June 26 - Wanaka
New Zealand - There and Back Again
We woke up this morning to cloudy weather around 8:00 AM. It had rained a little during the night. I slept pretty comfortably as it wasn’t too cold, even though we were warned it may snow during the night. If it snowed, it didn’t snow at our campsite at all.
We had peanut butter and jelly toast for breakfast with milk. We were running low on groceries and needed to get more soon. We didn’t know if we wanted to stay an extra day originally so we only paid for one night. As we were leaving the campsite we had to stop and pay again. Andy went inside and paid. The lady asked what we planned to do today and he said the Rob Roy Hike near Mt. Aspiring. She said it may not be possible to get there and if so we would definitely need snow chains since part of the road is unpaved and at a higher elevation.
We had snow chains, but I didn’t really want to deal with them. Apparently at higher elevations last night it snowed a lot. As we were driving back to town it was frosty everywhere and the mountains definitely had more snow than before. It was really cloudy and looked like it could rain. It was also pretty cold outside.
It was around 9 AM and we didn’t know what we wanted to do for the day due to the news about the road conditions. We went to the visitor center in town for information on hikes in the area and weather conditions.
We went inside and saw a wall of brochures. We looked at those a little bit and picked a few out for future locations we would be visiting. We went upstairs and found a few brochures about hiking in the Mt. Aspiring and Wanaka regions. A guy working behind the counter asked if we needed help with anything.
We talked to him for about 20 minutes about the weather and possible things to do. He said the road to the Rob Roy Hike was most likely impassible. He suggested doing the Diamond Lake hike and a few pull offs on the side of the road. We had already done those the previous day.
He then suggested we drive a little outside of town and do a hike called Sandy Point. The trail was about 2-3 hours one way. For us that meant 5 hours. He thought the weather would be clearer away from town and to the south. It was about 20 kilometers away, back in the direction of Queenstown near Luggate. We also asked him about hikes near the town of Wanaka and a little further up near our next stop, Haast. He knew a little bit, but was more knowledgeable about the Wanaka and Mt. Aspiring regions.
We decided we would go with the Sandy Point hike and walk as far as we wanted depending on the weather and views. We purchased a few of the walking trails maps for Wanaka, Haast, and the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef areas. Usually these brochures would be free, but in New Zealand everything costs money.
We needed groceries and the guy at the visitor center said there was a New World down the street. He gave us directions so we could find it. As we left the visitor center it was still really cold and drizzling rain. We decided rather than try to hike in that weather we would go stock up on the things we needed to eat.
We spent about an hour in the grocery store finding the things we wanted. We bought more things than we had at any other stop. We bought enough meals to cover dinner for the next week and a half, plus a lot of breakfast foods and lunch meals. We bought a few ramen noodles. I had been wanting Chow Mein again.
We got eggs so we could boil some for hikes and eat some for breakfast. We got more meat for sandwiches. Before we got a good deal on ham, but this time it wasn’t offered. We bought pastrami instead. It was more expensive, but was still the best deal. We also got more chips, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, and cheese. We have been eating a lot of salads. We also got fresh spinach since it was cheap. We can eat it plain, on salads, or sandwiches.
We bought bread, milk, butter, and the good chocolate chip cookies we got the first time. We also bought a jumbo size chocolate bar. We got bananas and fiber one bars for breakfast. We also got spaghetti sauce since we still had noodles left from before. We spent a little more than $80 NZD for everything.
We left the grocery store and started driving to the Sandy Beach Hike. It was out in the middle of nowhere on a back road with nothing but sheep herds and mountains. It took about 30 minutes to get there. We drove right by it the first time, but I thought I had seen a sign marking the trail head so we turned around a mile down the road and came back. The car park was a little fenced in area next to a farm.
We packed a light snack, an apple and granola bar for a stopping point at the end of the trail. We started hiking around 11 AM. I just wanted to walk until about 1 PM. It was cold and I didn’t want to be outside for too long. The trail actually started about 200 meters down the road at a stile. Which is a step ladder that leads over the fence that keeps the sheep in the field. We then had to walk a few hundred more meters across the field to another stile.
