While I have been on many hikes here, I was yet to tackle any of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks. Cannot imagine I will get through them all on this trip but hopefully will manage a few! The great walks are billed as “premier tracks that pass through some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. From native forests, lakes and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges and vast valleys.”
First up on my list was the Kepler Track, a 60km loop track in Fiordland. It promised much variety “beginning in beech forest along the shore of Lake Te Anau before climbing above the tree line to Mt Luxmore, offering panoramic views of lakes, mountains and valleys” Did it deliver? Yes, in spades, there was even a little snow thrown in too and I made new friends!
The first day was pretty easy, as advertised began along the shores of Lake Te Anau walking through forest for an hour or so before starting to climb to my home for the night at Luxmore Hut, 1085m. The forest gives way about 45 minutes out from the hut offering views across the Lake and the Murchison mountains. The hut was busy, about 30 other people there and the good thing about not arriving first is that the fire was lit making it warm and toasty inside. Dinner, good chat and a great sleep to wake up to this sunrise from the balcony. Not a bad way to start the day which was in fact my birthday!
Day two was the definite highlight of the 3 days for me. After days of dreary rain and wind, it passed over to offer up blue skies and only faint breeze for the ridge crossing. Perfect conditions and there was even some snow in the higher areas from earlier in the week. The track winds and climbs following a ridge system for about two hours. It then follows a long, open ridge toward the Iris Burn before descending back into forest and my home for the second night Iris Burn Hut. Couldn’t have asked for a better place to be on my birthday. In case you are wondering, I had no cake in the backpack but the entire hut sang happy birthday to me. I was suitably embarrassed and fortunately there was not enough light to see my rosy cheeks.
The third and final day was mainly on the flat, which suited my legs. A frosty, foggy start made for cooler temperatures in the forest before emerging into the valley and along the boggy wetlands. It was a day for wrapping up warm but the rain stayed away so was happy about that! Think I agree with the brochure – a definite great walk and a birthday to remember for me!