Hiking and Jetboating in Queenstown

It was with mixed emotions that the Wanaka Crew began to disperse Thursday morning, with all of us checked out of our gorgeous temporary home on Friday.  What an incredible journey blogging has been for all of us!  Who knew that when we all published our first posts, for me back  in June of 2012, we would meet and make such great friends.  The benefits to blogging are many and without a doubt, the best part is the worldwide connections that are made.

This image nipped from Alys’ FB page: Boomdee, Alys, Danella (daughter of Pauline), Pauline, Steve (partner of Joanna), me, Joanna (daughter of Pauline), and Mike (Alys’ husband).

After one last lunch with Pauline, Danella, Boomdee, and Siddy, with this view as the backdrop, I was dropped at my Queenstown Hotel.  It was time to start my solo adventure.

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world, and with just one and a half days to spend there, I had many choices.  Ultimately, I decided to hike Queenstown Hill and, on the advice of Danella, to take a jet boat ride on Lake Wakatipu.

After walking by this gorgeous tree, I began my morning with the now customary Flat White.  I was thrilled to see this Giant Sequoia since I’ve not seen them in California yet.

They Call it a “Hill”

Queenstown Hill is a popular hike for locals and visitors alike despite the moderate to difficult rating.  While only 3k from the trail head and back, it was another 3k on foot to get to the trailhead.  It’s 500m to the summit, straight up hill all the way.  Click on each image in the gallery to get an idea of the steep climb, both on the street and the trail.

Soon enough I entered a magical area of stacked rocks.  I was capitavated and spent a good 15 minutes in peace and quiet, and then added my own rock.  The photography is poor as it was quite dark and I just didn’t capture the stacks well.

I knew that I was near the summit when I arrived at the Basket of Dreams.  Sculptor Caroline Robinson created this piece in 2000 for the Queenstown Millenium project which has  transformed the existing walk into a heritage and art trail.  The ‘Basket’ is near the top of the hill and “is built to lie inside of, eat your sandwich, and imagine. It provides a meeting place, a resting place, a dreaming spaceIts a place to be with others and with the magic of the Wakatipu landscape”.

I began what I thought were the final steps (the basket is right in the middle of this next image).  It is so tiny as seen here.  Then I turned around and saw that I had several more steps to go (see the second image).  Can you see the people on the summit?

Finally! I arrived on the summit and the view is indescribable, at least for me.  I mean, how many more times can a person say “incredible, gorgeous, stunning”?

I sat in complete contentment for a long while.  A woman came up and asked if she could take my photo as I looked so quiet and peaceful.  What a thoughtful gesture as I would not have been able to manage a selfie.

It was difficult to leave this place.  Thankfully, a celebratory beverage and a jetboat ride awaited me.  I enjoyed my Monteith’s Black as I looked back up to the summit.  Can you see it, peaking through the trees?

And then I looked towards the lake.

It was a specatacular day for a jetboat ride!

What a thrill, and even though 60 minutes, not long enough!  My time in New Zealand came to an end all too quickly, despite being there almost 2 weeks.   What a remarkable country!

Now though, it was almost time to get on that plane, and fly to Melbourne.

Historic Arrowtown

** This post, accidentally published as Private, is now available for view as Public **

We took another day trip, this time to Arrowtown, an historic gold mining town about 20 minutes from Queenstown.

Located alongside the gold-bearing Arrow River, the town was established in 1862 by local Maori man and sheep shearer, Jack Tewa (known as “Maori Jack”) during the height of the Otago gold rush. The settlement grew quickly as pioneers constructed cottages, shops, hotels and churches, more than 60 of which can still be seen today.  At the height of it’s popularity, the number of residents of Arrowtown grew to 7000.

Now, with its population at just over 2,000 residents enjoy excellent educational facilities, and a range of quality amenities including, library, museum, swimming pool, internationally acclaimed golf courses, medical centre, a nearby airport, hospital, ski fields, an ice rink, and events centre (this per the Arrowtown website).

With the gold rush long over, Arrowtown focuses on tourism.  Film production, viticulture and farming are also major income earners for the town.

