The Routeburn and Kepler Tracks

2019 01 05 dofe new zealand report thumb 01In the movie, ‘Titanic’ there is a scene where Leonardo di Caprio stands at the bowsprit of the great ship and shouts, “I’m the King of the World!” There were occasions where the participants on the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award hikes could have easily exclaimed the same thing. The stunning beauty, the immenseness of the mountains and the fantastic company combined to make this a never-to-be-forgotten experience. We were often moved to simply state, “How great is our God!”

Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is 32 kilometres long. It starts at Glenorchy, north of Queenstown, crosses the mountains and ends at the Divide, about 36 kilometres from Milford Sound.

Day 1 was spent walking through the ferny beech rainforest alongside the rushing jade green colour of the Routeburn, before a steep uphill climb, which afforded us glorious views over the magnificent Routeburn Flats.

On Day 2, the track ascended past beautiful Routeburn Falls and Lake Harris, above the tree line to the spectacular crossing of Harris Saddle with views to the snow covered Darran Mountains. The hills were carpeted with Alpine Daisies and Mt Cook Lilies – the world’s largest buttercups. From there the track followed ‘The Face’ – a narrow ridge crisscrossed by rushing mountain streams. Below us the Hollyford Valley stretched out 1 000m below us. We paused on a ridge top to admire the snowcapped peaks appear from their shroud of cloud, before a steep descent through fairy grotto forest took us to beautiful Lake Mackenzie.

Day 3 started with a steep uphill climb through Beech forest to ‘The Orchard’. Brilliant sunshine greeted us as we neared the 174 metre-high Earland Falls before a long downhill descent to Howden Hut, situated by the lake. We also walked to Key Summit with its magnificent 360 degree views of the mountains.

Day 4 was a short hour-long walk to the Divide through Beech forest from where we took a cruise along glorious Milford Sound. After the overnight showers in Fiordland, the waterfalls on Milford Sound were magnificent. We had seen the amazing creation of God on display

Kepler Track
The Kepler Track is a 63 kilometre long circular track, starting and ending at the Lake Te Anau Control Gates. Day 1 was spent walking six kilometres through forest to Brod Bay. From here, the track rose sharply over 600 vertical metres until the track emerged from the forest above the tree line. We were met by a stunning view over Lake Te Anau and away to the surrounding mountains. It was a sight that burns into your memory and a moment that took your breath away.

Day 2 could only be described as epic. We were above the tree line and faced 65km per hour winds, gusting up to 90km per hour. We had to cross narrow ridge tops, with sheer drops on either side. The views were incredible. Despite the challenging conditions, the teamwork we had developed throughout our preparations ensured that everyone remained positive and focused and even a steep descent could not stop us. We celebrated with a shower under the Iris Burn waterfall.

Day 3 commenced in pouring rain. It was a long steady descent through beautiful forest, along the Iris Burn to Motorau Hut on the shores of beautiful Lake Manapouri. The major problem we faced was the sandflies that attempted to eat us alive.
Our final day was a 16-kilometre walk again through forest back to the Control Gates. We passed a magnificent swing bridge at Rainbow Reach before a final ten kilometres past Lord of the Rings settings for the ‘Dead Marshes’ and the ‘River Anduin’. It was a beautiful and challenging hike with moments that took our breath away. We had witnessed the majesty of God and were glad.

In addition we managed to do a few other activities in New Zealand including spending a day sea kayaking along the amazing Doubtful Sound, ziplining down 300metre long steel cables with magnificent views over Queenstown, bike-riding 45 kilometres along Queenstown Trails, jet boat riding on the Shotover River and zooming down the Queenstown hills on the luge. We also celebrated Augusta’s 18th Birthday. On our final night, we had a farewell dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant at the top of the Queenstown Gondola with the lights of the city shimmering below us.

The group gelled into a fine team and provided great support for each other. They saw each other in their best, and worst moments, and their relationships were proved real and strong in the challenging situations they faced. It was a great trip.

In 2019, we are taking 16 students to complete their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Adventurous journeys in New Zealand. It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to build character into the lives of our students through the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.

For further information about the award, please speak to Colin Lees or Bronwyn O’Neil.


Participants
Students - Augusta Bothma, Tahlia Fulton, Lukas Kiehl, Ewan Maccoll, Blake Ryan, Aidan Sumskas, Nathan Toth, Nicholas White, Caden Wickham-Hill
Staff – Marie-Louise Fitzgerald, Colin Lees, Bronwyn O’Neil, Karen Smith


 

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