KE­PLER TRACK, NZ

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - World’s Greatest Walks -

TAKE ONE HUGELY POP­U­LAR ad­ven­ture town, in the form of Te Anau, and add in a sub­lime mul­ti­day loop track right nearby (yes, within walk­ing dis­tance of town) and you have one of NZ’s trekking suc­cess sto­ries: the Ke­pler Track.

Orig­i­nally de­signed to take the load off the other two Great Walks nearby – the Mil­ford and

Route­burn tracks – the Ke­pler has be­come hugely pop­u­lar (like all Great Walks, you will need to book hut tick­ets). This 60km cir­cuit of­fers the quin­tes­sen­tial Fiord­land Great Walks ex­pe­ri­ence of ma­jes­tic land­scape, bril­liant De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion huts, a well banked track, and the chance to spend a full day walk­ing above the tree line, sur­rounded by NZ’s South­ern Alps.

The Ke­pler can be walked in ei­ther di­rec­tion,

start­ing at Lake Te Anau Con­trol Gates or, if you wish to walk clock­wise (our pre­ferred route), from Rain­bow Reach (this means a short shut­tle bus ride from town). For most, the Ke­pler can be walked in three days, giv­ing you plenty of time to re­ally soak up this unique ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you start at Rain­bow Reach, the first few hours are nice and flat be­fore you reach the beach­side Mo­tu­rau Hut, with its views across Lake Manapouri. If you’re keen to take four days to walk the Ke­pler, this is where you’d stay. Walk a fur­ther four hours, slowly mak­ing your way up, and you will reach Iris Burn Hut. Here, if you’re lucky, you might hear the elu­sive kiwi call­ing out dur­ing the night.

The “mid­dle” day – from Iris Burn to Lux­more Hut – is the most amaz­ing of the walk. Af­ter a steep climb of around 800m you reach the Hang­ing Val­ley Emer­gency Shel­ter (for cover in in­clement weather, i.e., snow­storms) and then you’re at an alti­tude of 1390m, with the magic vista of Lake Te Anau and the snow-capped South­ern Alps. You stay up on the ridge­line the en­tire day un­til you reach Lux­more Hut (take the side­track to Mt Lux­more if it is fine – it is well worth the ex­tra ef­fort). Lux­more is usu­ally packed full of hik­ers but, as with all NZ Great Walks Huts, the at­mos­phere is jovial and the views out to Lake Te Anau be­low are fan­tas­tic.

The fi­nal day’s walk is down­hill to Te Anau, so take your time. Of all the NZ Great Walks, we reckon it is the Ke­pler that is the one most worth savour­ing on the last day – and cel­e­brated with a cold Speight’s Dark Ale back in Te Anau when you fin­ish.

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