After deciding not to do it, having been challenged on the Milford Track to a degree that seemed to stretch me beyond my limits, I was convinced by Backpacker Stay Host, Alistair (supported by Rosie), that the Kepler Track would be manageable for me. He assured me that the weather predictions were good (the word used here for clear, sunny weather is “fine”).
To think that I could have missed the powerful Spiritual and emotional experience of beauty far beyond description had I canceled that Trek. When the bus brought me back from the Milford Trek, I forgot that the car was at the DOC site and had the driver drop me at Rosie’s Backpack Stay. Had I remembered where my car was parked, I would have gotten off the bus and canceled the Kepler walk immediately. One might suspect there was a Someone who knew better what should happen next.
I was so affirmed when I returned to Rosie’s that Martha (pronounced Marta) and Franzi had asked Alistair if I could be switched to the bunk room in which they were staying. When in the initial stages of getting used to being completely alone, concern and friendship and personal connection become very comforting and securing. They are 26 and 28, but accepted this old fellow for a few days of their journey. Martha has one year left to complete her training as a physician (reconstructive jaw and facial surgery if I understood correctly [one of you two can correct me if I have that wrong]) and Franzi is in computer science, I think developing software [again, correct me if I am wrong about that]. Between us, the physical issues, technological issues, and Spiritual issues were covered.
The setting at Rosie’s is such a welcoming one, that it felt as if it was a home for all of us. I was able to debrief the Milford experience, decompress, and process what I had experienced. I came to feel good about what I might experience on the Kepler Trek. To do that Trek was precisely the right choice.
The weather was beyond perfect every one of the four days. The climb was exhausting the first day, but the path was smooth and not at all rocky (just as Alistair had promised). The climb was about 3000 feet, 97 switchbacks. It was warm enough to need to strip down to a T-shirt for much of that climb. When we got above the tree line it became cooler, but never enough to need the top layer (shell).
Bob and Ruth (about my age, but seasoned Trekkers) had come over on the water taxi with me. Bob moved at a pace I could manage. Ruth went on ahead. We had a very nice conversation as we walked, except when the switchbacks were steep enough that we couldn’t easily talk. He is a fly fisherman, with good stories.
The first hut (Luxmore) was a welcomed site. There about 25 of us sat and got acquainted. What interesting people! John (Irish roots) also sings tenor; he and Christina (both now from Australia) came to be friends as we talked about a variety of things. Christina has on her camera a couple of pictures of my dip in the cold lake on the last evening. There were a couple of young ladies from Holland where met in Medical School and had just come from an Internship in Pittsburgh, PA. Goeff was there from the Milford walk, this time with friend Collin. One young couple (I think German or Swiss) had the best meals, thick steaks, potatoes and onions complemented with fresh broccoli for one of the meals. There was Noriko from Japan, who had also been on the Milford Walk. She also was doing the walks by herself.
Then there were Mark and Agatha. Mark is English, Agatha from Hungary. They both live just outside London now (or in London). We struck up a wonderful relationship first through music. They play instruments; Mark loves early music; we talked about early musical instruments, some of the cultural life in London (Neville Mariner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Field). Agatha described an Art Museum that I need to experience.
As the conversation continued, I mentioned the interest in visiting Cornwall England, mentioning my surname, Tremain. Mark not only knew the name but described the Tremain Coat of Arms, and the play on words that produced it. Here I was, thousands of miles from home, in New Zealand, talking to someone thousands of miles from his home in London, hearing information that I didn’t know about my own family’s Coat of Arms. What a strange world it is in which we live. The planet is so small. We are not as different from one another as our tribal prejudices would lead us to believe.
The second day’s climb was more than I expected, but any physical demands were well worth the reward of 360 degrees of constant beauty far beyond any one human’s capacity to experience beauty. The mountains were layered in every direction as far as the eye could see. Most of the day was spent above the clouds, looking down on the dividing the mountains horizontally, bottom and top, clouds sometimes nestled in valleys. There were a lakes beneath us, lakes of crystal clear mountain water.
We walked paths that were barely wide enough for one set of two feet kept close together, up on one side and very far down the other, completely open, sometimes loose stone. I remembered falling a couple of times on the Milford Track because the backpack was not easy to keep in balance (for me). I also have some issues with heights. When moving on those narrow sections, I kept my eyes on the path, did not look much at the scenery and prayed that no one came along at a faster pace intending to pass me. On those stretches it would not have been possible to pass. While I recognized how precarious my situation was, I was still not in terror, just very respectful of the need to place my feet carefully and watch for loose stones. It seemed as if the Milford experience left me more confident and far better able to enjoy the view and feel the power of the magnificence.
I am going to take a break and continue this in another post. I discovered that the Nationals of the New Zealand Rodeo Circuit are being held here today. I decided to stay an extra night so that I could check it out. I will head over to see what I can see.