I almost didn’t get out of bed that day. The week of balancing three jobs and over 70 hours of work had caught up to me, and I wanted nothing more than to sleep. But a peek from between the blinds left me blinking and sure of one thing: it was a fine day for a hike. And that was that. I pulled myself together and made ready to hike to the shores of Lake Manapouri…
The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.” – Georges Simenon
The free shuttle (perks of working at the holiday park) picked me up at 9:30 on the dot, and I spent the short ride gazing out the window at the tussock-dotted pasturelands rolling away towards the mountains. Clouds cluttered the sky, but it wasn’t raining… not yet. Bits of blue sky showed through the grey, and it looked like my luck would hold. I disembarked at Rainbow Reach, and set off over the suspension bridge to join up with the Kepler Trek.
The Italian couple, Nadil and Bruna, who rode out with me stood in front of the park map, holding up their own, and asked me, “Lake Manapouri?” while pointing back towards Te Anau. Dude, you can’t let them go off alone… my conscience admonished me. Seeing as they were my coworker’s parents, I figured I’d walk with them for a bit. We set off together through the lush, beech forest of Fiordland National Park, and I was soon playing the tour guide for a place I’m still getting to know myself.
There’s no better way to renew your appreciation for a place than to watch someone else experience it for the first time. My hiking companions seemed to savor every aspect of the hike: the spiked fronds of the lancewood, the spongy clusters of moss which they compared to the poofy pom-poms of fur on a poodle’s legs, the gnarled roots of the beech trees interwoven and twisted along the forest floor…
It became ever easier for my mind to relax, to look about in fascination at the endless amount of beauty possessed by this place I’m calling home.
We came upon a boardwalk, which snaked out of the forest at a fork in the trail. Following it led us out of the trees, and we walked over the morass of Amoeboid Mire. At the end was a pond upon which waterfowl drifted lethargically, the soft patter of rain starting up for the first time that day.
Finally, we emerged from the cover of the forest canopy, and stood blinking upon the shore of Lake Manapouri, at Shallow Bay. Fluffy clouds hovered above some mountains, and shrouded others. Above, the sky was a brilliant turquoise blue, and the water of the lake reflected its richness.
What we call Lake Manapouri today wasn’t the original Lake Manapouri. That was some distance east, but an exploring settler who happened upon the lake thought he was at the wrong place, and the misnomer stuck.
The story behind the name is a tragic one, as legends often are. The tale is a Māori legend about two sisters: Moturua and Koronae — daughters of a local chief. One day, Koronae went off by herself in the woods, but fell and was seriously injured. Unable to make it home, she had no choice but to lie and wait for rescue to come. Worried for her missing sister, Moturua set off in search and eventually found her. But it was too late for Koronae, so Moturua lay down beside her and comforted her until death took them both. The tears of the sisters created several lakes, leading the Māori to name one of them Manapouri, or sorrowful heart.
I needed this.
We left our Shallow Bay haven and elected to hike to Moturua Hut as well. It was a bit ambitious, considering the amount of time we had remaining until our shuttle arrived, but we were determined to do it.
At the hut was a sandy beach, nicer than the one at Shallow Bay. But you could hear the chatter of conversation, see people’s clothes hanging from tree branches, and sit in front of the fire pit. I found myself already missing the solace of Shallow Bay…
We spent the time at Moturua Hut in much the same way as we’d spent our time at Shallow Bay, staring across the lake at the beautiful view before us. It might be a lingering effect of a childhood spent growing up on the shores and surface of a lake, but being lakeside has a soothing effect on me that not many things can match.
Yes, this was exactly what I needed!
The walk back was hurried, as minutes slipped away and our 3 pm coach departure drew ever closer. But we made it, and spent the bus ride back in a slightly more weary state than we did the one coming in. Even so, we stared out the window at the tussock-dotted pasturelands rolling away towards the mountains. Clouds still cluttered the sky, and the rain was just beginning to fall…
How about you? What’s an experience you’ve had after a particularly trying week which has helped relax and invigorate you? Share details in the comments below!