Summer and her dad conquered the whole track in some challenging weather. Her mum, Mel, plus younger sisters, 9-year-old Poppy and 6-year-old Bella, met up with them at Luxmore Hut and Moturau Huts during their adventure.
Let me tell you about my experiences on the ridges and valleys of the Kepler Track.
Summer high up on the Kepler Track
The first day was so much up hill — it just kept going up, up, up. About three quarters of the way up there were limestone boulders. They were so high and huge that it made me feel very small.
Walking, up, up and up!
The bearded forest (that’s what we called it) was amazing— there were drips of moss hanging off the trees that looked like a beards.
When we finally got to Luxmore Hut we were exhausted, but we still had enough energy to go for a 10 minute walk to the Luxmore Caves. They are amazing! Then I found out that food is really, really good when you are cold and hungry.
Family photo on the Kepler Track
I think the second day was the best. It was first up hill then in the alpine and ridges of the mountains. I loved the part when you are on the top lookout, when you can see everything below you. When there is an hour and a half to go it is all down, down, down. There are 97 switch backs and 24 stoat traps to count along the way. Finally there was Iris Burn Hut. There is a river just by the hut that you can go swimming in, it is quite cold though. As well as the river there is an amazing waterfall that’s 20 minutes away from the hut.
Along a ridge on the Kepler Track
Thankfully, the third day is all flat. There were these gorgeous purple mushrooms along the way. At Moturau hut there is a lake that is just warm enough to swim in and cool down your feet.
A misty valley
I loved all my experiences on the great four day walk known as the Kepler Track. It was awesome to do with my family.
I know there must be some decent synonyms for ‘golden’ and ‘sparkling turquoise’, but they’re actually the colours of the sands and waters that the track meanders through. Although they don’t do it justice. As we made our way into the bush and climbed a little bit higher, we got warmer and warmer, and all I wanted to do was jump into the sea and bask in the sun.
Instead, we started playing ‘who can guess how long DOC thinks it’ll take till we get to the hut?’ before reading each signpost, and making bets on who was closest. In the end we arrived around an hour sooner than DOC predicted we would.
Not a bad spot to spend a Friday arvo in
After about 2 hours in, we started getting pretty sore feet and felt a few blisters forming—despite wearing comfy shoes/boots that’d been fine previously. We figured the extra weight of the packs, and walking on the harder sandstone rather than mud were the causing factors. I had taken a 50 pack of sticking plasters with me. I definitely recommend others do the same. I returned with only 2 left.
After 3 hours walking, we arrived at Anchorage Hut. The sun was still out, there were people eating dinner on the beach and at picnic tables around the hut, and there were only 3 bunks left. We bagsed our beds, cranked out the wine and cheese and headed down to the shore. Bliss. As the sun went down, the sandflies came out so we headed back to the hut area to fire up the gas cooker. After dinner we went inside to play cards and realised we hadn’t brought any candles! We played by torch light for a while but headed to the bunk room shortly after. Ear plugs were a good thing with about 16 people in the room (lots of sleeping bag rustling and a few snorers).
Making Sam’s pack half a bottle of wine lighter
The next day, Sam had an early morning swim (I wasn’t so brave) and we prepared our gourmet breakfast—squashed croissants with camembert, avocado and ham. Delish. Before we left, we got talking to a Mexican guy who was also walking to Awaroa Hut that day. One thing I noticed was that there were no other kiwis on the trip! Lots of Germans, some Austrians and Americans. But no locals.
The walk on the second day was amazing. There was only one difficult bit—a lengthy hill just after our lunch stop—but most of the time it was pretty flat. For this reason I reckon it’s the best Great Walk to go for if it’s your first time, or if you’re worried about your fitness levels. The track is really well maintained—there’s no figuring out where you’re going to put your foot next like in some tracks. You can also choose to break it up into just 3 or 4 hours of walking a day. We skipped Bark Bay hut on day 2, and as such, our feet were aaaaching. In the second half we actually took as long as DOC said we would because we were plodding along so slowly.
Hanging out on the famous swing bridge
We had taken the slightly longer route because we weren’t in tune with the low tide, but it didn’t matter. We crossed a few little streams, and I was lucky enough to be carried over a few by Sam, who took his pack, my pack, and me all at once (before you leap to conclusions about my wuss levels, I hadn’t whinged or made any complaints—I merely accepted the offer). Seeing Awaroa Hut in the distance as we turned the corner was the best sight ever, and even I was game for a swim after arriving.
