Friday, January 13, 2006

Kepler Track Dec 05

Mount LuxmoreWell I made it up that mountain - somehow! Lots of meditation, deep breathing & regular stops were required but I did it!

On Boxing Day, BF - in his infinite madness - insisted we do the whole track including the extra 45 mins from Te Anau through the wildlife centre to the control gates (even though there was a perfectly good bus running to the gates *huff* he still owes me big time for that!) so we did that and then walked through beautiful forest for a while until we hit the lake beach (Brod Bay) where families on day trips were lounging - lazy sods!

We left them to their happiness and proceeded to trudge away from the lake up the mountain - OH MY WORD! It was painful! To say I was unfit was an understatement. Within minutes, my heart was racing for all it was worth, my hot hot head was burning up and my breath - what breath? I think I'd left it at the beach. You may have noticed that I like a good moan (it's how I was brought up, so I'm good at it) but to be fair to Kepler, despite the pain (which I got used to eventually) the whole walk was breathtaking (in a good way). The scenery was awesome, the forests just magical, the sun shone most of the time, the rain was light and refreshing and when the initial pain wore off it felt good to be using muscles which had previously lain dormant for too long. And to be fair to me, I didn’t actually moan that much on the trek, as BF will concur. Shocking!

The last few hours of the day however, when we finally broke the tree-line, was a little disheartening as my legs ached like never before, it had started to rain, and the Luxmore Hut was nowhere in site. I knew we were so near but there seemed to be a huge expanse of bush (as in heather, bramble type stuff not kiwi/aussie 'bush') ahead of us. At this point, my meditation had turned into a commune with the earth whereby I agreed to just let go and stop fretting as the earth agreed to carry me along. I may have been somewhat delirious at this point, but to me, that’s what happened. The earth generously swept my heavy, tired feet along the path and that’s how I made it to the hut some 35 mins later. It was a blessed relief and the views from the kitchen were reward enough - just beautiful!

Luxmore Hut
After a slightly chilly night at the very well equipped hut, we set of the next day to climb Luxmore once more. This time our path was along somewhat precarious ridges (all ridges are precarious to me you understand. One could fall off the sidewalk and break one’s neck you know), over beautifully weathered rocks and sepia toned stones, some textured like sand, others smooth as glass, saturated with minerals revealing patterns formed by history, displaying a time long gone. They reminded me of the multi-layered images I have been creating of late and provided much inspiration. I would have taken more photographs of them but was too busy trying not to fall off the mountain!

BF persuaded me (the boy is a genius...or a hypnotist) to take the detour climb up to Luxmore’s summit which lies a mere 1472m above sea level and although I was very nervous of what I saw as a steep, unsteady path, full of rocks just waiting to slip from under our feet and send us hurtling down the mountainside, I did it and the view was great, er I mean awesome (remember you're a kiwi now)! After the obligatory photos we stumbled back down to rescue our backpacks from the cheeky Kias who were attempting to demolish them.

The path levelled for a while after this which was pleasant and gave us time to peruse the fauna. Gorgeous purple heather, bright green tufts of grass amongst the stones, perfect white mountain daisies, delightful moss as bright as any you’d find in a fairy-tale, covered with tiny red and white flowers – I’m gushing I know, but it was just perfection up there!

I’d been quite nervous (what, me, nervous, no!) about walking along the Forest Burn Saddle as there were warnings about strong, sudden gusts of wind that weren't afraid of blowing you off your feet and carrying your unfortunate frame away down into the valley to be pecked at by the Kias (I made that last bit up, but there were warnings). However, this turned out to be one of my favourite bits of the track. And when we stopped for lunch over looking the fiords, surrounded by blue mountains, glass-like water below, I was in heaven.

Lunch with a view
Heaven soon faded as we passed the Hanging Valley shelter and started to descend into the valley itself. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery was still awesome, the flora still delightfully floral and the sun kept on shining comfortably, but the agony of the steep descent, particularly down the long series of steps built into the mountainside was almost too much for my poor knees to bear. I suffered along until we eventually hit the forest again and breathed a sigh of relief feeling sure it would not be long before we’d come across the Iris Burn hut. Oh, how wrong I was.

The next few hours were probably the longest of my adult life. Not only was the path a constant zigzag down into the forest (agh! The frustration of feeling as though you are trundling around in circles, never getting any closer to ground-level was almost unbearable! I was trapped in an optical illusion of the perpetual descending forest) but my knees had just about given up and refused to suffer any more weight on them for longer than 5 steps at a time. Thus the descent was prolonged further as I had to stop frequently to scream internally and give my poor joints a break. And I swear the path is soooo much longer than the DOC (Dept. of Conservation) signs indicated. It’s funny how at the top of Mount Luxmore the signs indicate a 5-6 hour walk to Iris Burn but when you finally get to the bottom the sign from Iris Burn to Mount Luxmore says 7 hours! Hmmmm, go figure!

Through the forest we trudged, down one zig, down a zag, down another zig and so drearily on into the subdued depths. Suddenly, as we came around another tiresome zag, we spied something strange leaning against a tree. On closer (but not too close) inspection, we discovered a shovel and pick axe (okay, well maybe it was just 2 shovels). How strange, we thought, looking at each other curiously. Whoever would leave such items lying around this quiet forest? I naturally imagined a mad man who lived in the woods and preyed on weary trampers who dared to pass through his domain. I imagined him watching us from up above, smirking to himself as we walked innocently into his trap. I imagined the sharp cackle that would emanate from his dry, rasping throat as he pounced down upon us with his – I stopped imagining as we stopped dead in our tracks. Ahead of us a strange and undoubtedly fearsome creature appeared. Dressed head to toe in a khaki outfit with long woollen socks and large boots befitting a woodland creature, it whistled a tuneless tune as it worked away at the ground. For a moment I was convinced we had come across one of the seven dwarfs and wondered whether Snow White was hidden somewhere in the forest too. Venturing closer (how brave we were) we discovered that this khakied creature was in fact a DOC Warden clearing out the overspill sections along the track.

My astonishment was no less than if he had been one of the seven dwarfs. How could anyone be working so hard out here in the heat of the forest where I struggled to keep upright with my backpack and savaged knees! I had utter admiration for this man. He put down his shovel to say hello and let us pass. We asked hopefully if it was much further to the hut. “Erm, well” his screwed up his face looked away and we took this to mean “Yes it’s further, much, much further, you’ll never make it, give up now you fools!”

Along the rest of the way my darling BF kept saying helpful things like “oh look there’s the mountain stream; that means that we must be almost at ground-level.” I believed him, until the 3rd time he said it when I began to get suspicious. We did eventually reach a point that seemed to be at ground level and the cool river looked so refreshing and inviting and my legs were so hot and broken, that I persuaded BF to stop for a break and a foot bathe. It was just as delicious as I’d imagined, so soothing to tired feet. Quite possibly the 2nd highlight of the day.

15 minutes later, the whistling dwarf / DOC warden passed by with his shovel over his shoulder so we thought it was probably time to get going. Like fools we thought it would only be about another 40 minutes tops to get to the hut. An hour and a half later, we arrived at the Iris Burn hut exhausted and relieved.

There were no hot baths or showers to revive our aching limbs but after a long sit down whilst BF prepared dinner (he’s a good boy! / he made me do this trek, he damn well ought ‘a make dinner for me!), we set out on the 20 min walk to a waterfall which was not amazing but a good enough excuse to stretch the legs before they ceased up all together.

Stay tuned. The next thrilling instalment of the Kepler Track will follow shortly and maybe some more pics if you're lucky.

.......and so on and so on


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