The next stage of our journey was something we had been looking forward too since we started our research into New Zealand. We hit the south lakes area with a first stop at Wanaka before heading off to the world renowned Queenstown (world renowned if you are into throwing yourself off/down perfectly solid pieces of ground or out of planes or heading down rapids on inflatibles).
Here comes the rain again Leaving Franz Joseph - Monday 21 November 2011
After a deluge on the day we tackled Franz Joseph, we were hoping for some slightly better weather for the trip down to Wanaka. That was not to be as we immediately drove into battering rain - obscuring the views and making it impossible to stop at the many recommended places on the road.
Every now and then we caught glimpses of what the journey could have been. Bruce Bay was very impressive as the road skimmed the edge of the beach. There were warnings about debris being thrown up onto the road and we could see tree strewn beaches and wild waves out of the steamy car windows. The cloud sat a few hundred feet above the water, giving the whole view an ominous edge.
The road left the coast at Haast. As it headed inland it skirted a wide river bed all the way up to Haast Pass. There were steep cliffs and waterfalls around many corners - very impressive scenery due to the large amount of rain that had fallen in the days previously.
After four hours in the car, the top of Lake Wanaka appeared ahead. The rain and mist blocked the view of the far shores and mountains. The limited view combined with rough waves on the Lake gave the impression that we were at the seaside. The Lake was on our right and cliffs were on our left as we sped round curves in the road towards our destination. There were times when the mountains dropped quickly to flat plains that reminded me of some of the ocean ends of Scottish sea lochs.
Downtown First views of Wanaka
Wanaka is a nice little town. It has the feel of Jasper in Canada. It sits compactly on the shores of the Lake below small peaks to the right and rear of the waterfront and larger ones on the left and opposite shores. There is a good supermarket, excellent cafes, a wide range of restaurants, funky bars and many outdoor pursuits shops.
The rain had died down by the end of the day so we took a little walk along the front before dropping into the Bullock bar for a couple of pints. Three young locals entertained us on the way in. They were standing by an outside fireplace beside the entrance, trying hard to stand up.
Push it! Roy's Peak and Lake Wanaka walks - 22 November 2011
This one was hard - look at the pictures to see what we eventually climbed in the morning. It was an 11km round trip with only ups and downs - no level walking at all.
It was tough to get going as we started upwards through scrubby pasture. The many sheep we met on the way quickly scattered as we approached but I don't think they were scared of us. No, they were embarrassed that they, the cows and the rabbits had covered the path with manure. It was impossible to find a piece of ground not covered in dung. No wonder the Aussies want you to wash your boots thoroughly before they let you in from Kiwiland.
After about 1.5 hours we reached a style with a sign announcing we were entering the Stacks Scenic Reserve. There were no cow pies or sheep drops to contend with now, just much nastier up including one piece that was really lung busting. The angle must have been between 30 and 40 degrees for all of the way.
The views from the top were worth the effort. You could look up and down the ridges that form the Stacks and look down on iconic views of Wanaka. Whilst the sights were enjoyable we ate our packed lunch quickly as it was freezing cold at the top. To combat the cold we accessorised our fashionable hiking gear with our hats and gloves - we looked like the Fun Loving Criminals on a camping trip or the less famous ones on the cover of Band on the Run.
So 5.5km straight up meant 5.5km straight down! Controlling the speed of descent was hard on the leg muscles and joints so we were glad to reach the bottom and the relative comfort of the car. By now we had de-robed due to the warmth of the sun and shelter from the wind afforded by the lower slopes. I watched a family head off up the slope in trainers, t-shirts and shorts and wondered how enjoyable they would find the colder final third of the walk.
We passed the sheep again on the way down including one who kept putting her head into a rock (see pictures). They were finding ice lumps in the rocks so this one had probably discovered a sheep lolly. It was comical as the sheep was so engrossed she was ignoring the bleats of her lamb - time for sheep social services to intervene I think, at least until the ewe is weaned off her ice habit.
After killing ourselves on the morning walk we relaxed by getting a slow puncture fixed on the car. Dropping the car off by the lake we set off for a gentle stroll around the part of town sitting on the right side of the lake. 13kms later (having passed Eely Point on our way to Beacon Point) we were dog tired. The lake walk was lovely though. There were great views across the lakes towards various mountains and mountain ranges.
Accidents will happen
I like the adverts here. From the cheap ones featuring the business owner or spotty Herbert from the shop floor to the full blooded advertising campaigns, they are always entertaining.
My favourite set promotes safer trampolines. The first shot is of the traditional trampoline with a kid in a huge full leg caste and neck brace running towards the trampoline - i.e. scaring people into buying their much safer product.
Apparently, 1 in 3 toys tested in New Zealand are dangerous which will add a little bit of tension to Christmas day. Fair play I say - it gives us a chance to see evolution in practice.
Killer Queen travelling to Queenstown - 23 November 2011
It is not too far from Wanaka to Queenstown. As we travelled down the road we started to see vineyards. Otago (the region that we had entered) is renowned for Pinot Noir and the Gibbitson Valley we passed through is currently one of the top producers of excellent red wine. The vineyards stretched down each valley and were beautifully maintained. They nestled amongst rock and flower covered mountains.
We decided to stop off at Arrowtown for a mooch around the shops and some local walks.
The centre of this old gold mining town is full of historic buildings now occupied by high quality shops and cafes. It felt like Monterey (in California) should do - a town making a living from tourism but not at the expense of its soul.
Not wishing to just do a short walk we combined four into one: the Arrowtown Anniversary Walk, Tobins Track, New Chums Gully Trail and Arrowtown River Trail. The Anniversary Walk is a loop alongside both banks of the Arrowtown River as it flows alongside the Town. Just before crossing back over the river the walk heads up an access road that is Tobins Track. This heads up to a point giving marvellous [new word!] views of the Town, several valleys and Lake Wakatipu.
Heading back down Tobins Track we branched right to head up over the top of the mountain and down New Chums Gully. This was viciously downwards and much trickier than a close to town track should be. The scenery was good though and we were happy that we were at least going downwards. The final stretch followed a water pipe down the river side into the top end on Arrowtown and back to the car park.
Back in the car we drove on for about 15 km, passing through Frankton on the shores of Lake Wakatipu before reaching our next hotel above the lakeside a few kilometres before Queenstown itself.
A, E, I, O, U
I think I have found the vowels that appear to be missing from the Welsh language. The Maori's have stolen them - e.g. mAOrI, wAIAU, kArAmEA. kAIkOUrA. Give 'em back you naughty Polynesians. Mind you it's a good thing that Wanaka has three A's - otherwise I might have used a Vapours song with an oriental title to head this blog entry.
And with that final message I will give you back your valuable time and close this blog entry.
May your dreams be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white.