New Zealand just keeps on delivering and being amazing! After a dark, stormy day of non-stop rain we left the Milford Sound/Te Anau area and headed over the hills towards Wanaka. Undulating snow capped mountain peaks flank the wide expanse of the Lake Wanaka valley and the ski season is just about to start here. Here in Wanaka, Luca and I are extremely lucky and have „upgraded“ our accommodation, not that the camper van accommodation is in any way bad, but we’ve been able to stay at a friend’s relatives bungalow. That translates to warm showers, a big couch, a fancy kitchen and to top it off: a hot tub! In other words, we’re living‘ it up in Wanaka!
Luca and I spent a very, very cool day yesterday hiking the hills around the lake. A few clouds dotted the sky and thick frost covered the ground and made it crunchy in the morning but we took it easy, had a relaxed breakfast and stopped in town quickly for a very good cappuccino and then drove north out of town on the Mt. Aspiring road that skirts the lake shore. Our goal for the day was Mt. Roy, a 1500m peak above Wanaka town from where you have an incredible panoramic view of the lake and the town. The weather couldn’t have been better and it was warm enough that I hiked in just a T-shirt. It is a steep trail that meanders up through sheep grazing land and the higher you climb the better the views become. Up above some dark clouds started engulfing the peak region but we still had plenty of hiking ahead of us and I kept an eye on the developments up above us as we continued. Two hours into the ascent the trail veered off to the left and the clouds up higher had only become denser so we had a decision to make: continue along the Mt Roy trail and get into the clouds or brandish our own way up to the right to a ridge line that was still under the cloud cover but that did promise a great view? Well, we came for the view so the choice was quickly made. Since we were on farm land, there were plenty of animal tracks so Luca and I started bushwhacking upward, picking our own route. Normally I definitely wouldn’t do something like this, especially not if we had been in any sort of protected area. Short cuts and random trail searching causes unnecessary erosion and creates tracks that aren’t supposed to be there, but here we were treading in places that cows and sheep had already trampled and we weren’t causing any further damage.
Luca had fabricated a rifle out of a long tree branch and climbing up through the thick grass and up the slopes we felt like the Fellowship of the Ring, making its way through Middle Earth. Luca shot the Orks that were chasing us, he had our backs covered, and I picked the route on the Quest for the perfect photo vantage point 😉 Two geeks in their element! We eventually found a sweet spot high up on a steep ridge line with a sweeping panoramic view of the lake, the mountains, the valley and Wanaka below us and had a picknick up there and soaked it all up! So beautiful! As the sun dipped behind the mountains in the distance we packed up and made our way down the slippery, grassy slope, slipping and falling once in a while and with burning legs climbed into the van and cruised back into town. A quick stop at the supermarket later and dinner was sorted and ten minutes later as the sunlight faded away completely and the stars started appearing, we sunk into the hot tub with a drink in our hands. Perfect, nothing but perfect! The best end to a very amazing day.