While Te Anau is beautiful and is well set up for visitors with a range of hotels, motels, and B&B’s, we chose somewhere a little quieter but still close to the Kepler Challenge action. We found an AirBnB property in the town of Manapouri, by Lake Manapouri.
This was our first AirBNB experience ever, and so we’ll talk a little about why we went that direction and our stay!
One note before we continue: If you do decide to visit this area of New Zealand and decide to stay beyond Te Anau, a car is essential for getting around. Because of the race, we were able to get a great deal on a one-way rental from Queenstown airport to Picton Ferry Terminal.
Popping our AirBnB cherry
After searches for hotels didn’t yield what we were looking for, we decided to take a leap of faith and try an AirBnB for the first time. We found a cute little cottage by Lake Manapouri. It was self contained and even included a washing machine – which came in very useful.
Lake Manapouri is serene with beaches made up of small rocks and framed by majestic mountains. The water glistens and the mountains provided an amazing background. It is photogenic and largely ignored by tourists in favor of the nearby Lake Te Anau which is the gateway to Milford Sound.
Manapouri is a small town of about 200 people just to the south of Te Anau. We wanted somewhere quiet and this smaller location was exactly right for us.
On the morning of our first full day in New Zealand, Anna needed to finish some work, so Dwight went and enjoyed a cooked breakfast in nearby Te Anau on his way to packet pickup. Regretfully, he made the mistake of leaving his breakfast unattended for a mere 10 seconds. This was enough time for the seagulls to make short work of one of his triangle-shaped hashbrowns. All was not lost, as Dwight picked up extra food to take back to Anna – thankfully unmolested by seagulls and much appreciated to fuel an afternoon of writing. Lesson learned about blasted seagulls.
After that, Dwight went and explored Te Anau and Frasers Beach on the edge of Lake Manapouri.
He checked in for the Kepler Challenge race and had his gear examined. The required gear for this race is extensive because conditions on the Kepler Track can quickly change and become dangerous. Dwight had some lighter thermal gear but he wasn’t sure if race officials would accept it. However, they were more interested in making sure the required jacket and pants were actually seam sealed, so Dwight said “Right-o” and happily was able to go with the lightest configuration that met the race requirements.
He was also directed to pick up a transponder to be worn on his ankle using a neoprene strap. As you’ll read in the race report, the effectiveness of the results delivered by the transponder was a bit hit or miss.
Visiting an NZ supermarket for the important things in life
The New Zealand supermarket seemed at first just like an American supermarket with all the same produce, which was surprising. But then the seafood section was a revelation – live mussels – and similar products as Australian supermarkets including Tim Tams, peanut butter slugs, and a wide selection of tea and coffee. Dwight picked up some breakfast supplies.
Wanting to take a bottle back to Anna, Dwight ventured into the wine aisle. In an area the size of what an American supermarket would use for their entire selection of white wine, they had a wide range of Sauvignon Blanc varietals. Most Americans are familiar only with Malborough Bay Sauvignon Blanc, but the selection also included wines from the Otago Region, Waiau River, Fjordlands, and Doubtful Sound.
On his way back, Dwight stopped off at the control gates marking the start line and the trail head to the Kepler Track. It was a good opportunity to recon the starting area, appraise the bathroom locations and parking lot, as well as getting pumped for the race. During the walk, he ran into a local prepping the starting area and remarkably his name was also Dwight! They had a good chat about the course understanding that local Dwight is the fastest Te Anau bloke who’s finished Kepler, and he approaches it as his only race every year. Considering the spectacular beauty and historic vibe of the event, this makes sense.
Pizza and the Mandatory Pre-Race Brief
To be back in this part of the world where a wide variety of cuisines are easily accessible in a small community, food is one of our favourite things. As our other fast friends have had relative success with pizza the night before they race, and because we still haven’t figured out a consistent routine, we opted for authentic wood fire pizza which was on point.
For a 60km ultra, going to a “mandatory” race brief seemed perhaps excessive and we did have some doubts. In many other races, the pre-brief is often optional, and our experience from Leadville back in August was a bit negative as the whole brief seemed more like a pep rally. Kepler’s brief was actually informative, with some good insight on race updates, medical advice, and the weather. And they offered spot prizes at the end which seemed like an efficient way to ensure max attendance.
Before hitting the hay, we stopped off at the Rainbow Reach bridge to access the Kepler track. It was on the way back, and a really good chance to experience one of NZ’s amazing tracking bridges as well as getting some final recon of the course.
All in all, it was a really great day to explore our surroundings for the weekend, and a chance to get everything squared away before race day! Stay tuned…
Explore. Travel. Adventure. Hope. Dream. Capture. Imagine. Delight.
We are a recently married thirty-something couple who explore, adventure, and live Not a Pedestrian Life.
We are Anna & Dwight Rabe. We are Team Rabe.