Wanaka and back again: A holidaymaker’s tale

So folks, here’s a not so quick update on what we’ve been doing recently.

We’ve been staying mainly in the Wanaka/Queenstown area, we’ve basked in scorching summer heat, had entire days washed out with torrential rain, walked in countryside that took our breath away, hiked small hills taller than Mount Snowdon, witnessed the beauty of the Milford and Doubtless Sounds, flown around the Southern Alps, thankfully avoided New Zealand’s third strongest Earthquake and started applying for jobs.

So it’s been pretty quiet really.

First off we took a trip out of Wanaka to walk the Rob Roy Glacier Track, which was just maddeningly picturesque. Driving through nine fords on one of New Zealand’s seemingly infinite unsealed roads, surrounded by mountains was incredible enough, but the walk was utterly gobsmacking. 

The drive was soundtracked by Godspeed You Black Emperor – particularly well suited to our surroundings was the track Pleasantry Or Light Inside Of Light – and those of you that know that band will get a fair idea of the scale of the scenery from that.

The walk, our first real bit of walking since we got here, was glorious and at the top we were greeted by waterfalls and a glacier sitting on top of a quite majestic wall of rock.

While visiting Queenstown we took a jet boat ride up Skippers Canyon, which was great fun. Travelling at about 80kph, on just 6 inches of water, doing power slides and 360s, skimming close to the canyon walls, it was hugely impressive to see the control that the guys steering the boat had.

If that wasn’t white knuckle enough then taking a bus ride along what we were told was one of the top three most dangerous roads on the planet to get there and back would have done it for most people. The road was built in the late 1800s when the goldrush came to New Zealand, and not much has changed about it since. A really, really enjoyable afternoon that.

That night, a huge earthquake struck Kaikoura. We were completely oblivious to it in our Queenstown campsite, about 500km away from the east coast. Sleeping through, we felt nothing, as did everyone else in this part of the country. The first we knew about it was at 6am when we woke up to see countless messages from family and friends asking if we were ok. 

The day took on a strange and slightly solemn atmosphere of empathy and concern from then, as is the way with these sorts of disasters. While two people died in the quake, it’s a testament to New Zealand’s preparedness and processes that casualties from the quake and potential tsunamis were not higher than that. It’s just sad that while Christchurch is still recovering from its own earthquake just a few years ago, Canterbury has yet more destruction to content with.

If the earthquake reminded us all of the earth’s unstoppable power to destroy, our trip to Milford and Doubtless Sound showed its equal ability to create unparalleled beauty.

The previous day we had intended to go to take a trip over to Glenorchy, another beautiful spot the opposite side of Queenstown, but torrential rain got the better our plans and after one very wet drive and a stay overnight in a pub car park, we headed to Milford Sound in search of some better weather.

The drive down the Milford Road was sensational, despite the heavy rain showers. The breaks in the cloud provided tantalising glimpses of the monstrous mountains flanking our passage coast wards. 

Meanwhile the Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot, kept us entertained during our lunch break, desperately meowing outside our van, imploring us to feed them.

At the end of the road, we were blessed with sunny intervals and the glorious sight of Milford Sound unveiled itself to us. We’ll be back here again during our Milford Track hike, but it was wonderful to see it in decent weather.

The next day we took a boat trip down the nearby Doubtless Sound. In what is becoming something of a theme on this trip, I was lost for words, just gawping at the scenery with amazement, like some kind of hypnotised goldfish.

From there we headed black to Wanaka, a small town that we have sort of fallen a bit in love with. So much so we’ve applied for jobs there and are seriously considering of basing ourselves here for the rest of our time in New Zealand.

With such treats like Mount Aspiring National Park, the Fiordlands and Queenstown on the doorstep, and all the hiking and skiing you could hope for, why would we want to be anywhere else?

We’ll see what happens, but between the Rob Roy Glacier Track, hiking up Roy’s Peak (500m taller than Snowdon) and taking a scenic flight around Mount Aspiring, we’ve had a pretty good introduction to the town. 

Photos of the views from Roy’s Peak and our flight are below.

As usual, we’ll try and upload Steph’s photos of the things mentioned in this blog soon.

We start our three day hike along the Routeburn Track on Wednesday 23 November, shortly followed by four days on the Milford Track so we’ll probably be in touch again in very early December. Providing we don’t drown in the absolutely appalling rain that is forecast for our walks.

It’s just like being at home.

3 thoughts on “Wanaka and back again: A holidaymaker’s tale

  1. HinSteph and Stephen. Looks absolutely incredible. Puts mine and Tony’s trip to Arne last week in perspective. It will be hard to come back to normality!.It looks like it’s living up to all your hopes. Look forward to keeping up with the trip.Best wishes Ben.x.


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