From there the trail follows the fence line for the next half mile. The trail was very flat and easy, but it was rarely traveled. Most of the trail was overgrown with bushes and grass. We weren’t sure we were even on the trail at one point, but I saw the orange stake ahead so we just walked towards that. Along the way we passed sheep bones and a skull a few different times. My feet were getting wet from the grass and rains that had been in the area. It was really only my left foot, but I was cold.
Eventually the trail turned right into a valley. At this point it started to climb a little more, but it also became more clearly marked. It turned from grassy areas to gravel. The trail continued with a gradual climb for the rest of the time that we walked. The scenery was very short bushes and grass, no real trees. There were also a few mountains off in the distance in all directions. There were a few smaller mountains next to the trail as well.
As we walked we took a lot of pictures. Although it had been rainy and cold in Wanaka it was becoming much warmer the more we walked. My foot was still wet, but it wasn’t bothering me anymore. The clouds were also starting to lift. We were able to get really good views of the valley below the higher we went. We could also see mountains past Wanaka in the north and Queenstown in the South.
The trail was icy and snowy the higher we went. Some parts were completely covered in snow. It was around 1 PM and I was getting ready to go back. Andy wanted to keep going. I didn’t think we would see views any better than the ones we had. Also we wanted to do a few hikes back in town so I didn’t want to be out for too long. I knew if we did the whole hike it would take until 5 PM that we finished and got back to town. By then it would be too dark to do anything else.
We kept going further and further. Again, the trail was becoming covered in snow. It was too the point that everything we could see from this point was snow covered. The bushes, the plants, the grass, the rocks. The trail turned from gravel back to grass. We couldn’t see the grass, but we could feel it under our feet. It was deep grass as well.
We could see a lot of rabbit tracks in the snow. It was really cool to see how far it was jumping and where it went. There were also tracks of other animals. One of them had claws I could see. I assume it was trying to catch the rabbit since it was following the same trail.
We stopped one time to take pictures and it began to get a little windier. I said it was snowing, but wasn’t sure if it was actually snow or just the wind blowing snow off the mountainside. As we walked up the mountain a little way further it began to snow a little more, and now it was no doubt snowing. We passed through a gate that had to be opened and closed to get through and keep the sheep in their pen.
We only walked a little further from here. Maybe 15 minutes. It was snowing really hard now with big flakes. I didn’t really want to get caught in a blizzard, and that’s exactly what was happening. We could see fine, but I knew the views any higher wouldn’t be worth the effort to get to. It was getting cold, I was getting wet, and there was no point in going on. We decided we would go back. It was about 1:30 PM.
During this hike we came up with a new video technique. I strapped my gopro to my backpack so it could film Andy as he walked up behind me. He did the same on his bag when I walked behind him. Once we decided to turn around it was snowing harder than it had before. We ran down the mountain.
We put a camera on one person’s back, then the other. While that was happening the other person wore their gopro on their head strap. Andy ran down first and I followed him. When it was my turn to run first I ran as fast as I could. It was really steep and slippery. A few places I almost slipped and fell, but because my feet kept moving I was able to keep my balance. It was almost impossible to stop. With the sharp turns on the trail I thought I would run right off the edge. It wasn’t a straight drop off, but parts were pretty steep.
The lower we got the less it was snowing. It appeared that it hadn’t even snowed near the bottom of the mountain we were hiking on. It wasn’t raining either. Just a few hundred meters higher was a blizzard, and down here it was fine. We stopped running when the trail flattened out. It’s not as fun to run on a flat trail, you have to actually work. We walked the last part along the fence line and my foot got wet again. They were already wet from the snow, but that was different. Actually stepping in puddles was much worse.
We made it back to the car around 2:30 PM. We didn’t have our snack, so we were hungry. We sat in the car and made lunch. We had ham sandwiches with chips and a cookie, the good kind. We drove back to Wanaka. It wasn’t snowing at all on the way back, but it was cloudy still.
We planned to do a few hikes along the shore of Lake Wanaka, but the road followed right along the path. There was no point to walk in the cold when we could just drive and stop where we wanted. This area of Wanaka has really big and nice homes. I filmed a lot out the window.
