Thursday, March 6, 2014

New Zealand Day 20: We Wanna Get to Wanaka!

The view out the window of our campervan this morning was, if anything, even better than last night.

I really wanted to come dashing into the van shouting “The beacons of Minas Tirith are lit!  Gondor calls for aid!”

However, I refrained since I thought Brynna (having not seen LOTR yet) would not appreciate being awoken in such a manner.

So, Pleasant Flats is an extremely pleasant place to camp if you ever find yourself stuck on the Haast Pass. $6 for adults, $3 for kids. Sweet as, as the Kiwis say.

Once we put ourselves together and resumed our journey, we continued with some of the nifty side stops on the Haast Pass. First up was Fantail Falls, where Alex demonstrated his rock skipping expertise:

Then came the Blue Pools, which were actually signed as 30 minutes round trip, a bit more than the whole group was up for. B stayed in the van schooling M & Deen in UNO and Alex and I took a quick jaunt down. There were a couple of swingbridges over the clear blue water…

…which houses a couple of varieties of trout. Big ones, too! The fish we saw were about two feet long. I guess that’s what happens when there is a fishing ban.

Then we continued on into Wanaka. I made a quick stop at the iSite to ask about a hiker shuttle for the following morning and then we checked into our campsite. After carefully reviewing the options and reading reviews and so on, I’d selected Aspiring Campervan Park. It was a bit expensive but got fabulous reviews and had free unlimited wifi, so I went for it.

The first order of business was to call Alex’s mom and wish her a happy birthday! We were hoping to videochat but discovered, to our dismay, that the free unlimited wifi was in fact drastically limited by upload/download speed. So we had a nice phone call instead.

Next order of business was laundry. We are traveling with about three days worth of clothes and in order to do all the laundry, I had to run around in a tank top and running shorts despite the cloud and chill!

While the wash was in, I tried to figure out the best way to get to our planned hike for the next day, the Rob Roy Glacier Valley. As part of this, I called the DoC Visitor Center for Mt. Aspiring National Park and heard an extremely gloomy forecast for the next two days, topped off by talking to an actual human rather than the recorded forecast, who referred to the upcoming weather as “appalling.” Rats. It was becoming clear that we’d missed our window—we should be out doing this hike right now, and if we hadn’t gotten trapped in the Haast Pass, we would be. Arrrgh!

We gave some brief thought to setting out at that moment to do it (it’s only a half day walk), but clouds were already looming and the main pleasure of the walk is the view.

So instead, we went to visit a winery! The Rippon vineyard was about three minutes up the road and had the big advantage (to me) of producing Reisling, among other varieties.

Brynna wasn’t too impressed by the tasting room—here she is playing Sudoku with Deen—

…but the rest of us had a ball.

We tasted, I think, eight different wines. The first was a type I’d never heard of—mainly because it’s extremely rare, with only three vineyards growing it: Osteiner.

It was a lovely white wine that we all enjoyed very much, and we ended up purchasing a few bottles to take with us.

We also tried another white which was a blend of a couple of different grapes, three Pinot Noirs including a jeunesse (from only the vines less than 12 years old or so), a mature (from the older vines), and a special Pinot Noir from a specific patch of grapes with a slightly different soil.

Then it was time for the Reislings! They had three types of that, as well: a jeunesse (which I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would), a mature (which I liked very much), and a Gewurztraminer (which I also liked very much).

The views from the vineyard were stunning, looking out over Lake Wanaka:

After our tasting, Alex and I were desperate to do some kind of walking. We decided to go up Iron Mountain, Wanaka’s town hill, and persuaded my dad, and eventually B, to accompany us.

The walk was a pretty short but pretty steep trail, full of all sorts of people—dog walkers, trail runners, other tourists, and so on. We went clockwise from the carpark and were on top in under an hour.

The views started pretty early:

Here's B leading the charge:

The views were delightful in every direction.

This is right about the time that I decided that I wanted to move to Wanaka.

We even got a sneak preview of Puzzling World’s big maze from above:

Eventually we snacked and photo-ed ourselves out…

…and headed down. I persuaded everyone to carry on with the loop, which turned out to be dumb. If you are ever there, don’t do that. Start clockwise, and go straight back down to the car park the way you came up. The rest of the loop was both longer and much, much duller in terms of views.

We went to The Spice Room for Indian food for dinner, and it was delicious.

Once back at the campsite, we fought a bit with the bad wifi, and I had a shower in the very, very nice bathroom. I also tried to re-jigger our itinerary now that it appeared that the next two days were out for the hike we wanted to do.

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