Kepler track

Part of the reason for going back to NZ was to walk the Kepler track with my brother and cousin. The Kepler is about 60km long, making a loop in the mountains rising from the shores of Lake Te Anau. Easter is a pretty busy time, so we did the walk backwards (like Spike Milligan…). This post is about our trip, and hopefully gives some useful info for others intending on doing the walk.

We planned for the walk at a bar, writing out a shopping list of stuff which we then went and purchased. Doing so at a supermarket we probably ended up with too much ‘normal’ food, and too little light camping style freeze-dried stuff. This turned out to be a bit of a pain for me, more due to lack of fitness and practise than because of extreme weight. We paid for huts on the DOC website weeks beforehand.

We stayed overnight in Te Anau at the main holiday park, and caught the bus to Rainbow Reach the next morning. We got some info on the bus when we picked up our hut tickets (needs to be done prior to the walk). The bus left from outside the DOC center across the road from where we stayed. The first day promised to be pretty easy, a leisurely 1.5hr walk to Lake Manapouri. We left early so had the whole afternoon to relax on the beach (relaxing involves DEET to repel the multitude of sandflies of course).

We found the huts to be well set up, with cookers, mattresses, and even a few pot scrubs to do the dishes. They also have running water and flush toilets! The mattresses are a bit noisy due to covers, but at least the bunk areas are warm due to lots of people. After some cheese and crackers with a few games of cards, we had dinner on the beach. We lit a fire and watched the sun set behind the hills.

sunset over Manapouri

Day two had some real walking, 5 or so hours up the valley to Iris Burn hut. Most of the day was in Beech forest, with the spare space taken up by ferns. The first half was much faster than we expected, probably since we found we went quicker earlier in the day.

ferns in the forest

We stopped for lunch by the river, finishing off the previous days lunch. At this point it was starting to dawn on us that we hay way more food than was necessary. Sometime around this time my pack was starting to feel pretty heavy too, partly due to the 80l capacity which I always seemed to fill most of.

lunch by the river

There is a stretch of the day out in the open, near the imaginatively named ‘Big Slip’. This part gave us the first real look at the surrounding hills. There is a little hill at the end of the day, and then a little drop down to Iris Burn hut. The area around the hut is very nice, with hills on all sides and a short walk to the (very cold) river where some people had a (very short) swim. Again the hut was well appointed. We met up with some friends, who told us of the joys ahead the next day, which involved a 500m climb via 97 zig-zags.

We managed the climb out of the trees reasonably easily the net morning, things being much easier first thing in the day. We were rewarded with some wonderful views when we reached the tree line near the end of the first climb. The rest of the day goes along the tops toward Luxmore hut, with two emergency shelters along the way. We stopped at the first for lunch, and the second for afternoon tea. I found the going pretty hard on my feet, with lots of rock underfoot instead of the more leafy/dirty stuff of the first two days. The best views came from the top of Mt Luxmore near the end of the day as we approached Luxmore hut.

view from Mt Luxmore

This being our last night, we continued to eat as much food as possible to make our final day as easy as possible. In the end we still finished the track with tonnes of scroggin and a loaf of bread.

The last day was a big drop down to the lake, and a walk around some of it. Before leaving we had a look at the caves near the hut. To get to them requires a few steps along the trail back to Te Anau, and a walk off to the right to where the caves start. The caves are quite spacious, aside from a little squeeze down to about 1m near the start. We didn’t have tonnes of time, so I turned back after a while. It seemed like the caves went on forever!

Luxmore caves

The walk down was pretty hard on my legs, being pretty much a constant downhill for about 1000m. Upon reaching the lake we had a quick bite (so did the ever present sandflies) and pushed on to the end. Ewan went ahead to collect the car…

We arrived at the control gates near the end eventually, and waited for our ride to appear. I had an Easter egg and enjoyed the view over the lake.

Lake Te Anau near the control gates

The rest of the photos are here.