Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Kepler Track

I mentioned that the highlight of my New Zealand adventure consisted of 4 days, 75 km and 2000 vertical feet. This adventure was a 4 day trek through Fiordland National Park on one of Canada's Great Walks called The Kepler Track. Why it is called a "Great Walk," when it is anything but a walk, I'm not quite sure but the name certainly didn't prepare me for what I had ahead of me.

The Kepler Track was intense. It covered 75 km of ground across narrow mountain ridges, open plains, along side river banks and waterfalls and up steep and unstable rock faces. The hike itself would have been far less challenging had I not been carrying a 60 pound pack on my back but then again I wasn't looking for a walk in the park.

Because it is a safety risk when going out into the mountains for any length of time, I checked in and registered with the National Park Rangers to let them know when I was leaving, what my planned route was and when I expected to return. That way if I hadn't checked back in around my scheduled return date they could track my estimated whereabouts and send for help.

I took with me the essentials for what I believe is needed to make a successful and enjoyable camping trip or trekking excursion:

* Tent
* Sleeping Bag
* Water jug and purifying drops
* Jet Boil (best invention ever for cooking)
* First Aid Kit
* Walking Stick
* Chocolate and Hot chocolate
* Playing cards
* Warm socks
* Bug spray
* Head Lamp

On the first day was beautiful, the sun shone bright, the sky was clear and the bugs stayed away for the most part. I trekked for nine hours that day wanting to be sure to cover as much ground as I could and get a sufficient start to my four day trek without burning myself out. Nine hours of climbing up hill and over mountain ridges while carrying 60 pounds of equipment on your back is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Luckily my trusted walking stick held up and at times helped to keep me up as well.

Day two was a little more intense. My legs were tired and my shoulders were sore from the straps digging into me the day before but I had met fellow trekkers along the way and now had an entertaining team to continue on with. The weather took a turn on us and we found ourselves stuck in the middle of an enormous thunderstorm with rain and hail and winds that could have easily blown us over the edge. With the visibility being very limited we had to trek much slower than the day before stopping much more frequently to have a cup of hot chocolate or take cover in the areas we could. By night fall we were soaked, sore and in fantastic spirits. We found a wooden shelter that kept us out of the rain, pulled out our oversized chocolate bars from the Cadbury Factory and submerged ourselves in a game of euchre. Huddled around a small wooden table with our voices providing the music for the night, my trekking friends and I couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces.

Over the next two days I refreshed myself in the waterfalls along the way, attempted to learn how to send smoke signals, enjoyed the scenery and drank endless amounts of water. An unexpected rock slide along the trail caused us to have to detour up and over the side of the mountain instead of taking the flat track we were intended to use. The very unstable ground beneath us with the soft moss that covered it made for a sketchy half and hour until we made it back down the other side and to safe ground again. Part way down my foot slipped through the moss causing me to fall forward and almost tumble down the side of the mountain. Luckily, a massive tree was just in arms length and I was able to catch a hold of it just in time to break my fall, however not before wedging my shin between the roots of the tree that were below the moss. Swelling and a nasty bruise was all that came of that incident but with the assistance of a fellow trekker who happened to also be a paramedic, my leg was bandaged and ready to go in no time.

There is much to be said about the four days I spent in touch with the wilderness in Fiordland National Park, if I were to blog solely on this experience alone I am confident I could write for months. I took away from this experience the importance in being prepared for unpredicted weather conditions, the beauty of nature, the satisfaction of peace and silence and taking time for yourself and finally the power of friendships that can be created between people no matter the ages. I will never forget the days and nights I spent out in those mountains and although I may not be able to find the proper words to convey all of the memories I made during the trek, they are certainly memories I will keep with me always.

My advice to you is to make a point to become one with nature in some form at some time in your life. Even if you don't feel you are the outdoors type of person, I assure you, an adventure like this has something to offer everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment