day thirteen: october 12, 2015: nevis drive + remarkables drive + arrowtown + corne/jeff
We had a pretty relaxed day today - no hikes, just scenic drives - The Nevis and The Remarkables. Oh, we did stop by AJ Hackett's Kawarau River Bungy Jump, just to watch.
Back to the scenic drives - The Nevis is the highest drivable mountain pass in New Zealand; The Remarkables, the highest public-access road. Not really sure what the difference is but both took us on steep inclines (our camper doesn't seem to be a fan of these), over and around hills, to pretty good views. The weather wasn't that amazing, so we could only imagine how awesome the views would be on a clear day.
We asked our friend Jay where we could find the best (savory) pies and he recommended Arrowtown Bakery in a small town called Arrowtown. It's a small, historic gold mining town just outside of Queenstown. And the pies, were AWESOME. If you're ever somewhat in the area, you should definitely stop by!
Later that day, we met up with a friends' parents at their home in Queenstown. We actually met Corne and Jeff, and their daughter, Riki, at a wedding in Mexico about four to five years ago. It was a nice time and we got to sample some Otago wine from the local wineries.
We ended the night freedom camping back at Windy Point up on the Remarkables Road. Thankfully that spot wasn't too far up the hill, but it was true to it's name, windy.
day fourteen: october 13, 2015: mt. cook + hooker valley track
We said goodbye to Queenstown and decided to detour back to Mt. Cook to do the Hooker Valley Hike. We missed out the first time because of weather and I had seen someone post awesome photos from it during the week and one of our Queenstown friends told us we HAD to go back. Since we had the flexibility to do it, we drove 3 hours to Mt. Cook and needless to say, we were both really happy that we did.
It was a relatively easy hike that had great views of Mueller Glacier and Lake, Hooker River, the Southern Alps, and Aoraki Mount Cook. Once we made it over three swing bridges and 2.5km, we arrived at the glacier lake with Hooker Glacier and Aoraki Mt. Cook in the distance. It was an awesome surprise to see icebergs in the lake too. To our luck and my will, a piece of the iceberg broke off and made its way to shore.
We freedom camped at Lake Pukaki and picked up more fresh salmon sashimi from Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon -- sooooo goood!
day fifteen: october 14, 2015: arrowtown + glenorchy + dart river track
Corne and Jeff suggested that we visit the museum in Arrowtown and check out the Chinese settlement there. We learned that there were many Chinese of Cantonese descent that came to New Zealand during the Gold Rush in the late 1800s. New Zealand was one of the many destinations where they left home to seek their fortune -- other places were Australia, Alaska, and California.
And yes, it was a great excuse to enjoy more pies from Arrowtown Bakery. :)
We did the scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy that offered awesome views of Lake Wakatipu. It was a bit windy and a little scary, since I was the one driving but once we hit the gravel road, it was Jonathan's turn to drive. Once we hit the gravel road, there was a sign that said "Not suitable for large campervans". Of course, I hesitated and Jonathan continued down the road. There were a couple tiny rivers we had to cross and again, I was hesitant...but Jonathan got out each time to evaluate how we were going to cross. Thankfully, we made it perfectly fine! We hiked the first section of the Dart River track that consisted of ups and downs through a forest that led us to Surveyor's Flat. All in all, it was a 12km hike and relatively easy. Gotta work up to that big hike at the beginning of November!
day sixteen: october 15, 2015: glenorchy + queenstown hill + wanaka
While we were in Queenstown, I received a message from a friend who recommended the scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy and told me she would be in Glenorchy too! What a fun surprise!! We worked together at TOMS for a brief stint, traveled to Central and South America together, and are now in the same corner of the world at the same time. It was great to catch up with Katherine and hear about some of her adventures in Glenorchy!
Before making our way to Wanaka, we stopped in Queenstown to do the Queenstown Hill Hike. It was a 5km loop hike, that took us on steep switchbacks through a forest then a clearing at the top of the hill, with views of Queenstown, Ben Lomond Mountain, and the Remarkables. The steeps were a bit tough, but I powered through and made it to the top with no complaint. :) There was also a sculpture at the top called the Basket of Dreams -- not going to lie, I thought it was going to be a bit bigger.
Then, we made one last stop through Arrowtown for more pie from Arrowtown Bakery and Cafe -- Jonathan got Thai Chicken Green Curry and I got Steak and Cheese. Yes, that would be a total of three visits to the bakery, but it was just THAT good.
We needed to power up, do some laundry, and wanted to take a shower, so we decided to stay at Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park and Motel and lo and behold, we found the fastest internet in NZ, and it's free! You honestly can't beat that! We paid for internet the other night and it was slow and we maxed out of it quickly. Yikes!
We biked down to Lake Wanaka to check out the "most photographed" tree and caught it just before sunset. We ended up meeting a lovely gal named Ina, from Australia, and chatted for probably 45 minutes or so....while also trying to get a pic of the tree.
day seventeen: october 16, 2015: rob roy glacier hike
Jonathan decided to wake up before sunrise to ride down to the lake to see the tree at sunrise. The tree wasn't too amazing, but the sky was pretty incredible, as most sunrises are.
We drive 51km outside of Wanaka to Mt. Aspiring National Park to do the Rob Roy Glacier Hike. The drive was fairly easy, until we hit a gravel road that was probably 90% of the drive. It was definitely bumpy and it was definitely loud -- didn't make it easy to listen to the Undisclosed podcast. Any Serial fanatics out there?
It was a 12km hike along the Matukituki River. Within the first 10 minutes, there was crazy wind that definitely was discouraging me to continue. It was like the kind of wind that is pushing on you so hard, that it doesn't even feel like you're moving forward. Of course, Jonathan rallied to continue and said that it wouldn't be that bad once we got into the trees, which was semi-true. We had to cross a swing bridge though and it was pretty scary to see it moving with the wind, but we made it over safely. Once we got to the viewpoint, it was pretty amazing to take in all the different types of scenery in one place.
day eighteen: october 17, 2015: iron mountain + lake wanaka
Today was a bit of a slow start - partly because we both stayed up late watching our shows from back home, Jonathan - The Walking Dead, and me - Scandal. No, we're not caught up but we're trying! So, no spoilers, please!
We did a shorter hike today, 5km total on Iron Mountain. It's known to be more of a hill and a local favorite. Since it's Saturday, we saw a handful of people on the trail, all greeting us with a "Hey" or "How you going". Once we reached the top, there was a 360 degree view of Lake Wanaka, Wanaka Town, and the surrounding areas. It was nice to be able to take our time and relax a bit more than on other hike days.
We picked up a litre of a New Zealand ice cream flavor called Hokey Pokey to enjoy down by the lake. It's vanilla ice cream with small chunks of honeycomb toffee. So yummy - a little too sweet - but definitely yummy!
We spent the rest of the day relaxing by Lake Wanaka and snapping more pics of That Wanaka Tree. The weather was a lot better today so I think we got some good ones below. We stayed until about an hour after sunset to see the stars again.