- FASHION / BEAUTY
- BEHIND THE SCENES
- GREEN ISSUES
- LIVING WELL
- CALENDAR / DIARY
- NEWS FROM KATE
- PAST ISSUES
- WIN / COMPETITIONS
- AD DIRECTORY
- ABOUT US
- CONTACT US
In Fiordland’s forest the trees, the animals and the birds are all connected in a cycle of survival or destruction, linked by the Kepler Great Walk
Words & photographs: Yolanta Woldendorp
HOW IS IT HUMANLY POSSIBLE to complete the 60-kilometre track that ascends and descends the mountains on the Kepler Great Walk in just four hours and 37 minutes? I ponder this as I carefully place my walking poles on the rocky terrain. Sure, I’m carrying a back pack of food and gear, but I’m doing it in three days so the athletes who travel from all over the world to compete in the Kepler Challenge must be superhuman.
In 2005 Steve Norris, a Challenge committee member, was on a trip organized by DOC to celebrate Conservation Week when he realized Te Anau’s biodiversity was being virtually ignored and decided to use the Challenge to fund a trap line around the Kepler Track. Thanks to DOC, the Fiordland Conservation Trust and Air New Zealand, the pests that ravaged that delicate ecosystem are now in decline. The Kepler Track has helped to create a “mainland island” within the natural boundaries of Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri and the Iris Burn and Waiau Rivers.
In 2010 stage one of the Kids Restore the Kepler project was launched with students from local schools involved in building and overseeing traps in 3000 of the 12,500 hectares, as well as learning about and recording the flora and fauna. I’m fortunate to have Nick Humphries (16) and Thomas Lundam (15) from Fiordland College join me at the Kepler car park for the start of my walk. They’ve been part of this scheme from the beginning and take great delight in discovering stoats or rats in the traps they and fellow students have set. The biggest buzz of all, they say, is the reward for their efforts – an increase in bird-life.
They take me off-track to check a trap. With a special tool Thomas opens the cover (no bolts or nails for curious kea to investigate) to reveal nothing but a chook’s egg sitting as bait behind a set of powerful metal jaws. Further into the mossy forest they show me an ancient red beech tree. “We worked out its age by hugging it. One person’s arms wrapped around a beech tree equals roughly 100 years. It took six of us to wrap around this one,” boasts Nick.
The Kepler is one of DOC’s nine Great Walks, named after the 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler and purpose-built in 1988 as part of the Fiordland National Park centennial celebrations to ease the strain on the popular Milford and Routeburn Tracks.
For the full story please see Issue 49 of NZ Life & Leisure