From Iris Burn the Kepler Track heads directly down the valley towards Rainbow Reach. It is a relatively easy day, gently descending through thick, moss covered forest. (Read about the previous day here)
Waking up to light but constant rain, I quickly ate breakfast in the tent (also a good way to avoid the sandflies) before packing up. The view from the tent window made it clear waterproofs would be needed all day.
Location: South Island, New Zealand
Distance: 60 km
Days: 3-4 days
Camping: Wild camping, huts
Guidebook: Great Walks of New Zealand
After an initial 60 metre climb out of Iris Burn, the trail descends for most of the day. I always find walking in the forest in the rain peaceful and relaxing, and this was no exception. The water really brought the forest to life, saturating its colours, while the overnight downpour had turned the cliffs flanking the valley into waterfalls hundreds of feet high. I walked quietly alone through dense forest, then through open ground that marked the site of a huge landslide that occurred in the 1980s. Even after all these years the forest hasn’t started to fully grow back, and the debris from the slide was still evident in the shape of the ground.
The trail weaved in and out of the forest, always staying close to the bottom of the valley. Occasionally there were streams and rivers to cross – some bridged, others small enough to cross with stepping stones.
One of the things that stops this day becoming a slog is the variety of scenery. Just as you have had your fill of forest, the path joins the river and a short distance later it hits Shallbow Bay at the eastern end of Lake Manpouri. This marks 16 kilometres from Iris Burn.
This is usually the final day of the Kepler Track, but it is possible to stop here at Moturau hut, right on the lake’s edge. There is no camping though, so advance bookings are needed. Otherwise, Moturau hut makes a great lunch stop before tackling the final 6 kilometres that takes you to the bridge marking the end of the walk.
The scenery is different once again, with a nice detour to a boarded wetland viewing point. Shortly after the path starts to run alongside and above the Waiau river. Suddenly the air is filled with the sound of boat engines, walkers appear going in the other direction, and you are back to civilization. One quick bridge crossing brings you to a rest area and car park, where regular shuttle buses pick up trampers who have pre-booked them.