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New Zealand – Kepler Track & Queenstown

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Te Anau, the village by the lake of the same name in Fjordland National Park is the starting point for the Kepler Track – one of the Great Walks on the South Island. The Fjordland National Park in south-west New Zealand is not only the largest in the country but also the rainiest area on earth. On average 200 days a year you can expect rain here. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, it is one of the most beautiful landscapes that Kiwi Land has to offer.

The Kepler track runs for about 30 km along a ridge and is actually a 2-day round trip. As the more beautiful part of this trail is just in the first part of the hike, we decide to climb to the highest point, Mt Luxmore, in one day and turn back the same day. This is about the same distance as walking the circular route.

During the first hour you walk along the lake shore through the typical New Zealand rainforest with dense fern growth. But the higher you climb the mountain towards Mt Luxmore, the more interesting and spectacular the forest becomes.

As if you were immersed in a fairytale landscape, a dense jungle covered with mosses and lichens opens up to form a unique natural spectacle. I had seen something similar only once before in my life – namely on Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America. There, too, the climate is similar and thus creates similar vegetation.

After a short rest in the Luxmore hat we made it to just below the summit of Mt. Luxmore, but rain and thick fog finally forced us to turn back.

After a short rest in the Luxmore hat we reached the summit of Mt. Luxmore, but rain and dense fog forced us to turn back, another very interesting Great Walk in this area would have been the Milford Sound Track. But unfortunately this track is fully booked up to one year in advance – since the number of sleeping places in the huts is very limited and there are no camping sites available, only about 20 people are allowed to enter Milford Sound every day.

North of Te Anau is Queenstown, the largest leisure and party town in New Zealand. During the months of January/February about 60 passenger planes land here daily and bring new leisure and adventure-seeking tourists. Bungee-jumping, sky-diving, downhill biking, rafting, canyoning, trekking and climbing and much more is offered here by numerous local agencies of the broad tourist mass.

The most famous New Zealand burger shop is also located here. Ferg burgers are obviously known far beyond the borders of Kiwi country – no wonder that we first had to queue for about 30 minutes to order a burger at all and then wait another 30 minutes to get one. The burger was not bad, but again I would not queue so long for that.

We have kept our stay in Queenstown as short as possible. On the one hand, the cost of living in New Zealand is much higher than in Europe – in Queenstown they add another 50%. On the other hand I can’t stand so many tourists in one place. And this place is not that attractive that we would have accepted all this.

There is a nice day hike on the Ben Lomond, a mountain right above the lake. You can start directly from the place. There are indeed approximately 1400 height meters to be managed, but the view from the top over the adjacent mountains and the lake is really unique. For the ascend you absolutely need good, windproof clothing, because along the ridge there are gusts of wind whistling around your ears.

Here in Queenstown, just outside the city, the first commercial bungee jump also took place. During my whole time in New Zealand I was thinking about whether to jump or not. Actually, in the last few weeks my opinion had developed to the effect that I would not jump. Just on my birthday we went out to the bungee station and I was really intense thinking.

I walked up and down the bridge, looked down several times, had doubts of course but at some point I went into the office to ask when the next jumps would be possible. I was told that there would be no jumping that day because of the strong wind. I don’t know if I would have dared if it would have been possible – in any case I was quite happy that the decision was taken away from me.

In January Carsten was back in Queenstown and jumped off the bridge.

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