Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Day 1 - Te Anau to Luxmore Hut
Kepler Track Ridge Prints Available
The first day felt looooong. Mainly because I had to get a two hour bus and 45min walk just to the start. Then the 800m climb felt like it went on forever! I'd done it two weeks previous to get to Luxmore hut so it lacked the novelty of exploration that keeps me pushing up things. Especially when my pack was the heaviest its ever been! By the time I reached 400m I was completely spent 😦
It's always worth it though. Up at Luxmore Hut I was relieved to join friends @timshoultz.photography and Jess for the rest of the trek. Starting with Luxmore Caves round two! 😍 Still don't know how deep that thing goes!
With only five of us in a 54 bunk hut, we all slept in the kitchen, huddled around the fire.
(Painting from day two because winter daylight made the hut the priority today)
The kea were waiting for us! A gang of four cheeky alpine parrots woke us up by tapping on the windows and screaming at us. I say screaming. Their calls are actually my favourite sound ever. I also didn't expect them to be the size of small dogs!
The second day is spent entirely along a ridge line at 1000m+. It's like you're swimming through endless incredible views (if it wasn't for the sore legs). Move over Milford Track. Kepler takes gold 😊
Kepler Track View Prints Available
Painting up here was surprisingly tricky however, because all the best views are facing in to the sun. Not just a nightmare for your retinas, it puts everything in shadow and you lose a lot of detail. This painting was actually a sketch that I decided to paint at home. Which in itself has issues because then you're painting a digital cameras rendition of the colours... displayed on a backlit monitor... in a room full of LED lamps. Safe to say recreating accurate tones of nature was pretty much impossible. Hence why this one looks trippy!
Half way around the track I settled in for a proper painting (the one posted yesterday) and let the others hike on. Because the hut was empty we knew we were the only ones on the track that day which was pretty special. It totally backfired. The solitude let some feelings catch up and a whole heap of "what am I even... should I be kiwi!? Where do I live!? What. Life!? Gah!" feelings came welling up. Blurgh.
Finishing day two solo was a beautiful gift to process all the feels. The downhill was pretty exciting as a dropped down in to a frozen forest by head torch. Hopefully the others had already made a fire for me 😉
Our second night was one to remember. The 48 bunk hut was empty and encased in ice. We huddled around a fire as we defrosted frozen logs, fending off the plumetting -10 temperatures.
Trying to take some astro photography outside, I saw a dark shadow the size of a rugby ball, standing out against the moonlit ice. Oh hello Kea we meet again..
. It ran straight at me! As I tried to sleep it spent half an hour scratching at the door like a horror film (except it's NZ where nothing wants to eat you)
Kepler Track View Prints Available
The next day we had to get on it. We were bailing at Rainbow Reach to skip the last four hours along the river but this still only left nine hours to march 7.5 hours, send one person ahead as a hitchhiker, pick up the car and drive us an hour and a half in time for dinner with friends. Uhoh.
Luckily the terrain was considerably flatter (with a few surprise hills) but it was still one hell of an endurance challenge. I learnt the value of poles because at one point I put them away and they others left me in the dust. Another valuable lesson was putting my feet in a winter lake to stop the burn. Error. It took my nice warmed tendons and froze them tight. The last hour was the most pain my feet have ever felt!!
The forest itself had all sorts of treasures in it. I've now seen more mushrooms in a day than my entire life. If I stopped to take more photos I don't think I'd have ever left. At one point there were ferns as far as you could see in every direction. Top work nature.
No time to dawdle though. We were so relieved to see the bridge at Rainbow Reach. The hitchhiking gods were smiling on us as a unsuspecting tourist couple arrived and made small talk. Before we knew it we were all in their rental being driven back to our car 😊
Thanks for reading! All my artwork is available as prints/mugs/posters etc.
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