Kepler Track Travel Guide

“Hi ho, hi ho, la-la la-la la,” I hear Bob yodel as we slowly hike the trail which leads from Luxmoore Hut to the summit of Mt Prospect. It’s an ascent of around 400 metres but there’s no rush as we have all day.

At 11am, after an incredibly scenic helicopter ride over Fiordland’s snow-capped peaks, lakes, rivers and fiords, we were dropped at Luxmoore Hut on the Kepler Track, well above the tree line. Bob sets our pace and he’s doing well but as we reach the ridge below the summit of Mt Luxmoore (1472 metres) he’s ready for a break.

“I’m glad we’re day hiking,” he says, nodding his head at an athletic-looking pair hiking past with bursting backpacks, full of equipment and food. We’ve also come well equipped, but on a smaller scale, with waterproof clothing, plenty of water, food and high energy snacks in our daypacks. The weather may be near perfect, but conditions can suddenly change in the mountains.

Bob bites a snack bar and within moments we have company. A cheeky kea emerges from behind a shaggy snow tussock. “Don’t feed it,” I warn, as Bob breaks off a piece.

Instead he pops it into his mouth and takes a photo, then we continue on a side-track to the summit of Mt Luxmoore, arriving breathlessly at the top 15 minutes later.

“Wow,” marvels Bob, “look at that view!”

Lake Te Anau spreads before us and we have panoramic 360-degree views of the South Arm, Te Anau Basin, Takitimu Mountains, Jackson Peaks and the Snowden and Earl Mountains.

“There’s Mt Prospect,” says Bob, pointing across the lake to a peak rising above the station where we’re staying for the duration of our Fiordland experience.

We find a sheltered nook and relax in the sun absorbing the peace and watching skylarks suspended in the air above wide open tussock slopes below. We lunch on cheese and crackers then, after taking photos of mountain daisies, begin our descent to Brod Bay.

Soon after Luxmoore Hut we hit the stunted bush line where bonsai-like silver beech trees dominate, becoming thicker and taller as we descend, then grudgingly make space for silver and red beech, kamahi, miro and rimu wearing garlands of mosses, and perching plants. We stop for a breather at the limestone bluffs, then continue on through a forest alive with the song of bellbirds. Fantails, tomtits and grey warblers flutter in the bushes nearby.

At last we emerge at Brod Bay and wait for our water taxi to Te Anau. “We could walk,” says Bob doubtfully, looking at his watch.

“No, it’s booked,” I say, “Here it comes.”

We watch as the speedboat crosses the lake and pulls alongside. “Great day for it!” says the skipper, as we climb gratefully aboard.

Back in Te Anau I glance at Bob, who looks tired but happy. “What now?” I ask.

“A hot shower, clean clothes, feet up by the fire and a glass of Pinot followed by some smoked salmon,” says Bob.