The Road to Wanaka

This morning we woke to misty rain clouds and damp ground out our window. It looked as though the clouds might burn off as the morning progressed, so we kept our plan to hike to the glacier after breakfast.

The entrance to the footpath toward the glacier was just a ten-minute drive from our hotel, but the footpath itself was an hour-and-a-half return. What a beautiful hour-and-a-half it was, though. On one side, steep cliffs with jagged outcroppings and smooth platforms for multiple waterfalls. On the other, a creek bed made by the flow of water from the glacier. Had it not been so cloudy, I feel certain this water would have reflected the sky and been the outrageous blue we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

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The terminal end of the glacier was visible almost the entire hike, the clouds having broken just around it and the sun shining on it like a spotlight. We decided that, in some ways, the view of the glacier walking toward it was better than the view we had at the end. Because of the danger of rock and ice falls, we couldn’t get too close to the glacier without a guide.

On the way back to the car park, the clouds really descended instead of lifting, and we were literally walking inside the fine mist of the clouds. We walked in silence, the only sounds were the running water and an occasional fellow tramper’s morning greeting. It was really peaceful.

After our walk to the glacier, we did a shorter walk to Peter’s Pool, a reflecting pool the family had visited on the last trip and captured an amazing picture. The cloudy day meant the picture was not quite so remarkable, but it still has a loveliness to it.

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Then we were back in the car and back on the road again, going south on 6 toward Wanaka (whan-uh-kuh). This road took us past Fox Glacier, which we unfortunately did not get to see because of the heavy cloud cover. The further south we went, the more the clouds seemed to lift. They were still with us for most of the drive, but they weren’t anything like what we experienced in the glacier area.

The scenery changed so dramatically in the 200-something kilometers we trekked today. One minute, we would be in rainforest, ten minutes later we were at the shore, ten minutes later we were among the mountains. So much variety in such little distance. At times, we were reminded of California, or England, or some other place we’ve been. But, in the end, everything was beautiful in its own right.

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A sweet roadside coffee shop

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One lane bridges like this are pretty common on the roads in New Zealand.

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Mt. Aspiring National Park was the last major sight we saw before getting into Wanaka. The pictures I’ve seen of Mt. Aspiring have it covered with snow, so seeing it in summer was different. There was still a little snow, but nothing like what it sees in winter. The views in this park were pretty unbelievable. Tim said we never get anywhere fast in New Zealand, not just because there are no direct routes, but because we have to stop and admire the beauty so frequently.

Because of our frequent stops, we arrived later into Wanaka. Our lodging at Riverview Terrace is one of our favorites of the trip. James and Nicky, the proprietors, have owned and operated this beautiful place only since June, but they are clearly experienced in New Zealand hospitality. The home (which is exactly what it is) is spacious and beautiful, and the views! Amazing. With only three bedrooms (all with ensuite baths and impeccably designed), you are sure to have every attention paid to making your visit the best possible. After greeting us with tea or coffee, we transitioned to evening drinks with our choice of beers or wine made by James himself. Black Peak wine is actually some of the best we’ve had on the trip (and we’ve had plenty!), and we enjoyed some with the canapés Nicky served to us and the two other guests from New York staying this evening.

Dinner at Relishes in Wanaka was delicious. I feel like we really haven’t made a bad choice for dinner yet. Pork belly, duck, steak… all our dinners were perfectly prepared and presented. We also had garlic and mozzarella bread that was so delicious that we ordered more for dessert. 🙂 Dad got the trio of Wanaka ice creams, and we finally got to try hokey pokey ice cream, which had been the recommendation of our flight attendant earlier in the trip. After having hokey pokey chocolate earlier in the day, the ice cream gave us a different perspective on this national treat (which, we’ve decided, is pretty much toffee). Yum!

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We didn’t get a chance to walk around Wanaka before dinner, and it was dark when we left, so we’ve decided we’ll go back downtown tomorrow after breakfast. We’ll see what else Wanaka has to offer before we move on to our next destination later in the afternoon!

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