Kepler Track

How lucky are we? This country is bloody beautiful, and the Department of Conservation has created an epic network of backcountry huts, tracks, and trails that allow residents and visitors to lose themselves in the epic wilderness of New Zealand’s landscape.

I was itching to hike and itching to get back into a DOC hut. We have access to some huts here in Queenstown, but they are for the seasoned tampers. This was to be Robbie’s first overnight hike so I thought it best we go to a hut that would be on the nicer side. The Great walks are spread over the country, with three down in Fiordland National Park. We had already walked most of the Routeburn and the Milford is a no go unless you book seasons in advance. So, I checked out what the Kepler was doing, luckily for us, Luxmore hut has spare bunks the night we wanted to go, perfect.

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We spent the night before in the supermarket buying enough snacks for the 52 people who would be in the hut with us and prepping food like we wouldn’t see civilisation for days. We both have good hiking backpacks so I packed them full of layers, sleeping bags, and food before getting an early night and waking at the crack of dawn. Although the hike to Luxmore hut from the Te Anau control gates was listed at 5 hours one way we still had to drive there. Queenstown to Te Anau is around 2.5 hours depending on how many stops you make to look at baby lambs. You also have to pick up tickets from the DOC office, register your whereabouts and intended return time, just in case you get lost.

We strapped up our boots at the control gates and set off. The first hour steadily wound through the New Zealand bush, a relatively flat track hugging the shore of Lake Te Anau. We stopped for snacks before taking on the uphill slog. I say slog because that’s exactly what it was. Not knowing anything about this hike we went in  blind. The track was uphill for a good 4 hours, you can’t see the top, you can barely see through the tree’s and you will most definitely need a few water breaks. It was a relentless uphill hike, good, rewarding but pretty hard on the legs especially when carrying a backpack.

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Finally, the bush line came into sight and we were rewarded with the most beautiful view. The sun was shining, Lake Manapouri sat to the left and Lake Te Anau to the right & man were we high. We took a break and consumed our OSM stash before setting off for the 45-minute walk toward Luxmore hut. The hike was now gradually up and over the ridge, we walked over the boardwalks and toward some epic looking peaks. I was lagging behind, a little busy Insta storying away when I saw Robbie disappear around the corner. Low and behold there was the hut, perfectly nestled into the hill. I felt my legs do a happy dance and quickly kicked off my boots as Robbie boiled the kettle for us.

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My oh my, the view from up here is breathtaking, surrounded by mountains and water while sipping on a brew is my idea of heaven. Our warden kindly checked us in and showed us through to the bunk room. We picked a bunk in the bank corner and ended up having the whole top to ourselves. More tea was consumed before listening to the warden’s safety chat. Apparently, the bad weather was en route to the Kepler track. For those who had the intention to walk the whole track would need to leave the hut no later than 7 am, this was to avoid the 100km wind and snow on the way. After that many packed up and went to bed, ready for their early morning start. We, however, went higher than the hut and spent a few hours in the cold shooting until the sun set behind the Fiordland mountains. Cooking dinner was great as we had the whole kitchen to ourselves, however, freeze dry meals are not good, I need to up my game with the overnight food packing.

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The night’s sleep was cold, very, very cold. I felt Robbie multiple times move closer to me to sap whatever heat I was holding, that’s fine, I appreciate the penguin tactics. Sunrise came quicker than I thought, even though the night felt so long. I woke before the light due to some cheeky Kea’s tapping away on the roof and around the door of the bunk room. I quickly grabbed my camera and went out to welcome the day. The sun was rising through some cloud in the distance and the warm ray was greatly appreciated after a chilly night. I made a sub-par breakfast – apologies Robbie then packed up and laced up the boots. This was one of the first big hikes my new Lowa Mauria boots had been on, so it was a great test for me to see how they worked, the verdict is very positive. I was even joined by a fellow Lowa fan while sitting out on the deck.

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We shot some content for Lowa, a million GoPro couple shots and went on our merry way. We bid farewell to those making their way over the pass and I rejoiced knowing that my day was going to be majority downhill. On route to the bush we spoke about hiking adventures, where we wanted to go and see and multi-day hikes to tick off. We had been floating the idea of potentially going to Nepal to hike to Everest Base Camp. Robbie has previously been to Annapurna Base Camp and I loved listening to all his stories. Everest, the mountain of all mountains was calling my name and over another OSM snack break we decided to cement the plans and book the epic adventure to Nepal.

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With an added spring in my step we entered the bush for the four-hour commute back to the car, chatting sporadically about how epic Nepal will be and how much more training I definitely need to do. I was also concentrating on nursing my old lady knee’s the whole descent. When the flat land appeared and the little snippets of Lake Te Anau I knew we were close. However, the long flat track back to the car was pretty boring and long. I would highly suggest that you get the water taxi to and from Broad Bay, that way you get a little bit of adventure and the chance to rest your legs when coming down to the flat.

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The car came to view, which also meant our adventure was over. For our first overnight hike together it was pretty special, we made memories, made life plans and survived in the chilly temps of the Fiordland mountains. The post hike pizza was also a big bonus!

If you are thinking of hiking the Kepler Track or any of the great walks in New Zealand head to this site for more info.

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Full-time​ adventure seeker, based in Queenstown NZ. Obsessed with everything outdoors. My blog is filled with all our adventures and weekly happenings, feel free to get in touch. I love meeting new people!

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