Australasia | New Zealand | South Island | Wanaka – Wanaka
Friday morning and the Queenstown survivors head off to Wanaka, on a 50K road which takes and hour and a half – trust me it was windy. On recommendation I had chosen to stay in Wanaka for the weekend. Before parting company we visit Puzzling World a couple of kilometres out of the town. This was a bizarre activity place (most bizarre by its location I think) dedicated to optical illusion and the like. Between the room on a 15 degree slant and the maze it was probably just all a bit too early in the morning to be fully appreciated! After photos by the bus I said good bye to all and was dropped off at The Purple Cow youth hostel (probably some reference to the Milka cow I suppose). I knew straight away that this had been sound advice (all from the women’s magazines real life journalist Anna Id met in Christchurch, yes those stories do really happen). Wanaka is built round a lake with glacier scenery and the hostel had huge windows from the reception and dining room which meant whatever you were doing you couldn’t help but look out on this golden vision. After my hectic week in Queenstown it was just what the doctor ordered. Funnily enough about 10 minutes after Id checked in Kevin walked in. He said hed been in the supermarket getting supplies before the next stop and he looked around and asked himself why he was rushing through such a beautiful place. He also confessed to being exhausted from the weeks activities so I was rather relieved to find out that it wasn’t just me who felt like an altakakker!
I had meant to a sky dive that afternoon but it was too windy so I postponed it till Sun morning. Meanwhile I took a bike ride on Friday afternoon out to one of the bays where I sat and chilled. On the way I rode past some amazing houses and quite a few building sites. By the extent of activity it would seem that some land had just recently come up for sale. Forget what they tell you in Bushey or even Boring Wood. Trust me, this is real prime location. Any noisy neighbours, ehm, the seagulls?
Enough energy exerted, I made my way back to the hostel and concentrated on lazing, sleeping, eating and reading, occasionally chatting to others I met in the hostel. I did actually venture out for a walk in the afternoon along the other side of the lake to my bike ride. Here I discovered a very nice hotel, which I would recommend to the more senior of you who are probably not up to youth hostels however nice the view!
All this rest and calming karma meant that I was in a great mood Sunday morning to do what Id been wanting to do all my visit – a tandem skydive. Although Id wanted to do this in Taupo which was cheaper and higher I was happy to sky dive over Wanaka as it meant I could see the deep blues, golds, browns and greens from the sky and it really sealed my Wanaka experience. Jumping from 9000 feet may sounds terribly heroic but to be honest its all tandem and you are basically just an appendage to someone-else whos done thousands of these jumps before. I was actually quite surprised as to how unfazed I was. There was another instructor and girl who jumped from the plane before us and before I knew it I was there hanging out the plane goggles down smiling at the camera on the wing in cool banana position and ready to jump. The 30 seconds of free fall was a bit heart racing, G-d knows how I was supposed to have breathed through my nose, but once the parachute came out it was just a wicked way to see more of the country.
Of course I couldnt hear much of the country for the next few hours but that didn’t seem to matter. Back on the Magic bus I met up with Kevin and Dianne. Dianne had gone on an overnight to Milford Sound and so was catching up with us now. She wasn’t too well but chose to move ahead anyway as it was her birthday the next day and she wanted to be with people she knew. We made our way down to Fox glacier via the Haast pass and a stunning bridge over a deeply stirring valley chocca with dark green foliage and 30 m waterfalls, appropriately named Thunder Creek Falls. On the bus I appreciated my temporary lack of hearing as we had a new driver who did not know of Joseph or our AOR preferences for music preferring to blast rap instead. Last stop was at Lake Matheson for sunset which is the most famous of the mirror lakes, literally lakes that are still and clear enough to accurately reflect everything above them, in this case, guess what — incredible mountains and foliage!
By the way its true that you dont hear too much about the Maori on the South Island as the original settlements were mostly North Island focussed. However there are all kinds of Maori legends explaining how mountains terrains ended up where – stories of marriages and betrothals and wars betweens mountains which suddenly make all those stories about the biblical legends of God visiting and talking to all the mountains before choosing Mount Sinai sound quite normal!