If you have ever thought about coming to New Zealand and like me, are an outdoorsy person, you may have looked into doing a great walk. In all of New Zealand, there are a total of 10 great walks. The walks comprise of multi-day tracks that end at huts or camping grounds and are usually situated in a place with spectacular scenery. Because the great walks are sought out by people around the world, New Zealand has what’s called the Great Walks season. The season runs from October to April, when the weather is warmer, and a cost is set to however many nights you decide to stay at each hut. The great thing about being at Otago for the winter term is that it is out of the Great Walks season, meaning that the cost of staying a night at each hut is lower. Though it would add to the experience to be doing a great walk during the warmer months, the cost between the on and off season is substantially different. For international visitors, it costs about NZ$130 per night during the on-season, while it only costs NZ$15 during the offseason.
A list of Great Walks found in New Zealand can be seen here:https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/walking-and-tramping/great-walks/
The Kepler Track is a 3-4 day track and in total, a 60 km loop. Because we were in the colder months, the risk for avalanche in most areas of the track was higher. We also only had the weekend available since school started on Monday. The combination of these two factors led us to decide to only stay for one night on the track and not do the entire loop.
Ami, Patrick, Kevin and I started from Dock Bay and made our way to Mt Luxmore Hut. With our heavy backpacks strapped tightly to our backs, we set off along the bay. This part of the track was forested and there were multiple signs along the way warning us that we were in Kiwi territory. Within the first 10 minutes of the walk, I was already beginning to get hot and the view of people swimming in the bay did not help my want to stop and take a swim. Despite this, we swiftly moved along near the edge of the bay, only stopping once to take a swig of water before the sandflies swarmed us. About ¼ into the track, I began to notice that the track had increasingly gotten steeper. With shoulders aching and calves burning, we decided to stop and take a breather. After a couple of minutes, we set off again. We repeated this cycle multiple times along the hike. It was far more challenging than the Copland track that I had completed a few weeks ago. As the steep incline of the hike took us higher into the mountains, we were soon above the bush line and could see the tops of the trees and the view of the bay from which we started.
Tracks like this reminded me that tramping is a mental challenge just as much as it is a physical one. Just as we were about to take another break, we spotted a sign that stated that we were 20 minutes away from the hut. Once we saw this we started booking it and practically power-walked the rest of the way there. At this point, we were above the bush line and the view was absolutely stunning.
This was one of the most challenging walks I have ever done but the people and the view made it worth it.