We only stopped a few times. We already got pictures of the mountains the day before when it was clear, and most of them were covered by the clouds so there was no reason to stop too many times. I took my shoes off and wore my toe shoes. It wasn’t that bad, but it was cold. It was better than wearing wet shoes though.
We walked a few hundred meters from a parking area to the lake shore trail, which was about 20 yards from the shoreline. There were a lot of people walking around with dogs in the town, and on this trail. To our right it looked much clearer in the skies. There were two mountains that the sunlight was shining on. We got back in the car and drove in their direction.
We stopped again and got out of the car after driving down a gravel road closer to the lake. Again lots of people were walking their dogs. This is where the really big homes were with great views of the lake. I still had on my toe shoes when I ran across the rocky beach. It was sandy rocky, with some large rocks and moss covering them because the tide was out.
We stayed in this area for about 30 minutes. I was freezing cold, but wanted to take pictures. As we stayed there the lighting was getting better so we had to stay longer. We ran along the beach to an area that had a lot of big rocks on the beach and exposed in the water. As we ran we were galloping like deer as we hopped over puddles and rocks. We probably looked like idiots, but it was keeping me warm.
We finally ran back to the car and decided that it was time to go back to the campsite. I wanted to go drive around in the nice neighborhoods and look at the homes, but the streets said private property and to not go down there. I guess they didn’t want tourists bothering them.
I just filmed them out the window of the car instead. Along the way we saw a mountain in the distance we wanted pictures of. We drove passed the turn off for our campground and down to the next town, Albertown. It was much smaller and the houses weren’t as nice as Wanaka, but some were ok.
As we got closer to the town the views of the mountains weren’t as good as we hoped. The town was down in a valley and the mountains were obscured by trees, homes, and hills. There was a river that had a trail that led back to our campground from Albertown, but we never took it. We basically saw the end point though. The cliffs around the river were about 100 meters high and straight down. It looked like a place were landslides could easily happen.
After driving for about 15 minutes we decided to turn back. We were low on gas and it was getting darker. We got back to the campsite around 5:30 PM. I went to the kitchen area where it was a little warmer to dry out my shoes and write in my journal. I put my hiking shoes and toe shoes by the heater, that barely seemed to work, to dry out. I just wore some new socks and filled my water bottle with hot water and stood on that. It wasn’t great, but it helped a little. We had a big lunch so it was too early for dinner. We saw that there was a TV above the refrigerator so we turned that on.
Everybody Loves Raymond was on. As we were in the kitchen writing in our journals some guy came in and was cooking food. We watched that, then the news came on. They showed sports and one of the games was bucket ball, or something really retarded like that. It was basketball for girls, but there were short baskets with no backboard and it was a no contact sport. Sounds like something a girl would make up. One of the highlights was a girl catching the ball about 2 feet from the 8 foot basket, and the opposing player just stood there and watched her shoot it. She made no attempt to stop her from scoring. I was like what is this stupid thing. And the guy in the room said he didn’t understand it either but apparently kiwi’s are good at it. Kiwi is what New Zealanders call themselves.
Then some show about consumer reports. They were doing undercover stories about car repair companies missing things. They set up problems with the car to see if they would catch them. Some of them got a few, but none of them caught all the repairs needed. It seemed like a show where they do these consumer reports on different companies each week.
We decided around 6:45 PM to start cooking. We had spaghetti, a salad, and cooked spinach. We also ate a cookie and some of our new chocolate bar. It was a big and good meal. I had three full meals today, which is rare for this trip so far.
As we were eating two other guys came into the kitchen and joined the first guy. They were talking about going fishing in the morning. They were being loud so I was going to go back to the car to finish typing. As I packed up my things they left so I decided to stay.
I finished typing around 9:30 PM. The chair was horribly uncomfortable and was hurting my back so I was ready to leave. It was really dark and I didn’t have my head lamp so I couldn’t see well to get back to the tent. Andy was behind me with his headlamp, but the light wasn’t shining bright enough for me to use it effectively. It was pretty cold outside so I was hoping I wouldn’t get too cold during the night.