Tuesday 1st of December – Rob Roy Glacier and Queenstown
As for most days, there was no time to waste, we were up early to do one of the hike I was looking for doing since I started planned this trip: Rob Roy Glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park. We stopped first at Lake Wanaka first to enjoy a coffee and to satisfy our addiction to social media and the digital life for a brief moment. Then we continued driving to the west for an hour along the river and the Matukituki valley. We had to took a 30km drive on gravel road traversing several farms, small fjords and creeks with our mighty Hikaru Sulu. The idea of turning back came to our mind, after all we were not driving a 4WD but a car, but this was not a good enthusiastic explorer option, so we continued through the water.
We began the hike at a swing bridge after walking through a valley and farm land. The scenery was already stunning with the snow covered peaks, endless valley with ton of sheeps, beech forest and blue rivers.
The hike itself was very enjoyable and relatively easy. The day was gorgeous and not too hot. There were only very few people doing the walk that day so this made the place even more special. The track climbed along the Rob Roy stream through a magnificent beech forest and changed slowly to alpine vegetation. Arrived at the lower view of the glacier, we had our first glance at Rob Roy glacier. We continued our way to the upper part of the track to get a closer view of the glacier. During winter, this part of the track is subject to avalanche but at this time of the year it was all fine. Arrived at the end, we paused for a good 20min to make sure we enjoyed the splendid and serene atmosphere of the place before heading back down. The whole walking track took about 3h to complete. It was worth every minute.
We drove back to Lake Wanaka to have a late lunch in front of the lake. The clouds were taking over the sky but we were still lucky as it was not raining. We sat down and relaxed at the lake. Few locals were enjoying a swim in the lake. The idea of immersing myself in that cold water didn’t cross my mind at all!
There was a lot of other walks to do in the area but unfortunately we could stay any longer without missing on other great stuff we wanted to do. Therefore, after lunch we continued our way toward Queenstown through the Crown Road Range for about an hour. We stopped in ArrowTown before getting to our destination to check out the old gold mining town and walk around the old settlement.
In Queenstown, we first found a place to stay for the two next nights. We stayed a Q-Box Motor, a caravan/holidays park. This was okay and about 15min walk from the city center which suited our needs. We explored Queenstown and looked out for checking the possible activities and planning the following day. There is a very large list of activities to do around Queenstown, well known as an extreme sport center with the highest bungy jumping in the world and crazy canyon swings. All being very entertaining (and super expensive) we opted for white rafting on the Shotover river and the city sky luge. Several hundreds dollars lighter, we then embarked on a walking tour of the pretty lake front town and then stopped for dinner at a local brewery named “Smiths” and tasted great chocolate stout beer and burgers. One of the very few night out we had in a restaurant in fact!
Wednesday 2nd of December – Queenstown
We started off this full action day with a white water rafting experience on the Shotover river. The sun was already shinning and the sky was clear, great. The bus trip to get to the rafting base took us in a very narrow and winding road through canyons and mountains. Just the single way road itself was an adventure. Remains of gold mining equipment was lying next to the river bed reminder us of the 19th century gold rush era. They left it there for historic purpose. Then, after a short briefing we boarded our raft and started descending the river. The scenery was again spectacular. It was Gabby first time doing rafting so she was a bit unsure of what to expect, but as we started, this apprehension was quickly mastered and joy took place over fear. The river took us through a series of grade 3 and 4 rapids to finally finish with a really nice and long tunnel. It was quite fun, although Gabby tough I would have been more challenging has an experience.
We had lunch at the cafe next to Shotover river. Then we boarded the bus back to Queenstown and took the gondola up to the City Sky Luge. I first saw the luge thing from the great Canadian traveling TV show “Departures” with Scott and Justin and I was looking forward to try that out. We had 3 runs down and it was very amusing and the view was spectacular.
Probably because of all the driving, I was slightly exhausted after all this, so we lied down at the lake front and rested there for a moment, while Gabby was imagining herself trying hand-gliding. For the rest of the day, we simply walked around Queenstown, checked botanical garden and enjoyed the beautiful day. If you ever have the chance, put Queenstown on your bucket list, and make sure you save some money before… 😉
Thursday 3rd of December – Lake Te Anau and Fiordland National Park
We took the road toward Te Anau in the morning where the first part of the drive was quite scenic to the edge of Lake Wakatipu. The clouds covered the sky and soon it started to rain. This was not a great time for rain as today I did plan some great hikes in the Fiordland national park on the West Coast. We reached the township of Te Anau around 11am and we stopped at the visitor center for a coffee and to buy some supply and check what the weather would be for the day. Good new is that there was a chance that the rain would clear out so we decided to continue our way in the national park and try out the RouteBurn Great Walking Track while getting closer to our destination for the coming day at Milford Sounds. I noticed a familiar accent near the café and we met 3 young Québécois. We talked for a little bit and shared with them our plan for the day.
Back on the road, we continued toward our destination but we stopped at many beautiful and colorful site seeing points along the Eglinton River (Mirror Lakes, Walker Creek, etc). It stopped raining and the day was clearing out slowly, which was great when you plan to do a long hike!
Then prepared ourselves to do the Key Summit, Howden Hut and Earland Falls track for a total of about 6-7 hours. We also did meet again with the Québécois and we did a good part of the hike together. The walk started by ascending slowly through the lush and temperate rain forest. Then, the view started to open pass the junction with Key Summit where the forest was leaving it places for a panorama of alpine lakes and Fiordland mountains. This was truly amazing.
Back in the rainforest, we continued our way to Howden hut and then to the Earland Falls. A massive amount of water was falling from the 174m waterwall. I tried to stand in front and take a few good pictures but the force of the waterfall and the wind was just to strong. I was completely wet in less than 10 seconds! We decided to come back after reaching the waterfall as it would be getting late. In fact, we got back to the car park around 8pm, but it wasn’t getting dark until 9:30-10pm!!! How great is it to be able to enjoy long days like this (in Brisbane it is dark at 6:30pm….even in summer)!!!
We only had the drive about 15min to get to the Cascade Creek Camping site for the night. The camp site was quite busy but it was really nice and open, and moreover it was only an hour away from Milford Sound, another superb location where they filmed part of Lord of the Rings. We made dinner quickly while the temperature was dropping as the sun went down. It was probably the coldest night we had that night, around 5 Celcius I would think, but the mighty Hikaru Zulu was all well prepared for that. We simply put an extra sleeping back on and we slept like babies.
You don’t want to travel all the way to New Zealand to witness the beauty of the scenery? No problem, make sure you check out the RouteBurn Track on Google Street View!
To be continued….