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

“On a Mish” #392 Forest Bathing (Part Two). Lake Te Anau / Kepler Track. Fiordland National Park. 2.22.2024. The call of the wild is louder for some over others. Those who must go bathe in a forest’s relaxing vibes return refreshed and rejuvenated. Shinrin yoku is the Japanese art of forest bathing, and to simply walk amongst nature’s offerings will wash away stress and unneeded tension. I was ‘filthy’ with the stress that comes with moving and also worrying about what I will be doing to pay my bills. I needed a bath and luckily Te Anau sits on the edge of one of the most pristine baths in the world…

After my injury in 2020 I went months without going out and for a while I had doubts about ever going on a mish again. Something inside me said “get outdoors now or bad things will happen”, I’m not sure what would have unfolded if I had just stayed inside but I didn’t stick around to find out. I learnt that just being in nature was enough to remind me that things could be a million times worse and that, if you live in Aotearoa, you should consider yourself pretty lucky.

With no work looming on the horizon and a body that works a thousand times better than back in 2020 I was at another turning point and, with stress building, a voice quietly yelled “get out into the wilderness”. It was a good slap in the face and in less than five minutes I was standing with my boots on looking at the Kepler Track hiking times. In Fiordland travel terms, 30 minutes isn’t very long at all. But to me it was a time I was hoping I could beat to give myself a reminder of how far I had come since my days of couch minding.

I purposely didn’t look at my watch as I wanted to get to Dock Bay and either be stoked or gutted. As I shuffled my way along the track I was passed by the odd jogger and for the first time in a long time it didn’t really bother me. When I first started to hike again, I would be angry and very jealous of able-bodied people. Nowadays I can move around with much less pain and thanks to my injury journey I have learnt to appreciate the little things in life.

It had been many years since I was on the Kepler Track, so I didn’t really know what to look for when getting to Dock Bay. I could see that I had swung around from the southern end of Lake Te Anau and was now almost west of the town. I nearly missed the sign as there was a group congregated around it. It was time to take a nervous look at my watch and to my surprise I had seventy seconds to spare! The last time I had gone under a track time was January 2020. Going forest bathing was a good idea!

I needed a rest at Dock Bay before I could turn back and head for the car park at the southern end of the lake. Once I got going, I could feel the strain on my hip and back, but it was easing a little by the healing qualities found when in a wild environment. I was a big reminder as to how lucky I am to be back at my home in Te Anau, and how incredible Te Anau is. It’s a place where (nearly) everyone you meet or see is happy, and some of these people have traveled from very far away to be here.

I got back to my car and then headed back home feeling very refreshed after my dip in Fiordland National Park. I slept very well that night and most of it was thanks to the forest, and a little was thanks to how happy I was to beat a track time even it was only a matter of just over a minute. I now know that when ever the stresses of the world are messing me up, a wilderness cleanse is only a short drive away…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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