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The Kepler Track: Just divine views

Published
January 10, 2021
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THIS POST ACCOMPANIES MY BOOK THE SENSATIONAL SOUTH ISLAND: NEW ZEALAND'S MOUNTAIN LAND, AND WILL BE UPDATED SHORTLY

Kepler Track begins on the shores ofLake Te Anau – the largest body of fresh water in the South Island of NewZealand – and winds its way through the spectacular Fiordland National Park.

                             

The Kepler Track, a loop between Lake Te Anau(top right) and Lake Manapouri. From Kepler Track (brochure),Wellington, Department of Conservation, September 2016

Looping for some sixty kilometres up alpine heights andalongside two beautiful lakes, the track starts and ends only five kilometresfrom the town of Te Anau, at the Kepler Track carpark.

According to the official Discover New Zealand website newzealand.com, what’sunique about the Kepler Track is that it was designed from scratch:

“Unlike many othermulti-day walks, which evolved from Māori greenstone trails or pioneerexploration routes, the Kepler Track was custom-made, built for pleasure,rather than necessity.

“Opened in 1988, thetrack was carefully planned to show walkers all the best features of Fiordland- moss-draped beech forest, prolific bird life, tussock high country, hugemountain ranges, cascading waterfalls, vast glacier-carved valleys, luxuriantriver flats and limestone formations. The track’s construction makes for easierwalking. Most streams are bridged, boardwalks cover boggy areas and the verysteep sections have steps. Walk the Kepler and you’ll see everything that’smarvelous about this exquisite corner of the world.” (Quote as of the time ofwriting)

The Kepler Track certain does make for magnificent views of themountains and of the two large lakes that it loops between!

The Kepler Track, withviews of the Murchison Mountains and Lake Te Anau

BLOG FROM THIS POINT ON

Although you can walk both ways, most trampers start offtramping to the Luxmore Hut high above Lake Te Anau. The Kepler normallyrequires bookings during the Great Walks season (October-April). Because thehuts were full, we had to start off our tramp heading in the oppositedirection, hiking towards Rainbow Reach carpark and onwards to our first stopat Moturau Hut on the shores of Lake Manapouri.

We left at two p.m. and tramped nine and a half kilometresto the carpark at Rainbow Reach, which took us around two and a half hours.From there we crossed the Waiau River on a swing bridge and carried on for sixkilometres up the track towards Moturau Hut, where the hut warden was waitingfor us. From the Kepler Track carpark, it had taken us around five hours to reachthe hut, walking alongside the river’s edge and through a swampy area ofwetlands.

The Moturau Hut was quite dirty inside, and we saw keaoutside the hut pulling out the nails. These mischievous birds are very curiousand as well as attacking the odd car tyre, they enjoy pulling nails out ofbuildings with their beaks. They also love to gnaw on anything made out oflead, which obviously puts them at risk of being poisoned. For some years now,DOC hut maintenance has included the removal of lead-headed roof nails and leadflashing, and their replacement with lead-free alternatives.

After spending the night in Moturau, we tramped onwardstowards Iris Burn Hut. It was a long stretch of a little over sixteenkilometres between these two huts, heading uphill through beech forest and awinding gorge for around five to six hours. At Iris Burn, I heard kiwi callingout in the bush at night. That was really unusual because we were told thatkiwi are dying out.

From Iris Burn Hut we got some really beautiful views of theKepler Track, which only became more impressive as we tramped the five tosix-hour walk, a bit under fifteen kilometres, to our next stop at Luxmore Hut.This route takes you up along a ridge just under Mt Luxmore, which has stunningviews of Lake Te Anau and the Murchison Mountains.

The route down the mountain leads to Brod Bay campsite onthe shores of Lake Te Anau, a distance of a bit over eight kilometres, and fromthere it was only a short one and a half hour walk back to the Kepler Track carparkwhere we had started.

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