A 4 day circular walk of 67kms, bush forest walk alongside Lake Te Anau then a climb to and along a superb alpine ridge, long descent and more bush forest valley walking past Lake Manapouri. Varied and beautiful scenery and some good large huts and a quality track.
The walk can be shortened considerably by taking transport across the lake at the start and/or a bus back at Rainbow End, the road end 1.5hrs beyond the last hut. But why would you want to do that? Not us. Huts have to be booked in advance. We booked the day before at the DOC centre in Te Anau, cost about 20NZ dollars a night, 3 nights for 50 dollars. A lot of trampers miss the last hut (Moturau) and walk out to Rainbow End for transport back. We would recommend that you stop here, it's a lovely location by the lake and you may be rewarded by a good sunset as we were. For 5 dollars we took transport to the control gates from the Te Anau motor camp as we would be walking this lakeside path on the return. Pay a visit(free) to the Te Anau Wildlife Centre by the lakeside path
DAY 1...to Mt Luxmore Hut
A cool and mainly cloudy day, windier and colder higher up. Shuttle bus to track start proper by the Lake Te Anau control gates..walking by 10:00hrs. Easy forest lakeside walking to Brod Bay (1hr) then graded climb to bush edge past towering limestone bluffs..good rest spot here. Open hillside and great views across lake and to mountains. Mt Luxmore hut at about 1100' sits in a superb situation - sleeps 60, about 30 of us tonight, flush toilets and gas cookers. Pat the warden is 76yrs old, works 7days on and 7 off, she had just come back from cleaning the ridge shelter toilet, 2 hrs away. Side trip to view some caves..take a torch as you can go quite a way inside. Fact: there is an annual Kepler Challenge race, winner last year did the circuit in less than 5hrs!!!
Murchison Mtns/Lake Te Anau
DAY 2...to Iris Burn Hut
Ridge after Mt Luxmore
Final ridge section before descent
Cold,very windy on the ridge and some rain, full waterproof gear on. Some people didn't have proper gear, wrapped up in bin liners, crazy or what? This is an alpine region, you can get snow in summer. Pity about the weather as this is the best section for views. Abandoned our plans to go up Mt Luxmore at 1471' Didn't leave until after 10:00hrs, waiting for weather to improve. More ascent to about 1400' , misty views, good graded path. Forest Burn shelter after 1.5 hrs - a welcome spot out of the wind. Undulating ridge walk, steep sides but always safe. Some great views in between the mist before the next shelter - this section would be superb in clear weather! Toilet door blown off - Kea parrot stuck down the toilet...honest! We heard later that it got out. Long 1,000' descent, 80 to 100 hairpins before we got to the Iris Burn hut in the bush, about 6hrs today. Lots of sandflies here. Helicopter landed, technician came in to mend wardens radio, fixed it then he left, then shortly after the radio failed again..its the same the world over! Cost 200NZ dollars for the flight. Warden here works 10days on then 4 days off.
DAY 3...to Moturau Hut
Iris Burn Valley
On the beach by Moturau Hut
Brighter day, some sunshine but mainly cloudy. Lovely sunny evening. Track mainly follows stream down valley through bush forest (some lovely sections) and open areas. Easy walking, less than 6hrs. One area called the Big Slip - major rockslide in 1984 destroyed all the trees. Fact: did you know that beech trees die after 100days if their roots are submerged in water. Picnic bench outside DOC workers hut for our lunch, hurried because of the sandflies! Lakeside walking to finish, hut in lovely location. Knowledgeable relief warden, Cathy from the UK - story of how local people stopped Lake Manapouri being expoilted by proposed hydro scheme. Lake Manapouri is the 2nd deepest at 444' Driftwood fire on the beach, beautiful cloud formations and sunset. Only about half of the group from Iris Burn hut stayed here, the rest walked out and missed a treat. One group arrrived late, having walked from Mt Luxmore hut in one day - about 36kms!! Pleasant walk round to visit Shallow Bay Hut and a walk back along the beach, only possible because of the low water level.
DAY 4...to Te Anau
Forecast was for heavy rain but all we got was sunshine and cloud and warmth. Easy walking through forest, a wetland area then following the River Waiau back to control gates being following the lakeside path back to the campsite. About 5hrs - tired at the end, we had run out of food again. Better planning required next time.