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3 DAYS ON NZ’S GREAT WALK, THE KEPLAR TRACK
As part of our two week itinerary road tripping around New Zealand, we were fortunate to be able to book three days on the Keplar Track. The Keplar Tracks departs from TeAnau and is one of the nine great walks across New Zealand. It is a 60-70km round-trip. The Department of Conservation (DOC) recommends that you spend 3 nights and four days on the trail. However, due to limited availability and time constraints, we scheduled our hike across three days. Make sure, if you are looking at a Great Walk to book as early as possible in advance. The Milford Track sold out in 13 minutes this year.
We would commence the hike at Rainbow Reach Carpark, leaving our car there and continuing past Motorua Hut and staying at Iris Burn Hut for our first night. Our second night would be at Luxmore hut, before finishing at the Control Gates.
Prior to departing for our hike, the weather looked less than ideal. There was a forecast for heavy rain and wind. The Keplar Track, being located inFjordland, is notorious for bad weather and rainy days. At the same time, the Milford Track had been closed as a result of heavy rain and poor weather. We were prepared for the worst. We had waterproofed our packs to the best of our abilities and were ready to go.
On the morning of our first day, we left early. We had a big day ahead of us with more than 22km to hike until we arrived at Iris Burn. Getting a head start on the track allowed us ample of time to arrive at Iris Burn. The first day mainly consisted of walking through a rainforest/ bush setting. It was rather arduous and challenging at times. Our packs were heavy, loaded with all our food and supplies for the three days.
Prior to arriving at Motorua hut for a break, we crossed various suspension bridges, winding across rivers and rapids. After 2.5hours of hiking, we arrived at Motorua Hut. We had a quick snack and stretched our legs. The views were miraculous, overlooking the lake. No soon after stopping, we were inundated with sand flies. We hurried on towards Iris Burn. It was another 4 hours of hiking to Iris Burn.
After arriving at our first hut of the trip, we quickly chose our beds, managing to snake a bunk in the corner. We were surprised at the layout of the huts with some beds lined next to each other on one bench. There was no room beside the single beds and each person was essentially lying right next to each other. It seemed a little odd for me and a bit outside my comfort zone. I didn’t like the idea of sleeping next to a person who snored the house.
Later, at 7pm, we were entertained by a hut talk by the local warden and listened to her story and informative speech whilst dining on our usual back country food. The huts were excellent, with gas supplied, sinks and flush toilets. Despite their excessive costs, they seemed perfect for the average hiker. We only need to bring sleeping bags and a pot. We decided to head to bed early that night as we would be getting up at 6am. There was a severe weather warning issued for the following afternoon and we wanted to try our best to arrive at Luxmore hut before it hit.
The following morning, our hike began with 2 hours of steep incline, climbing to the top of the ridge, overlooking the Keplar mountains and the fjords. It was extremely tough. Eager to get to the top as quickly as possible, we pushed on, rarely breaking and excited for the change in scenery. It was continuous switch backs to the top.
Finally, after what felt like forever, we broke out of the forest, arriving at a ridge. We could see the track ahead, winding along the mountain. It was incredibly scenic. The surrounding mountains towered around the path, hinting at the challenge ahead. As soon as we stopped onto the ridge we were nearly blown over. It was incredibly windy. Wearing shorts was not the brightest idea. We quickly zipped up our down jackets and pushed on.
We couldn’t believe the winds. They were up to 100km/h. At times, I was forced to cling to the path. My heavy pack was operating like a sail, pulling me towards the edge of the ridge and the drop-off below. Arriving at the first emergency shelter, I put on another layer of clothes, switching my shorts for leggings. We met out first kea birds and fuelled up.
This was the most scenic part of the track as the ridgelines glowed in various colours, winding around the mountains and displaying scenic viewpoints of snowcapped mountains and the valley below. We continually stopped for photo opportunities, arriving at Luxmore hut just after 1pm. It had taken us approximately 6 hours to walk the 14km. I had detoured to summit Mount Luxmore and we braked at both emergency shelters, giving us a chance to refuel and rest.
Luxmore Hut was by far the most scenic hut on the Keplar track. It sits at 1100m, on the top of the mountain, overlooking the valley and surrounding mountains. We made many friends in the hut, completing a 500 piece puzzle. Fortunately, we had just arrived at the hut prior to the storm rolling in. It had been a tough climb with majority of the hike uphill. I was glad to spend the afternoon in the hut relaxing and meeting new people.
Day 3 was short and easy, descending down to Broad Bay and finishing at the Control Gates. We had organised a shuttle from the Control Gates back to the car as it was another 2.5hours through the forest and we were eager to get to Mount Cook that night. We departed by 8am and were down the bottom by 11.30am. Thankfully, our packs were light for the descent and our legs not too sore. We were glad to have completed the hike.
All in all, it was an amazing three days. The trail is incredibly scenic and the people we met were so friendly. The experience was awesome. It would have to be one of my top hikes. At times, you could have thought you were in Nepal in the Himalayas or hiking in the Rockies.
The huts offered everything you needed and the trail was so well maintained. The Hut wardens were extremely informative and it was easy to follow. It was great to spend three days away from civilisation and our van. Getting out in nature is always so refreshing.
I have no doubt that I will be back very soon to complete another of the great walks.
I had decided to test out my new camelback on this trip. I usually hike with water bottles, however, I had bought a new camelbak from Wild Earth to use. This made an amazing difference. I drank so much water and having a tube to drink from prevented continuous stopping and starting.
Packing List for the Keplar Track: