 3 days in the bush?? She won’t tell us.
It’s also finally getting warmer. For the past two nights we’ve only needed one layer of sleeping clothes to be warm instead of everything we own. We have also been very lucky with the weather, it’s supposed to rain every third day in Fiordland, yet we have not yet seen a drop!