Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wanaka & Queenstown

Tuesday morning felt like a hangover without any binge drinking. My night time wrestling in a set of noisy sheets with an infant made for 2-3hrs of sleep. Thank goodness for continental breakfast and a huge pot of Earl Grey. We packed and departed for Twizel stopping one last time by Mt. Cook's beautiful alpine lake. The water level was very low and I wondered if the shallow waters would even exist for my grandchildren to enjoy.  Wanaka was a short 2 hour drive and because of our lack of sleep, we were all cranky and ready to be out of the car.

Our downtown a-frame hotel was 200m from windy Lake Wanaka. The wood slat ceilings reminded me of Klinger lake, creaking all night through the high winds. The high roof also made it easy to hear conversations and televisions in adjoining rooms. We went for a walk to the book store, pharmacy, and a nice lakeside dinner. Our post-dinner hike was along the west coast of the lake across from a steep sheep farm. Ana and I explored several rabbit burrows around the coast, all the while hearing the sheep bleating through the afternoon sun. Much to Ana's delight we found one rabbit hole occupied and she chased after the hare with wild delight.

We plotted a course for Te Anua Wednesday morning, after a full night of rest. We wanted to give plenty of time to explore Queenstown and departed fairly early. The drive along the Cardrona Valley ended in a series of switchbacks high above lake Wakatipu. Upon arrival to this fairtale setting of a town, we immediately headed for the Gondola ride up the Remarkable. The eroded steep mountain walls are pictures all around town and are clearly the pride of the city. After a 1500m climb we made our way around the lone sky loop at the top. Once deep inside the tall pines I felt transported to the pacific northwest.  The quieter view along the back of the ridge made allowed me to see alpine trails in the nearest 10sq kilometers. I had this incredible urge to float from peak to peak and still do in the quiet corners of my mind.

Paul wanted to enjoy as much remoteness as possible, and avoided a stay in Queenstown. Peter Jackson chose the north end of Wakatipu to film Isengard in the second LOTR trilogy, and it is clear to see why. Similar to Interlachen, it provides adventure thrills to the hearts content. After Paul's one-allotted pit stop at the golden arches, we made our way past the Remarkables to Te Anua.  We chose lodging 30km north in Fjordland National Park to avoid a longer drive the next day. The tiny studio didn't have a view of lake Te Anua, but was adjacent to a smaller mistletoe lake with a 6km loop. We made a quick evening hike of it and even let Ana control the camera.

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