Arrowtown received worldwide attention when The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in and around the local environs.

The temperatures this day felt much more like fall, and we gathered for lunch in the New Orleans Hotel.  Pub style dining, which we encountered frequently, has you ordering your food and drink at the bar, and delivered later by a server.  New Zealanders tend to be more relaxed and this style of dining was welcome. Given our large group, we wrote down our orders and enjoyed our bevvies while we waited. How fun to enjoy Proseco while Merle Haggard played on the radio.

Before heading out in much cooler weather, we enjoyed what I have become addicted to: the flat white.

The Kiwi’s like to joke that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand, and while I’ve seen thousands, I’ve not had the chance to photograph any of them.  These metal sheep will just have to do.

 

I wish I’d had more time to walk along the Arrowtown Riverwalk and learn more of the history.  If I have any regret about this amazing vacation, it’s that there is just too much to see and do, and it’s just impossible to see it all.  I particularly would like to be doing more hiking.

No complaints though.  It’s been an incredible journey so far!

That Wanaka Tree

Over 70 years ago, “That Wanaka Tree” began as a wooden fence post that kept livestock from wondering through the Wanaka Village.

From those origins, a beautiful willow tree has grown.

The signage nearby notes that photographers come from around the world in an effort to capture the beauty of this tree.  Please visit this link to see a photo of a swarm of photographers trying to capture this distinct little tree.

Evidently the popularity of the tree and the desire for selfies is starting to damage the tree.  Per a story on News Hub, Lake Wanaka Tourism is asking tourists not to climb the tree to get photos, after a branch fell off before Christmas.   “The loss of a branch is a big concern as it takes longer for this particular tree to regenerate,” a Queenstown Lakes District Council spokesman told NZ Newswire. “It’s quite a small tree growing in a challenging environment with its roots often completely submerged in alpine lake water.  When bark falls off, which is more likely if people climb on it, the wound can be a focus for decay fungi and other diseases,” he said.

Thankfully, there were only a few others there when Boomdee and I visited, and I definitely did not damage the tree when I took my selfie 🙂  Sadly, the selfie of Boomdee and I, due to the bright sun and the angle at which I held the camera, did not turn out.

New Zealand Wine Tasting

A trip to New Zealand would just not be complete without a visit to a winery, and we were fortunate to have Rippon within walking distance.  No matter the wine, the view alone is worth the visit.

Is that not incredible?  Stunning!

During the tasting we learned that “the winegrowing team’s principal commitment is to the soil. Nurturing a healthy, responsive medium underfoot binds the vines and the people to their land.  Biodynamic farming and no irrigation help the vine drive energy into its seed and issue raw material that is capable of fostering wines that are true to their place”.

My favorite of the wines that we tasted was the Pinot Noir.   The winery also produces a Sauvignon Blanc, an Osteiner, a Gerwurtztraminer, and an Riesling.  Of course, part of the fun of any tasting is the people you are with.

After the tasting, we enjoyed playing with photography,

and hanging out in the Chair for Contemplation.

Finally, with no Designated Driver required, we walked home.

Happiness!

Kayaking Lake Wanaka

On Monday, four members of the Wanaka Crew spent a couple hours kayaking on Lake Wanaka.  What a blast!  Photo credits go to Alys, Danella, and Joanna as I left my camera and phone on shore.  Information about Lake Wanaka was taken from various online sources.

Lake Wanaka covers an area of 192 km2 (74 sq mi) and is New Zealand’s fourth largest lake.  It is estimated to be more than 300 m (980 ft) deep.  The clarity of the water is remarkable, especially to one who is used to the New River and Claytor Lake, which are full of organic matter.  The name Wanaka is Maori and means ‘The place of Anaka’, a local tribal chief.

At its greatest extent, which is roughly along a north-south axis, the lake is 42 k / 26 miles long. Its widest point, at the southern end, is 10 k / 6 miles.  The lake’s western shore is lined with high peaks rising to over 2000 metres / 6500 ft above sea level.

Wanaka lies in a u-shaped valley formed by glacial erosion during the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago. It is fed by the Matukituki and Makarora Rivers, and is the source of the Clutha River. Nearby Lake Hawea lies in a parallel valley carved by a neighbouring glacier.