Afterwards we got straight to work on the remaining wine, cheese and crackers, and had a yarn with the friendly DOC hut warden who lives in a house nearby for 7 months a year. What a great spot! After dinner we got chatting with the others, including our new Mexican friend who’d arrived late after walking the low tide route despite it being high tide. There were only 12 of us all up, and there was a more open, chatty atmosphere among us, compared to the first hut that was full. The sandflies here were like nothing I’ve experienced before. They took no notice of the fact I’d drenched myself in insect repellent. The only option was to cover up or go inside. One tramper said coconut butter kept them away, so I’ll have to try that next time.
Sam takes a break instantly upon arriving, but perks up enough to help prepare the nibbles
On Sunday morning we woke to rain on the roof. We’d had to change our plans to taxi back from Awaroa instead of Totaranui because of a slip, so we headed to the lodge where the taxi comes in (via the skyline route for one last view). The ride back was about an hour and a half long. Seeing the land from the sea highlighted how far we’d actually walked! Our taxi driver doubled as a tour guide and we learnt heaps about the area, and stopped to see some sunbathing seals on the islands.
Sergio and Ingrid enjoying the ride home
We arrived back in the Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi car park pretty exhausted but happy we’d made it back in time and in one piece—even if we both had limps from blister overload. I told Sam I didn’t think I could handle another day, and therefore some of the longer Great Walks, but actually, if I’d had better shoes it would’ve been fine. I think you can even hire them so that makes things easy. Since putting the photos of our trip on Facebook, I’ve had 4 different people tell me they now want to do the walk. I hope I’ve inspired some readers to get booking too! It’s definitely an amazing walk and now that I know what to expect, I’ll be getting a group of friends together early next year for the Waikaremoana Great Walk! Fun times ahead!
In November I’m going down to Nelson for a week with work and thought that while I’m down there, I should attempt my first proper Great Walk at the end of the trip (with the Abel Tasman Coast Track). I say proper because I’ve done bits before, but I was helicoptered to those places and met my bag and a chilli bin of food at the huts, rather than having to carry it myself… don’t judge me.
So, I rallied a group of friends together last Saturday night while we were all out at dinner. Everyone was super keen, but over the week it’s dwindled from six of us, to four of us, to now just me and my boyfriend who’s going to meet me on the Friday.
Mosquito Bay, Abel Tasman National Park
After stuffing up my hut bookings (which the visitor centre staff were very nice about), we’ve locked in Anchorage Hut for Friday night and Awaroa Hut for Saturday night. We’ll then catch an aqua taxi back from Totaranui on Sunday afternoon to fly back to Wellington.
A map of where we’ll be walking
So that’s a big day of walking on the Saturday. I hope I don’t get blisters or a sore back from my pack.
Some other things I am currently worried about include:
What am I going to wear? The DOC website says wool or fleece clothing, but even in November? Isn’t Nelson the sunniest spot in New Zealand? I’m not sure what tramping attire really is.
Will my running shoes be ok? I don’t think I’ll be able to fit big fluffy socks into them…
The website also says ‘a portable stove will be needed’. I don’t have one of those either. I’ll have to look around for one.
Will my sleeping bag be warm enough (given it’s a child’s one I got from Santa when I was 11)?
Which aqua taxi will we get from Totaranui, and will it tee up with a shuttle back to the airport?
Some things I am really excited about include:
Being able to eat as much scroggin as I like—guilt free because it’s pretty much non-negotiable for tramping
Choosing my own mix of ingredients to make my perfect scroggin
Experiencing the spiritual feeling I’m told I’ll get while walking
Playing cards by candle light in the huts
Did you know that ‘Scroggin’ stands for: ‘Sultanas, Carob, Raisins, Orange peel, Grains, Glucose, Imagination, Nuts’. I’m gonna go crazy on the ‘imagination’, and will definitely be swapping the carob for chocolate.
So I’ve got a bit of organising to do around getting there and back, and sorting out my equipment. If anyone has any recommendations or advice about the Abel Tasman it would be greatly appreciated!