Ferngully in the rain!
My night in Te Anau was a much needed break in my over planned week. Thursday-ultimate. Friday-6 hour bus to Queenstown. Saturday-monster hike and camp. Sunday-shorter hike, Milford Sound, and Glowworm Cave. Mon, Tues and Weds - hike the Kepler Track. Thursday-8 hour bus back to Christchurch for ultimate practice. Friday - rest. Sat-Sun - Nationals. After a wonderful night in the hostel, I awoke to rain. Everyone else we chatted with said they were going to wait to do the Kepler Track, but Brian and I didn't have that luxury because I had to be back for ultimate practice. Off we went in the rain. The Fjordlands are known for the rain so we really shouldn't have been surprised. Every guidebook says to prepare for at least one day of it. The area we were heading to gets 3m a year.
The Big Slip in 1984 deforested this area and left the mounds behind.
The rain was supposed to lighten as the day went on. It didn't all morning. It got worse. I'm not sure if it was the rain or the huge, greasy, wonderful breakfast burritos that we had for breakfast, but Brian and I were really low energy. I don't think either one of us were thrilled to be getting started after two great days hiking in the sun. We stopped at the first hut we came to even though we five hours to go. After a long break and a lot of hoping the rain would lessen, we finally left and had a little more pep in our step. It wasn't nearly as bad as it seemed in the hut where the noise of the rain hitting the roof and the visual of the runoff made it seem a lot worse. It might have also helped that the beech trees were dispersing a lot of it. About halfway to the next hut, the rain slowed to a slow drizzle. There was much rejoicing.
After too much time on the Ice in front of the computer, Brian needs a chiropractor.
The Big Slip came from the right and stopped on the valley floor.
Just before our arrival at our campsite, we came out of the trees on a broad open valley floor. At first, we thought it might have been how the area developed, but we later learned that a giant slip (mudslide or landslide) in 1984 wiped the entire area out. I can't imagine the force necessary to level such a large area.
That night at the campsite, I found someone who had the same tent as me. He was part of a group of students doing a ecology study abroad program and they were just wrapping up their semester with a little recreation. We quickly ate dinner, were attacked by sand flies, and dove into our tent to sleep.
The Lookout didn't offer too many views.
A restroom with a view.
The next morning the weather was listed as fine. A weather report from the day before had said clearing. I was hoping for the best and was left wanting all morning. We were completely socked in our entire way up the mountain and across the traverse. We drug our feet as much as we could and almost double our hike time, but the weather just wasn't cooperating. We saw the sun once through the clouds, but it just as quickly disappeared.
Our first blue skies!
The weather was better than rain. Hiking was better than being in the city, but I was hoping to see the amazing views that I'd be told about by Talie and others. When we finally reached the Mt. Luxmore turn off, we saw the smallest spot of blue in the sky. It made us hopeful, but after a quick trip to the summit, we still hadn't seen anything. We had plenty of time to get to the hut, so we resolved to hang around an hour or so and see if it cleared.
Mt. Luxmore holding back the clouds.
Amazingly, when our resolve finally gave out and we came off the summit, some of the valleys around us had cleared! We could see right down to Lake Te Anau which was fantastic. On our other hikes, we were usually at the bottom of the fjords if we were seeing water. This one was the first where we were on top and could see water. Great stuff. Happy day. We thought we would head back up to the summit of Mt. Luxmore, but the view didn't change up there. The mountain was holding back the clouds.
Lake Te Anau.
Time to go see what else there is to see!
Brian and I probably hung around another two hours as the area cleared off more and more. It never completely cleared off, just a small section. When we decided to move on, we saw that the entire area facing town had also cleared off which gave us great views from out hut when we finally pulled in. Wonderful!
Lake Te Anau.
After we got to the hut and settled in for dinner, Brian and I went over to explore a 2km cave. (MaryK, you'd be proud. I even corrected someone for calling it spelunking.) We only went down 350 steps or so, whatever that comes out to be, but it was so dark - just like the glowworm caves, except I had wet feet. Very cool formations all over the cave. Brian has pictures, I'll have to harass him for them. The next day, we just meandered down the mountain and back to town. I showered up in Brian's hostel, watched Knocked Up, and caught a bus to Queenstown so I could catch another bus the following morning back to practice. Great week. Tiring week.
Picture for dad from the Luxmore Hut!
Kepler Track (53.4/60km) by the numbers:
- Day 1: Rainbow Reach Swingbridge to Iris Burn Hut and campsite — 22.2 km
- Day 2: Iris Burn Hut and campsite to Luxmore Hut — 14.6 km
- Day 3: Luxmore Hut to Te Anau — 16.6 km