After feeling like we had pretty much exhausted all our Queenstown walks and the snow was no more it was time to take a trip over to our neighbour Lake Wanaka. I booked the bus as our car finally had given up on us after putting it through it’s paces driving up and down the mountain. Like true trampers with just a backpack full of clothes and food we set off, the bus was a little to big to cross over the crown range so we took the long way round through Cromwell and Dunstan finally ending up at Wanaka. Our bus driver also turned out to be a tour guide so we were highly educated on rabbits, weasels and other pests to the New Zealand landscape!
We had booked a few nights at a hostel and ended up in a private cabin outside which was perfect. One of the main reasons we choose Wanaka was to hike. Inexperienced and some would say not at peak physical fitness but still we were both determined. From the DOC office we had found out that it was 8hours return which just sounded crazy and I was rushing around trying to get myself out of the hostel door. Having no car we had to find a way to the base of this hike, I went to the info centre to be sternly told no! Track is closed for lambing.. Gutted, so out of interest I just enquired where the start was? She pointed on the map and said ‘oh about 8kms out of town, but again don’t go!’ Sorry lady we had a weekend and a mission. (Lambing disclosure-we were super respectful, stood still whenever we saw a sheep and didn’t make any noise as we passed them) so we set off.. 8kms doesn’t seem a long way when you have a paper map, no idea where you’re going and you can touch the two points using your thumb and forefinger.
We were walking along a road that just never ended, no footpath and the mid afternoon sun starting to pick up heat. With the traffic just driving on by we sure looked lost, but we carried on and finally came across the car park. Looks like we had the same idea as a few people as there were cars there and a lonely walker rubbing and resting his sore feet-something that would put anyone off what we were about to do. We climbed the fence and off we went, the track itself is really wide, wide enough for what looks like a vehicle as the whole track is farm land and it’s grassy for the most part which is always good when you’re first setting off.
As we started the climb it was clear that this wasn’t going to be easy, it was steep and relentlessly uphill. Sometimes you wish for a little flat part to catch your breath but no, this track just verticals. The track winds back and forth in a zig zag pattern from the bottom, as you climb views of Wanaka township and more of the lake become visible, don’t get me wrong it is stunning, as far as the eye can see is Lake Wanaka and we made sure to take regular breaks to enjoy the view. About 2/3 of the way up the path changes into more of a gravel road, this is also where it becomes so unclear, you can see the path in front of you but you cant see how it gets to the top, I sat down and pretty much gave up. Stupid me had bought and worn brand new trainers so they were added into the equation of intense foot and leg pain. Some parts the track are that steep I was on my tip toes, hence the new ankle blisters. I was still determined to get to the top, Robbie is just a trooper and only stopped because I was being such a wimp. You climb the final fence and the path thins out and you can feel the end is near, about another 500m and you are there.
My pace defiantly picked up here, I could sense that my legs were about to get a much needed rest. Then there is was, The most iconic shot in Wanaka, 360 panoramic views over the snowcapped mountains. I was so happy we had climbed our first mountain. We stayed at the top for ages taking loads and loads of photos and eating the food Robbie had carried all the way up there. You can see for miles and miles and we chose the perfect day. The sun was shining and the clouds all looked like little poofs of candy floss, I was determined to take photos from every angle and ran around at the top like a crazy person, it’s a good job Robbie is so patient with me as I move him around in various positions to get ‘that’ shot.
The descent is not easier than the climb, but we found a way to protect your knee’s, just run, but run from side to side it made it a whole lot easier and quicker to get down. We were trying to figure out on the way down if we could be bothered to walk back into Wanaka or if we should hitch. When we got to the car par there was a couple waiting for us with the car doors open, we jumped in before they could pretty much ask, they had air-con, we were grateful! After getting back to our room, We were both fighting for the shower and also a lay down but dont sit for to long as you most likely won’t want to get up!
We went for a walk around Wanaka and decided fish and chips by the lake would be the best reward with a view of the mountain we just climbed. The next day we had to check out, Robbie is the king of exploding backpacks, so while he was pruning himself in the shower I spend my time picking up his socks and making sure that all items we arrived with are accounted for. A bakery breakfast was on the cards and then a walk round the lake to find the tree in the lake. A famous tree, aptly named That Wanaka Tree. Robbie did not for a second believe me that it was called this, until we walked and walked some more until we hit a sign pointing us in the direction of… wait for it THAT WANAKA TREE, little victory dance for me!
We sat in front of the tree as a torrent of people made their way to get a selfie with the tree. For a Sunday afternoon we were pretty lucky to get the area to ourselves for a while, we took pictures, danced around and sadly had to say bye to our weekend break. After a short spot of retail therapy we were back aboard our vessel home nursing our sore muscles from the day before.
Our trip to Wanaka was the perfect little getaway and quickly cemented my love for climbing mountains.