The Kepler track is one of the 9 great walks of New Zealand. Located outside Te Anau in the Fiordland national park it is a 60 kms loop that you can walk in 3 or 4 days. I went there with 3 of my friends and although the weather was pretty rough, we all had a great time and the scenery was amazing nonetheless.
Note : I hiked the track months ago back in October 2016 but did not write anything at the time. So sorry if it is not as detailed as you were hoping but everything that follows is how I remember it at the top of my head.
Change of plans to start with
Initially we had decided to hike the Milford track, but it was closed over the weekend for some spraying happening in the area. So we decided to do the Routeburn track instead. I picked up Max, Ryan and Jonathan in the morning and we left Christchurch around 8:30am. If you have ever driven between Christchurch and Queenstown before, you know how scenic the drive is. Beside the famous and beautiful lake Tekapo there is also other spots worth a stop. Lake Ruataniwha in Twizel and Lindis Pass are two other spots worth a stop on the way.
Lake Ruataniwha - smaller version of lake Tekapo
But we were not done with our change of plans. Once we got to Queenstown we decided to check with the Department of Conservation (D.O.C) if the Routeburn track was open because there was some snow falls occured a few days before. So the following morning Max went to the D.O.C and when he came back to the hostel he told us that they did not recommend to hike the track. So for the second time in just 3 days, we changed our plans and decided to do the Kepler track instead.
Day 1 - A sunny day
The only thing is that we were in Queenstown and the Kepler track starts in Te Anau, a 2-hour drive. So we hit the road, and after a quick stop at the D.O.C office in Te Anau we were on the track. We started by heading towards the Brod Bay campsite and this first part is a really flat 1h30 hike along Lake Te Anau. Once you reach the campsite the track goes deeper into the forest and that is when it begins to get quite steep. You are in for a 2-2h30 uphill hike, but do not worry, once you reach the tree line you will be rewarded by a stunning view of the valley and the lake. We took a quick break and enjoyed the view before resuming the hike. And this last part is fairly flat as well and it took us around 45 minutes to reach the hut.
If you haven't had enough walking, there is a nice side walk to the limestone cave near the hut. You can go pretty deep in the cave and it is worth a visit.
At the start of the track
Walking along the lake
View at the top
Pathway to heaven?!
Day 2 - Rough, rough, rough
The next day we woke up to a miserable weather. After a quick breakfast made of Oats, raisins, brown sugar and apple, we got ready to fight the rain and wind waiting for us outside. We also made a new friend, Kristin, a German girl who was hiking by herself and was happy to find a group to join. So the 5 of us started our ascent towards the ridge. The rack was not so steep but with those conditions it was not an easy walk. The rain was blown by the strong wind and literally slapping our faces, two of us lost our backpack rain covers and we had to stop and put our clothes in a trash bag in the backpack to avoid having to walk around in wet clothes in the hut at the end of the day. But despite all this, and the fog blocking most of the view, I can assure you that the scenery was very impressive and quite majestic. While walking on the ridge, you could see how imposing the mountains were.
Walking on the ridge
Despite the bad weather I really enjoyed the hike
Although on the previous day we were happy to get above the tree line to enjoy the view, this time it was the other way around; the tree line meant a shelter from the rain and the wind. Now, I am one to think that there is no better time for a forest walk than in a light rain, it gives this dramatic atmosphere which I really like. And this was no exception; The trees were covered in moss and we saw a few beautiful crystal clear rivers.
Glad to reach the tree line
One of the few rivers we walked by
It was nice walking under the tree line
The whole group
We took very few breaks so we reached Iris Burn Hut Â early in the afternoon and got quite some time to kill. Luckily there was a lot of nice people to socialize and play games with. You can also do the side walk to the Iris Burn falls which is only 15 minutes away.Â
Day 3 - Quiet day...
... compared to the previous one. The weather was much better and beside a low saddle to walk over the track was quite an easy walk. The scenery was more diverse though as we went through a gorge before reaching Lake Manapouri. The track then goes along the lake for a while before reaching Moturau Hut which has a nice view of the lake.Â
Day 4 - Rushing through the forest
With our initial plan we had booked a cruise in Milford Sound and we needed to be there by 1pm. With 15.5kms to hike and about 1.5h drive from Te Anau to Milford sound, we had to leave early and walk quite fast through the forest. Luckily the last part of the track is completely flat. The weather was pretty bad though, it was heavily raining but like I mentioned earlier, it just made it look more dramatic. It took us about 2.5h to reach the car park, but at a more relaxed pace it should take you between 4 to 5 hours.
This was the first time I hiked one of the great walks of New Zealand and am hoping to walk more in the future.
Here you can watch the 2-episode vlog about the hike :
What about you, have you ever done some of the great walks of New Zealand? Which one and what was your experience?