Forest Bathing (Part One) – Lake Te Anau / Kepler Track

“On a Mish” #392 Forest Bathing (Part One). Lake Te Anau / Kepler Track. Fiordland National Park. 2.22.2024. Moving back to Te Anau has given me a chance to take in how amazing this little town is and to appreciate the place I call home. Sitting on Fiordland National Parks back doorstep, the place screams adventure and recently I have learnt that you don’t have to go far to bath yourself in the goodness that is the wilderness…

Forest bathing is a concept that has come out of Japan and is a process of relaxation. Known as shinrin yoku, being calm and quite in nature will encourage relaxation for both old and young. Simply immersing yourself amongst nature can do wonders for your health, both physical and mental. I can definitely say that heading out into the backcountry while dealing with my injury has done wonders for my mental state. I nearly positive that I would have lost the plot if I didn’t keep going on missions, even if I didn’t travel very far on my own two feet.

After getting back to Te Anau (for good!) I went a couple of days without going into the bush. I had been dealing with all the fun of moving houses (or in my case back to my house), and it was starting to get to me. I was waiting for a call so I couldn’t go on any overnight missions, and after losing my dog I didn’t have the same motivation to get out on a walk like I used to.

I managed to slap some reality into my face when I heard some talking about how amazing Te Anau is, and that the scenery is world class. Another awesome benefit to living in this part of Aotearoa is that I can drive less than five minutes and be at the start of one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. The Kepler Track is a mountainous trail that starts at the southern end of the lake and is a mish that people come from all over the world to hike. But for me it is just a quick drive away.

Sorting all of my stuff was starting to get to me one day and I decided that I was going to let nature destress me with a quiet wonder along the Kepler Track to Dock Bay. It is only a short distance but when you haven’t walked much or are recovering from an injury it is just enough to get the blood pumping and the senses tingling.

After the gruelling drive of about four minutes was over, I was standing at the control gates at the southern end of Lake Te Anau. The gates are an impressive feat of engineering and make for a very interesting start to the Kepler Track. I hiked over control gate to the first DoC Sign stating the times to each notable part of the track. It said it was 30 minutes to Dock Bay so I decided to see if I could beat a DoC hiking time for the first time since hurting my hip and back.

It had been a little while since I had really taken note of how my recovery was going. I used to blitz most track times with ease (especially on a ‘Great Walk’), so this would be an interesting way to see were all my physio and rehab work had got me to. I would have a time to aim for to see how much I had improved since I was last limping around Te Anau. 30 minutes to Dock Bay, I used to scale big mountains with ease in the past so I think I can beat that.

After setting off I quickly found my rhythm and I was very quickly in my happy place. When looking up at the towering beech trees stretching up into the sunlight, I felt the forests waters wash over me. The deep cleanse that nature provides was peeling off the stress like it was clothing on a hot day. You know you are doing something right when you are smiling uncontrollably. The challenge was on and whether I beat the time or not I was starting to feel really good thanks to jumping into the refreshing waters of the Fiordland Forest

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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