This was the day Jan nearly killed a man. We sat in the second to front seats on the coach, Jan was secretly eating some trail mix for breakfast before the coach departed. As we got underway, the driver advised us all of the safety features of the coach, our route and then after about 10 minutes that he had a severe allergy to peanuts and that even the smell of them would make him very ill. Jan was mortified, she clamped her hood over her mouth and sat face covered for the journey.
With every cough or sniff from 'Peanut Pete' she looked over anxiously to make sure he hadn't keeled over or passed out.
The short drive to Wanaka took us through numerous valleys that produced a range of small wineries. The vines were bare but they'd be worth a visit just for the scenery alone. Rolling hills led to mountains dusted with snow, the new morning sky was blue and as the early rays of sun hit the higher peaks they glowed bright orange amid the lower white pinnacles.
A farmhouse sat alone in a shaded part of the valley, wispy clouds hung closely around the building giving the scene a beautiful and spectral quality.
We also passed through the 45th parallel, the halfway point between the equator and the South Pole, it definitely felt a little colder.
We were dropped off on the shore of lake Wanaka, another stunning lake surrounded by mountains and forest. At the end of a short jetty in the crystal clear waters, we watched eels as thick as a dinner plates and at around 2 metres long swim effortlessly alongside enormous salmon as they searched for an easy meal of bread flakes that had been thrown in to feed the local ducks.
The town is a fraction of the size of Queenstown, it's quiet, laid back and unhurried. Everyone days "hello" and sports a genuine smile, life feels pretty good here.
There are plenty of walks around the lake or in the hills of the national park and a bit of boating, the triple cone and Cadrona ski fields were fairly close by and this is what the majority of people come for.
There is also a cool little cinema where you can sit on couches, in cars or plane seats to watch your movie. Adults can have a beer or a bottle of wine and in the intermission, freshly baked hot cookies are for sale which beats hands down the crappy over-cooked popcorn elsewhere. We even heard the occasional clinking of cutlery as people had a proper meal during the film. How very civilised.
As we walked home from the pictures the quietness of the town became apparent, we saw 1 person on the streets, the pubs and restaurants were empty. Some muffled music filtered down to the street from a hostel dorm but other than that there was silence, it was 8:30pm. Our walk took us alongside a small river that earlier in the day, we'd watched salmon swim up stream, jumping over the rocks that were hidden in the churning white water. Tonight, in the dark we could only hear the fast flowing water just a couple of metres beside us.
We did a couple of walks, one of around 18km along the western shore. On high cliff edges we looked down into the reef-like shallows, conifer lined pathways briefly hid the lakeside before bringing us out alongside vineyards protected by spectacular hilly windbreaks. We crossed creeks and brooks, at the lower levels, streams bubbled slowly over the grey pebble creek bed, those higher up flowed quickly through icy tussock-lined banks.
Wanaka has a little something for everyone, for us, we found a relaxing haven, somewhere that life slowed down and we could again amble and chill, while being surrounded by the
stunning backdrop of the lake, hills and mountains. We liked Wanaka very much.