Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kepler Track

Sorry it's been so long since my last post! It's been super busy here with classes, trips, and planning for our midsemester break this week. At the moment I am staying with Charlotte's (Donna's flat host) family in Whengarie, the northernmost city on New Zealand's north island, after a five day journey up from our home in Dunedin (which is near the bottom of the south island).  But more about this adventure later, for now I want to talk about our trip last weekend, the Kepler Track!

My flatmate Lanndon and I planned this trip to Kepler for two weeks before we left. It was insane (and freaking expensive!) to plan out food, shelter, and transport for 11 people, but in the end it was well worth the effort. Aside from a few questionable decisions it was a fantastic trip.

On Friday afternoon after class last week we all climbed into Maeve's car (Maeve is my flat host) or the rental van that Lanndon hired (rented). We arrived at Henry Creek campsite about an hour after the sun set. Henry Creek sits on the edge of a Lake Te Anau, located in the fiordlands of the south island. The night sky over the lake was fantastic! We found a campsite on some very plush mossy ground, and began to set up camp. Camp was, unfortunately, nothing more than a fly thrown over the plush mossy ground, which meant we spent an evening with a swarm of sandflies keeping us company.

The rocky shores of Lake Te Anau at Henry Creek Camp

The next morning we woke up, ate, and drove to the car park where we would begin our trek on the Kepler track. We strapped on our packs and began ascending the mountain, Mt. Luxmore.

On our way!

The woods at the base of Mt. Luxmore were full of prehistoric looking ferns and a number of other fascinating plants and fungi.

Cool looking mushroom we found under some ferns

After around six hours of hiking up a winding trail we made it above the treeline. The view down into the valley below and out over lake Te Anau was exhilarating. We could even see where our camp had been the night before!

View from the above the treeline on Mt. Luxmore
After about an hour hiking above the treeline we found our home for the night, the Luxmore Hut. We picked our bunks, dropped our heavy bags, grabbed a quick bite, and then a few of us set back out onto the trail to climb to the summit. As we climbed higher and higher the wind became so fierce that we were unable to scramble the along the narrow path against the side of the cliff all the way to the top for fear of being blown off. We stopped about twenty meters from the top, took some pictures, and decided we would be better off not risking our lives to see the very top.

A view of neighboring mountains from the summit.

If you can't tell by my hair, the wind was intense!
On the way down from the summit, we stopped at a snow fed mountaintop pool and decided to take a dip. It was so freaking cold! We found out later that the water from this pool trickled down the mountain in a stream that was used to supply the drinking water reserves at the Luxmore Hut. Whoops.
Very cold! The boys in the group changed our minds about going all the way in once we felt the water.
We hiked back to the hut and set about getting dinner prepared. With only one pot, a pile of veggies, and two kilos of pasta to cook for eleven people, we had to improvise a bit. We cooked the pasta in two batches, using the bag from some veggies as a strainer, and cooked up those veggies in tomato sauce to throw on top with some cheese. It turned out pretty dang good, especially considering our embarrassing lack of equipment. (we ended up serving the veggies and sauce mixture with the tin cans from the tomato sauce..)

That night, a massive storm blew in. The mountaintop wind shook the hut to the point that Donna and I were concerned the roof would be torn off. It began to pour, continuing to rain the day after as well.

After breakfast the next day we spent about an hour exploring some caves near the hut. It was hard to take pictures because it was pitch black without our torches (flashlights) but it was awesome to see the stalactites and slide around on the slippery mineral coated floors. 

Heading into the caves
We were drenched by the time we climbed out and back to the hut, luckily Donna and I brought ponchos (anoraks, technically) and waterproof pants. Most of our group wasn't so well prepared, however.

Soaked but enjoying the sights

I tried to take a ton of pictures on the way down the mountain, but unfortunately the rain caused most of them turn out awfully blurry and distorted with water all over the lens of the GoPro. If you look at the picture above (specifically to the right of my head) you can see what I mean, and it's much clearer than most of the shots I took.

The hike back down was magnificent in the rain. It added a new dimension to the already beautiful forest we had trudged through the day before. After we returned home Lanndon discovered that the forest we had hiked through was actually a legitimate rainforest, and it sure lived up to that description while we were there.

PK, Donna, and Lanndon in front of a giant prehistoric fern tree thing
We eventually made it back to the carpark, all of us tired, sweaty, and wet. I know I smelled absolutely horrendous after marinating in a sweaty baselayer under my anorak all day. We climbed into the car, and three hours later were back at our home in Dunedin for some well deserved showers. It was an amazing journey. 

I'll leave you with another picture from the summit of Mt. Luxmore. I hope to post again soon about our adventures during midsemester break! Check back soon to see adorable pictures of baby seals, horses, and a variety of breathtaking views.

Kia Ora!

I love New Zealand