"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home."
Wendell Berry

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kepler Track

My three-day tramp on the Kepler Track in the southwest (Fiordland) ended on New Year's Eve. It reminded me a lot of Mount Washington, actually: the first and last days wound up and down through dense, mossy forest abundant with ferns, and the middle day was spent picking our way along the Forest Burn Saddle and a long, narrow alpine ridge with heart-stopping views at the top of the Kepler mountains, summitting Mt. Luxmore in the process.

It was supposed to rain and didn't, but during pretty much the entire trek across the exposed passage, we were hit with 100k winds. Sometimes we could barely stand and as the wind caught my pack, I was sure I was about to be catapulted off the mountain into the rocks below. I loved it; it often felt like I was the last person on earth--just me against the elements. Actually, I loved the eerie, haunted feeling of Fiordland altogether and wish I'd had more time there to do the Routeburn and other tracks as well.

Oren from Israel (on the left) was leaving my hostel for the Kepler at the same time, so we agreed to walk to the start at the control gates together (45 minutes out of town). We ended up sticking together for the whole three days and Oren tried to scare me with stories of his friends' legs getting crushed while hiking in South America. A former soldier, he also properly adjusted my pack so that it stopped hurting all the time. I was convinced my new backpack just sucked or didn't fit me right (it adjusts differently than my other pack), but, to absolutely no one's surprise, I was just stubbornly doing it wrong.

At the Luxmore hut, we met more Israelis, and Nadav, Gal, and company taught me a card game called "Yaniv" (spelling?) that I'm obsessed with, even though I always get too excited to play my cards and therefore lose. I now also have several willing guides while I'm in Tel Aviv. Yes!

I didn't chance on a kiwi sighting (sorry, Mom)--unsurprising since the birds for which New Zealanders are named are nocturnal, shy creatures--but we did spot some curious fantails along the track, and several people we met had seen Kea parrots (I wasn't so lucky).

Apart from the Kepler hike, the last week has been pretty quiet. I returned from the Kepler quite sick and stayed in Te Anau for several days to recoup. New Year's was a bust--there was a great live cover band playing in the park right outside the hostel (CCR! Joan Jett!) and fireworks at midnight, but I was feeling too rotten to leave my bed. As 2011 arrived in the Southern Hemisphere, I toasted with my dad on Facebook with a sip of beer and sudafed. I ended up cancelling my kayaking trip to Milford Sound and being a total hermit in my hostel in Queenstown, too. Man, this is sounding really depressing as I write it! But it honestly hasn't felt that way (at least not most of the time). Of course I'm bummed to miss these places since they're two of the best-loved in New Zealand, but I think after a month of moving constantly, recharging my batteries for a bit was definitely the best thing I could've done. I also did a ton of work, which is always a good feeling. I'm still sniffling a bit now that I'm in Christchurch, but I'm back on my feet and exploring happily. Only two more days in NZ. I'll be sad to say goodbye to my kiwi paradise (I swear I'll be back), but I'm certainly looking forward to Asia--and to living more cheaply!

Oh, also, since it appears that even though my backpack is officially carry-on size, no one's ever going to let me take it carry-on, using my Christmas money, I bought this (my first leatherman):

Thanks, Mom and Dad!


  1. dear jilly - you're my hero. keep moving and keep writing! thinking of you :)

  2. Aw, I'm just stumbling along like everyone else. Thanks for reading. Happy New Year, Fatimah!