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One of the highlights of walking one of New Zealands 9 Great Walks is the people that you meet on the way. And not just fellow walkers but the DOC staff who maintain the tracks, man (or woman) the huts and champion conservation.
A DOC ranger's perspective of the Kepler Track
I am one of the two DOC Rangers who look after the Iris Burn Hut, campsite and the surrounding track. In my previous life I was a farmer and thought I knew a fair amount about the flora and fauna of NZ’s native bush – how wrong I was. The three summer seasons I have spent in the Iris Burn Valley have been a voyage of discovery and nearly every week I have added to my knowledge of the area.
Gaining knowledge of Fiordland
During the first season I read I lot of books on the plant and bird life and history of Fiordland just so I could answer the many and varied questions put to me by each days group of trampers. What does a kiwi sound like? What is the little purple mushroom called that grows by the side of the track? What is that tiny green bird that looks like it has had its tail chopped off?
I can now sound knowledgeable when I answer most questions although I’m a little hazy on the geological aspects of the area and I still have to return to the books regularly or ask Prof Google on my days off. The bonus is that the more I learn, the more my respect and passion for Fiordland grows and the more I enjoy sharing with it with return travelers who have a heart for the area or first-time visitors who have been ‘blown away’ by their experiences on the Kepler.
There is a Hut and a Campsite at Iris Burn and each summer season, we host around 7500 trampers who come from all over the world - Germany provides the most walkers with Israel being a close second but my favorite people group to have on site are the Australians.
Australians love our tramping huts and facilities, the well maintained tracks, the picturesque mountain ranges and the native rainforest. They don’t mind if it is cool and wet as they are quite often escaping the extreme heat of their own summer and sometimes we can even provide a few cm of snow on the high points of the track which many have never seen before. Australians are friendly, grateful and respectful of the beautiful area they are visiting, they never complain and most importantly, they laugh at my jokes – what more could you ask for?