We rented the kayaks from Paddle Wanaka, and while they did not provide much instruction or information (thank goodness I am not a novice!), they did encourage us to paddle out to Ruby Island.

Ruby Island – photo credit: Me!

We put in along the beach of Wanaka’s town center and paddled past an area of construction.  This tourist town is rapidly growing as evidenced by several new areas of development.

It took us about an hour to paddle out to the island.  Ruby Island has a boat jetty, a picnic table, and even a toilet (the word restroom is infrequently used here).  Our happy group posed in front of the Ruby Island sign.

 

Joanna took this great shot looking back out across the lake to our put in.

Other than a slight sunburn, it was a glorious day on the lake!

Daytrip to Queenstown

With Alys’ husband due to fly into the Queenstown airport, the 7 of us piled into two vehicles and drove the 68k into the city.

Can you guess who my seat mate was?

Along the way, we passed Bradrona, the famous “bra fence of Cardrona”.  The collection of bras started around 1999, when four bras mysteriously appeared overnight on a fence along the Cardrona Valley Road.  It wasn’t until an unknown bra thief began cutting them away under the shadow of the night that the fence gained its notoriety.  Every time they were cut away, even more were added, and the bra count has reached over 7000.  The infamous fence was rebranded to “Bradrona” in 2015 to raise money for breast cancer and $30,000 has been raised by people leaving donations in a box at the site.

What a powerful monument to say the least.  While we did not leave our bras, we did make a monetary donation.

We weren’t on the road long before, unable to resist the incredible view, we stopped at the top of the mountain.

What a thrill and what a chill!

Check out that road down the mountain!

Our first views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu took our breath away!

One of the fun things about New Zealand is the ever present cafe with ourdoor seating.  We found a table and enjoyed the view, the buskers, and the coffee.

A quick walk through the Queenstown Gardens revealed old growth trees, more beautiful views, and quiet time for reflection.

Then it was off to ride the Gondola!

Absolutely incredible!

After oohing and aahing over the view, and taking many a photo, we settled into the lounge for drinks.

Photo Credit Alys Milner and her selfie stick

The clouds began to roll in.  Check out the difference between these next two images.

We took the trip back down and after dinner in the Queenstown city centre, we hit the road for Wanaka.

Tommorow: Kayaking!

Come and Hike Mt Iron With Me

A hike in the hills was on my list of things to do while in New Zealand and on the second morning in Wanaka I set out for the Mt Iron Track.  Located on the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park, the track is a 4.5k / 2.8m walk with a total ascent of 166m /  546.86 ft and has a maximum elevation of 546m / 1,747.64 ft.  Those numbers may not seem impressive but the elevation of Wanaka is only 277 m / 90o ft.  Including the walk to the trail head and back, I logged 16k / 9.9 miles that morning.

This image, taken from a moving car the next day, shows the silhouette of Mt Iron.

Walking in a slight drizzle, I reached the trail head around 9am.  I took the obligatory “beginning of the hike” image (thinking of Karen, the Unassuming Hiker), and set off in the mist.  The women I hike with would have loved the well maintained toilets just around that curve in the first image.

This sculpture, erected in 2012, commemorates the world’s first recorded sheep dog trial, held in 1867.

The hike is a loop trail and the first 45 minutes of hiking are a solid, uphill climb.  Finding myself a bit out of breath, I marveled at the number of people who ran by me as they used the trail as a work out.

Yes, this was the trail in places.

At times the mist would clear, but much of the time the view was shrouded in mist and fog.

I crossed over the stile and saw some hikers coming back down the trail.  Can you see them?

I reached the summit and immediately saw the survey and summit markers.

Clearly the view was obscured but I enjoyed reading the signage and learning the history.

The loop offered different scenery on the way down and I enjoyed viewing the plants and trees.

During the descent, the view became more visible.  I took these images about halfway down.

Soon enough, I was back at the parking lot and started the walk back into town.

My 10 mile morning earned me a well deserved flat white at a nice little cafe.

On to the next New Zealand adventure!