Te Anau is a small town on Te Anau Lake and the Fiordland National Park border. The lake and mountains surrounding Te Anau are beautiful. Te Anau town seems to exist because of people hiking three nearby great walks in Fiordland National Park: Milford Track, Kepler Track, and Routeburn Track. It is a good place place to prepare and spend the day before and after the hike.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Our plane landed in Queenstown on time and we picked up our rental car. The first thing we noticed as we started our drive out of Queenstown was the amazing landscape. Queenstown is on a beautiful deep blue lake and mountains surround it. The scenery was amazing and we instantly knew the south island was the place to be for our outdoor activities and trekking. We stopped a few times to take photographs before even reaching the end of Wakatipu Lake.
As we left the lake behind us, we drove into some rain and weren’t as impressed with the scenery until we neared Te Anau. The Te Anau Lake, visible from town was similar to Wakatipu Lake and was blue with dark mountains surrounding it.
For dinner we went to Toscana Italian Restaurant. We had pasta with meat sauce, which was filling and reminded us of home, although we both agree that it wasn’t any better than what we could have made ourselves.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Sunday was the last day to prepare for our trek along the Milford Track. We started out the day by doing the most important task: we went to the Fiordland National Park visitor’s center in Te Anau and picked up our tickets for the Milford Track hike. We checked in using our booking number, which we had gotten months earlier when we applied online. The ranger checking us in was very helpful. He first asked us about transportation home from the end of the track, which we needed and which was the next task on our agenda to sort out. He was able to help us by booking us on a bus back and by changing our boat time across the Milford Sound to a later time so that we could go more slowly. When we left the visitor’s center in town we had tickets for three huts, two boats, and one bus.
Next we went into Te Anau city center to find breakfast. In March it was cool all day despite the patchy sunlight. The town has one main street with several restaurants and bars, but nothing particularly impressive. The rest of the town are residential houses and cheap motels for backpackers.
After breakfast in town we went to the grocery store to buy the food for our trek. The huts along the trek have some limited cooking facilities, but food is not available for purchase. Anything you want to eat during the 4 day trek you must carry with you. We filled our cart with 4 days worth of freeze-dried meals, granola bars, fruit, and trail mix.
It was still mid-day and we had time to relax and enjoy being in New Zealand. We got in our car and drove south from Te Anau. A short distance outside of Te Anau we saw a sign for the Kepler Track, one of the other nine Great Walks. We decided to go get a look at Kepler Track and we pulled over. The Kelper trail starts along Lake Te Anau. We walked a short distance down the trail and found a pathway to the rocky, lakeside beach. It was beautiful and serene. Most amazingly was that we were the only people on this gorgeous beach which was only 5 minutes from the parking lot. We took some time to enjoy where we were and to take some photographs.
Back in the car we continued south until the town of Manapouri. Manapouri is located along the Manaporui Lake and was very similar to Te Anau but smaller. A public beach, Fraiser Beach, lined most of the town. Once again a 5 minute walk from the car had us standing almost alone on a beautiful lake created by majestic mountains. I personally enjoy lakes more than the ocean and find something calming and soothing in them.
We started north again, but stopped outside of Manapouri at a portion of the Kelper Track which is accessible from the road. This area was called Rainbow Reach. From the parking lot, a suspension bridge over the Waiau River leads to the Kelper. The Waiau River was clear and fast moving. We could easily see the rocks on the bottom of the river from the bridge. Additionally, it was a chilly day, but that didn’t stop several kids from jumping off of the 30 foot high bridge into the river while we were there. We crossed the bridge ourselves and walked a short distance down the Kelper Track. The portion of the Kelper Track that we walked was through a mossy green forest along a well worn trail. While the trail itself was lovely, the tall forest it cuts through prevented views of the mountains across the river. When we left Rainbow Reach, we did something unusual for us and we picked up two hitchhiking backpackers and drove them to their car down the road. I hoped it would bring us good karma for when we start our hike the following day.
We still had some time to kill in the day, so we parked in Te Anau city center and browsed some souvenir shops. At 5:30pm we could finally complete the last task of our day and drive to Bev’s Gear Rental to pick up the rest of the equipment we would need for the Milford Track. Bev’s is a small rental shop run out of a house in Te Anau, but probably the most advertised gear rental we’d seen time and time again. We had emailed Bev in advance and discussed what equipment we needed to rent; mainly sleeping bags, cooking equipment, and large packs which went part of our normal luggage for traveling the world. While we were there, we made a few last minute decisions and also rented a fleece jacket and trekking poles.
Now hungry for dinner, we drove back to Te Anau city center again. We were headed to the Fat Duck Cafe when a sign for Sunday roast outside of The Ranch caught our attention. Sunday Roast at The Ranch was one of the best value meals we found in all of New Zealand. It was $15 NZD for roast beef with gravy and a large serving of vegetables. A hearty meal to send us off on our hike.
We spent the remainder of the night sorting our luggage for the hike, organizing our packs, and finishing last minute errands at the hostel.
- Miles Better Pies – Miles Better Pies was recommended to us by a fellow hiker on the Milford hike. After our hike, when we passed back through Te Anau, we made a point to stop here. Miles Better Pies was true to its name and were the best pies we ate while in New Zealand.