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Te Anua

Te Anua

After returning from our Doubtful Sound Cruise, we only had one afternoon to spend in Te Anua before heading to our next destination, Dunedin. The most famous Milford Track was too far, so we settled for a day hike on the Kepler Track. It starts out on the other side of the lake from Te Anua, at the river that connect this lake to Montepouri’s (so said the kayaker headed that way that we met at the parking lot.

For the first 90 minutes, the distance we covered each way, the broad and well tread path parallels the lake shore as it passes through the fully shaded old-growth beech forest. The weather was perfect (for a change) for the hike, almost swimming weather (but the water was too cold) at the sandy/rocky beach we passed. There is a noticeable difference walking through such an old forest compared to Eloise Butler or even the Boundary Waters, both of which are relatively young regrowth/planted forests. The Kepler track is filled with a canopy even denser than we say in the Daintree tropical rainforest. The ground is almost completely shaded, allowing mostly ferns to spread easily to create a lush undergrowth. It would have been pristine except for the intermittent intrusion of the internal combustion engines of a ski boat on the lake and sightseeing planes and helicopters overhead. Just a little further down the Track, we would have moved up into the ridges above the lake to reach the first overnight hut along a 5 day hiking loop. Maybe next time.

Te Anua is a tidy little tourist town, the last stop on the road to Milford Sound. We stayed at a private home/B & B in town. Not up to the hotel standards we had become accustomed and our hosts entertained friends (excluding us) after we returned from a mediocre Chinese dinner. After the early start on the cruise boat and the afternoon hike, we were ready to go to sleep by the time the party broke up at 10. Our hosts had been sheep farmers and we heard the rest of the story of the collapse of the meat market our previous B&B host had been involved with in some way. Apparently one of the large purchasers of sheep and lambs accepted delivery of the results of a year’s work of a large number of farmers and then, after shutting the gates of the yard (and taking legal ownership of the livestock), declared bankruptcy. The British banks were secured creditors and the farmers were left with nothing for their labors. Clearly some hard feelings left, based upon the expressions on our hosts faces when we asked about this.

Before leaving town, we went to the 9 AM showing at the small, but luxurious, movie theater built to showcase a documentary of scenes from Fjordland, mostly taken by a local helicopter pilot. Amazing scenery. It made me think about all the people we had recently met who get to do fun stuff in beautiful settings every day (the helicopter pilot, our rafting guides, the people who take tourists parasailing, the crew of the Doubtful Sound cruise boat on so on). I was also again impressed by the “can do it? spirit or New Zealanders. The movie was made, but their was no venue to show it – so the helicopter pilot built the theater which plays his work over 10 times per day (with feature films in the evenings).