The weather was gorgeous for our first day on the Kepler Track. Unfortunately we got off to a slow and rocky start with Craig managing to drop his hoody in the car park and having to go back and find it before we even got onto the track. Half an hour into the walk we also discovered my waterproofs, which were attached to the outside of Craig's pack, had also fallen off - Craig ran back to find them and eventually discovered they were back at the Control Gates, right at the start of the track... At this point I resolved to keep a much closer eye on everything attached to Craig's massive rucksack. (There was quite a bit of potential for things falling off!)
The track begins at Te Anau Control Gates at the south end of Lake Te Anau, which you can see above. These gates control the water flow into the Waiau river down to lake Manapouri.
From there the track follows the edge of Lake Te Anau through beech forest.
The first leg of the journey was an hour and a half walk (5.6km) to Brod Bay, where we would stop for a quick lunch. This part of the track was the easiest of the day...
Beautiful Brod Bay was a lovely spot for lunch - so nice that I didn't really want to leave! The only annoyance were the sand flies, but then they are an annoyance everywhere.
From Brod Bay, we had to walk up to the bush line. This section of the walk was 8.2km of uphill. The track started to climb steeply, with lots of switchbacks, and the lake got further and further away.
My sister, super fit freak that she is, quickly disappeared into the trees, leaving me and Craig far behind. Every now and then we'd catch up to her as she would wait somewhere for us, but she would quickly disappear again. We came across one obstacle - the fallen trees below - which required a bit of maneuvering to climb through.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours and hours of zigzagging, Craig and I finally made it to the Limestone Bluffs. I was really intrigued by these cliffs jutting out of the forest. They just seemed so out of place to me.
I don't think Craig was too happy about seeing these stairs, but he made it up them!
A few more switchbacks later and we eventually reached the bush line and came out on top of the hills! Anne was waiting for us here and we took a break to admire the view. Less than an hour left of walking to go!
Somewhere behind that middle hill are my parents!
Lake Te Anau and the town itself in the distance - it seems so far away, and yet we started there only a few hours before.
The views just scream Lord of the Rings!
The view back from the way we just came....
And finally Luxmore Hut comes into sight!
We reached the hut at about 8pm and the place was pretty full, which meant we struggled to find bunks and had to sleep in separate bunk rooms. It was great to put the packs down though - but it felt very strange walking around without them.
After we'd made our dinner of reconstituted freeze-dried meals and had a bit of a rest, we decided to venture out to see Luxmore Cave, a 10 minute walk away.
The lake at sunset - my camera doesn't really do the view justice.
Luxmore Cave is a 2km long cave - although only the first bit is really accessible, unless you would like to crawl through water to get to the end.
We made it as far as we thought safe, which included a little bit of crawling and scrambling, before the cave opened out in a little cavern.
Thought I should put at least one photo of me up, hideous though it is! This was the little cavern we were able to stand up in after crawling through a narrow tunnel. I went a little further, but it was a bit too narrow and small for my liking.
We walked back over the hills in the dark, and when we arrived back at the hut, we discovered 3 keas (alpine parrots) hanging around on the deck. I didn't take any photos, unfortunately, but it was great to see them up close. It was about 11pm when we finally went to bed, and I had to wake the guy up who was on the mattress next to mine, because he was lying diagonally across the bunks. Moron! Eventually I fell asleep to the sounds of keas calling and Craig snoring...