And then there are the days without significant highlights.

Well, other than wandering through vast tracts of pristine Southland beech forest on a highly manicured track. Oh, and an early morning visit to the lake, that’s Lake Manapouri just down there, a huge expense of water broken up with various ridges and islands, and an unbelievable view across in the direction of the hills around Dusky Sound, the mountains variously jagged, The Beehive just smoothly rounded, plenty of snow up there.

Birds around, skuas diving for breakfast as I drink a mug of coffee, not even many sandflies around, weather threatening for tomorrow, today at least the dry stuff will continue, the straight westerly wind, warmish, still ripping up high, but down surrounded by forest it’s calm, peaceful, just the noise of the lapping lake, gentle, serene.

I guess I’ve said I’m not so keen on these barns of huts, Moturau Hut is just the 40 bunks, don’t know, feels similarly soulless as the other two, I’m rattling around by myself, more incentive to make tracks today with the thought of a more varied diet for my evening meal, civilisation beckons.

I take the diversion down to the more standard sized Shallow Bay Hut, six bunks and an open fire, closer to the water in a red beech tree forest. Just a great setting although having two giant beech trees very recently horizontal adjacent to the hut gives some concern for those staying long periods. The small size is obviously more cosy, intimate, on reflection I could have stayed here, but the view is swung more to the north, not as grandiose as Moturau but dramatic enough.

Back on the track through this amazing pristine forest what’s not apparent to many is the loads of river gravel which have been deposited, there’s been enormous work done to ensure the track is in no way boggy, all the creeks bridged, there’s an occasional stretches of board walk through the more soggy areas, the rainfall here is verging on the extreme even if I haven’t actually encountered any on this trip. With the layer of beech tree leaves on the track you don’t actually notice the extensive track building.

So, nothing overly dramatic, the Kepler is a decent warm up for what’s to come in the next couple of weeks.

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