The town of Wanaka feels like a big resort with no shortage of hotels and campgrounds, bars and restaurants. All of them around a pretty lake, which is the perfect stop after a long day of hiking. And that, the hiking, is precisely what makes this place a very special one.
It is easier with Riesling
Since we had such a blast in the wineries of Margaret River and South Australia, we thought it would be rude not to get acquainted with New Zealand’s finest grape, Pinot Noir. Some say that, apart from great wines, Rippon Winery offers the best views of Wanaka, and that is something we wanted to judge for ourselves (both the wines and the views).
Yes – that is pretty good indeed. They also offer a great wine tasting experience. Full of passion and with plenty of details about the winery, the grapes and the soil. We did not fall in love with their Pinot Noir. However the Riesling was a different story. A bottle of wine with some local cheese and homemade chutney. Hmm, sounds good to me.
Not far from the winery, Rocky Mountain stands as one of the easiest hikes in Wanaka. Perfect for an afternoon stroll – and a good reason to avoid ordering a second bottle! The summit is just a few hours away from the starting point. It was windy up there but the sun was glorious.
There is another advantage of clear skies, the stars. With a zillion of them in the sky we went to sleep, thinking about the days ahead and remembering the views from today.
To the roof
One of thoughest one-day hikes in Wanaka, Roys Peak, does not look very special from the road. There are no forests, no wildlife and no glaciers here. So what is it? What makes it so special?
Perhaps it is the four hours of non-stop zigzagging up the mountain on a steep path with nothing but a few sheep to break up the monotony. Our legs were a bit wobbly by the time we had the first glimpse of the summit. But what a sight that was – in the distance, to the left and some one thousand metres below, the town of Wanaka looked insignificant compared to the size of the whole valley. I think I understand now.
That must be it. The views behind us were not to be missed either. To the left, the Southern Alps with Mt Aspiring towering above every other peak.
To the right, the immensity of Lake Wanaka, stretching as far as the eye can see and more. The summit was an unforgettable place indeed.
Back at the carpark, the waters of the lake invited us in and we could not refuse. Our legs were grateful for the cold bath and the feeling of achievement was intensified after a nice cold beer and another night of romantic stargazing.
Blue, it is blue
Wanaka had been on our wish list even before we left London, about eight months ago. And the place lived up to the expectations. The start of our last hike in the area was in the heart of Mt Aspiring National Park, at the end of a bumpy and beautiful gravel road.
On the way, cows, bulls, sheep and deer. And mountains, hills and plenty of creek crossings. Sixty kilometres later we arrived at the car park and set off to conquer the Rob Roys Glacier Track.
Autumn brings yellows and greens to the mountains and with breathtaking views of the national park one can’t help but sitting down and try to take it all in. The blue skies were gone, but it did not matter.
All of the sudden, the path turns inside a lush beech forest. It is vibrant green and dense, but at times the trees agree to make some room so that you can admire the views. Up there, just below the clouds, there is a glacier, blue, spectacular, with waterfalls and all.
Eventually, the forest gives way to rocks, and the beauty of the glacier can be appreciated even more. No hard feelings towards the clouds, just respect for mother Nature.
A cable car at 143 metres above a mighty river – what??