This was Sam and I’s first Great Walk that we have done together (hopefully the first of nine!). When the idea was put forward by my parents, we jumped on the opportunity – especially since they insisted on paying for us (thanks Mum!). We embarked on the adventure in February which is during the Great Walk season so prices for the huts were pretty expensive and all the beds were full. However, it was worth every penny and we definitely met some interesting people along the way. We were a party of 11, so we certainly brought some life to the track.
Know before you go:
- The great walk season in New Zealand spans between 24 October 2017 – 30 April 2018 which gets booked out very quickly! Make sure you book well in advance (we mean at least a few months in advance).
- Hut prices have gone up this season to $65 per night (under 17 free). These hikes are so popular that the high prices ensure good upkeep of the huts and tracks. But trust us, its well worth it!
- There are regular transport services to and from the track, which must also be booked in advance – you can book connecting transport online when booking your hut tickets.
- During the Great Walks season the huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, toilets, basic cooking facilities, solar-powered lighting and cold running water. A DOC ranger is in residence. The huts do not provide cooking utensils or showers.
- Make sure you pack enough food (have an extra day’s worth for emergencies), good boots and plenty of warm, waterproof gear! New Zealand weather can change in an instant and turn nasty – even in summer. We have seen far too many people out on the tracks get caught out because they were totally underprepared!
Day One: Carpark to Luxmore Hut – 13.8km, around 4 hours
The track starts off relatively easy with long stretches of flat track that run along the lakeside. After a few hours of walking through trees we came across Brod Bay campsite. This is where Sam waged war with the sand flies, a war that dragged on all trip and one she definitely didn’t win! From here the gradient increased pretty drastically and eventually we ascended to around 1000m. As soon as we broke free of the tree line, the views were absolutely incredible, well worth the hard yards!
We arrived at Luxmore Hut after about 4 hours of walking and this was to be our home for the first night. We had some well deserved food, retrieved our headlamps from the packs and headed down the track a few minutes to explore the Luxmore Caves. It is listed as optional on the Kepler brochure, but trust us, you’ll want to spend a bit of time exploring them. We managed to go as far as we physically could and spent around an hour or so crawling through some pretty tight places!
Day Two: Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut – 14.6km, around 6 hours
We awoke to a beautiful blue sky and set off over the ranges after a good meal of porridge (essential tramping breakfast!). The scenery was such a contrast to the day before, alpine tussock compared to the lush native forest surrounding the lake. If you are lucky (as we were!), the weather will be fine and day two will have some of the most stunning views you’ll ever see! As we walked along the thin ridge lines we were rewarded with views of snow covered peaks and steep valleys as well as Te Anau and Manapouri Lakes. We feel photos do the view better justice than our attempt of a description!
After a few hours, the track splits off giving you the option to climb to the highest point of the track – the Mt Luxmore summit at 1472m. This is definitely worth the quick detour! The sense of achievement at the top is amazing, and the views are even better (when the clouds clear).
After a traversing along the ridge lines for most of the day, we descended quickly down into the valleys and arrived at the Iris Burn Hut. The main occupants of the hut seemed to not be humans, but the thousands of sand flies occupying the valley! Definitely make sure you have plenty of repellant packed! We all had a well earned rest in the sun and then decided to endure the blisters for another 30 minutes and head down to check out the Iris Burn Falls. Sam and I kicked the trend and jumped into the icy cold pool, eventually convincing a few more people to join us!
Day Three: Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut – 16.2km, around 5 hours
This day was slightly less impressive than the day before, as most of the time the track followed the river down the valley. To be honest, it would be very hard to compete with the views and the experience of the previous day! However, the long trudge through the trees was well rewarded upon spying Lake Manapouri. We arrived at the hut soon after, and it was the perfect place to relax and rest the tired feet. We all pulled out togs and towels from our packs, ran down to the beach and spent the next few hours in and out of the surprisingly warm(ish) water.
Later in the evening, the veteran hut warden insisted on giving a 45 minute speech, thankfully however, we decided it was a much better idea to start a campfire on the beach! After a while, people started trickling out of the hut to come join us around the fire. It was definitely one of the more memorable nights we’ve had hiking! Pro tip from Sam: wear A LOT of insect repellant, and don’t wear holey clothing that sandflies can crawl through. You’ll thank us later!
Day Four: Moturau Hut to the carpark – 15.5km, around 4.5 hours
The final day was spent nursing sore feet, legs, backs, shoulders AND basically everything else! Luckily though, it was pretty flat going as we followed the river back to Lake Te Anau. The bush seemed to open up the further down we got and it allowed for a nice steady pace. The highlight of day four was the Spirit Lake viewing platform. It was pretty incredible to be able to look back and see how far we had come! (Sam disagrees with me here – her highlight of the day was seeing the finish line).
After dropping off a couple stragglers with sore legs at Rainbow Reach Carpark (a lot of tours will actually pick you up from here if you go with a group), we pushed on through the final section. The last couple hours do become relatively repetitive, but the tired bodies definitely would of amplified this. The damn on the river signalled the end of the track, and the end of Sam and I’s first Great Walk together (first of all 9 we hope!). The 4 days of walking were amazing, but damn did it feel good to see the end!