Monday, March 10, 2014

New Zealand Day 25: Back to Wanaka!

We woke at our freedom camping site, reached very late last night, to discover that it was actually quite beautiful! 

Then we headed up the road into Wanaka, which I am now referring to as my future New Zealand home. With the return of good weather, Alex and I saw the opportunity to cram in a couple more great hikes before he heads back to the US, and we were all happy to go back to Wanaka. 

We parked the campervan right on the lake in town, where there was an enormous horse show setting up, and left my parents and B to enjoy the town for the day. Alex and I took my parents much smaller van and headed out of town for the Raspberry Creek trailhead—about an hour ("if you are willing to drive fast on washboard gravel," said my guidebook) to the northwest of town. The road went to gravel pretty fast, with this warning:

It was a lovely day, but we had to keep the windows closed because of the dust kicked up by the car in front of us!

Pretty soon, we reached the first ford. Yes, ford.

Luckily the river was low and the van made it through just fine.

Once we finally reached the end of the road in Mt. Aspiring National Park, we set off on the Rob Roy Glacier Valley Track. My Frenzy guidebook called this the second best day walk on the South Island, so we were eager to compare it to our Key Summit and beyond hike two days ago, as well as the Hooker Valley Track at Aoraki/Mt. Cook that we are hoping to do tomorrow.

The views sure started out well!

We headed up fairly steeply through some beech forest. This was our first glimpse of the Rob Roy glacier that we were climbing up towards:

This area was posted as being dangerous due to potential rock fall. You think? We went through quickly and did not end up being crushed by an enormous boulder.

Then we popped out of the glacier and were treated to the view of hanging glacier and waterfalls pouring over the sheer cliffs beneath:

It was a whole glorious ampitheater. 

After having a snack, I laid back on the nice warm rock and almost fell asleep while Alex took pictures. Eventually he got me back up again to get some photos of the two of us. We've graduated from Alex's arm length selfies to the little stick pic device that my dad brought.

I could've stayed there and looked at the glacier and waterfalls and snoozed all afternoon, but we had places to be, so after about forty minutes we got ready to head back. The only thing remotely disappointing about the walk was that I was really hoping to see kea, the sassy alpine parrots of the Southern Alps, and there weren't any in evidence today.

On the way back down we got some photos of these beautiful little purple shiny butterflies that were flitting about the cow pasture, because I thought B would like to see them.

The trail was quite smooth, except for this one obstacle in our way right as we came within view of the carpark again:

She moved out of the way without incident, however, and we carried on back to the van and thence to Wanaka. 

My mom had made a lovely chickpea salad and we had a lovely little picnic on the lakeshore for supper. Part of the entertainment was a paraglider nearby who was on the ground but doing some technique work—kept hoisting his parachute and turning it one way and another (and once, into a tree). 

Then it was time to leave Wanaka again...sad, but we were headed for another spectacular place. I had booked us into the closest full-service campsite to Aoraki/Mt. Cook, about two and a half hours away. After we pulled out of Wanaka, I got a text from my parents in the van behind saying that they wanted to fill up their gas tank before it got dark. 

It turned out, though, that we were headed out into the middle of nowhere. About half an hour later we came across a petrol station, but it was closed and we can't pay at the pump here in NZ because our credit cards don't do the chip-and-pin that is the standard here (and should be in the US, but that's a separate rant). So we continued on up and over a fairly low mountain pass. Night fell, more than an hour passed, and eventually we pulled into Omarama. Everything there was closed, too, but Alex and my dad figured out how to pay using the debit cards with PINs. Whew! I was starting to google for freedom camping sites in case we had to bed down there and get fueled up in the morning.

From there it was less than an hour to our campsite, the Glentanner Park Centre. We found a spot in the dark and then I was up for another couple of hours doing laundry, which we desperately needed. Alex and I didn't go to bed until after 1, though B slept through a good portion of the drive and we just popped her up into her loft bed when we finally parked.

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