Let’s get it out up front. Some people are masochists; either that, or plain stupid (or more kindly – very determined)!
We had heard of the famous “Luxmore Grunt” from friends who do lots of walking whenever they are on holiday. I wouldn’t call them serious hikers (or trampers, as they are commonly known in New Zealand), but keen day-walkers. They keep a book listing all their completed walks, which they respectfully call their “Alzheimers Book” in case they forget which walks they’ve done.
The “Luxmore Grunt” is a mountain running event sponsored by the Asics sports shoe company and is run each year in December. The full race runs over the complete 60 km of the Kepler Track (another of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”), a circuit that starts and ends at the control gates outlet of Lake Te Anau. Part of the track between Brod Bay on the lake shore and the Department of Conservation operated Luxmore Hut is normally a 4 1/2 hour, 8.5 km one way walk, and part of that rises from lake level (210 meters) to the hut at 1085 meters, the first 3 1/2 hours of which is steeply uphill. The course record for the full 60 km Kepler Challenge is 4:37:41 for men, and 5:23:34 for women! For the Luxmore Grunt from the control gates to Luxmore Hut and back (27 km) is 1:52:30 for men, and 2:04:18 for women!
With only part of this knowledge available we set out to walk the return trip to Luxmore Hut, on the day after dropping our son and his wife at the start of the Routburn Track. Starting at the Lake Te Anau control gates at 9.45 am we thought we had plenty of time to complete the walk, given the long evenings experienced in this part of the country during summer.
Following the lake shore we made our way to Brod Bay which, according to the walking guide was a gentle hour and a half walk through forest of mountain and red beech. The problem when two people walk with cameras is that time gets stretched out – one and a half hours turned into two.
Knowing we had a steep climb ahead of us, we stopped for an early lunch to fuel us for the next stage of the walk. With energy levels duly topped up we set out on the climb, gentle at first, but then into an unrelenting 750 vertical meter grind. About one third of the way into the climb we glimpsed a view of the Te Anau township across the lake through the trees.
Onwards and upwards for another hour we reached a limestone bluff, a suggested lunch stop in the walking guide. Having already eaten lunch, we stopped anyway for a drink and some trail mix. Hikers making the downward journey informed us there was still another hour before the track cleared the treeline, so back into the grind we trudged.
Finally, four and a half hours after leaving the car we emerged from the forest onto alpine meadow-land. The immediate reaction was one of relief. After catching breath the scenery came into focus.
There before us were panoramic views of the Te Anau Basin, Takitimu Mountains, and the Snowdon and Earl Mountains. We never did reach Luxmore Hut. It was another 45 minutes further up the hill. That didn’t really matter as we achieved what we set out to do, which was to get a high alpine view of the lake, township, and surrounding mountains.
Being late in the afternoon we needed to commence our return journey after only a short rest.
Long stretches of downhill walking are very tiring. After a long day of walking legs turn to jelly. It was tempting to stop on reaching Brod Bay, but we were still ninety minutes away from the car. Switching to auto-pilot and brains into neutral we stumbled our way to the car park and collapsed into the car, ten and a half hours after setting out. Back to the motel we drove, dived into a hot bath, grabbed some food for a quick dinner and fell into bed, exhausted!
The Luxmore Grunt had lived up to its reputation.
(Click on images for a larger view)
After dropping our intrepid walkers at the start of their rain-soaking three day walk of the Routeburn Track, we decided to have a walk of our own before setting out on the journey to Te Anau. At the end of a small gravel road near the Routeburn Shelter there is a swing bridge that marks the entrance to the Sylvan Lakes Track. The rain was steady, but light as we set out across the bridge. Already swollen from the overnight rain, the river below the bridge heaved its way over boulders in the river bed in a tumultuous journey towards Lake Wkakatipu.
As we entered the rain forest the rain began to get heavier. The ground underfoot was already soaked with water and the track had become an endless series of puddles connected by islands of slightly higher ground. It was no use trying to keep your boots dry – may as well splash on regardless.
A walk in a rain forest, in the rain, is magical. Overhead the green canopy glistens and the moss on the ground is almost luminescent against the fallen and decaying leaves on the forest floor. Wetness turns the tree trunks almost black, speckled with green lichens clinging to their bark.
Scattered across the forest floor are branches that have fallen as a result of past storms, now decaying and acting as host to more lichens and mosses.
Thunder was starting to clap overhead and the rain became even heavier. Camera gear was getting wet. The temperature was dropping. It was time to retreat and head back to Glenorchy and a nice cup of hot coffee and a bite to eat.
(Click on images for a larger view.)