Thursday, 20 February 2014

Mountains and Mayhem

The Town by The Lake

The next stage of our trip was Wanaka, located just North of Queenstown on the South Island. The stunning location of this small town really is a sight to behold on the drive in, and the town really backs this up being big in hospitality and small town charm, while still being the centre of a lot of activity in the area. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had won a few free nights accommodation during our stay in Wellington which were only redeemable at the X-Base in Wanaka. With only a few hostels in the town, the X-Base plays host to several of the bigger bus tours which go up and down the island, and as a result, social activities are laid on heavily every night. The only drawback of this is that while you make great friends one night in the bar, which I rate highly at this particular base, they will move on the next day most of the time with the rest of the tour and be replaced straight away with a new group, which can be quite draining, especially when people are tired and can’t really be bothered to deal with new people with the standard conversation, not to mention the toll on the wallet.

This wasn't an issue for us as we’d been relatively isolated for a few days so were quite prepared to put in the leg work and meet some people. After a free BBQ (again highly recommended for the meat alone, without mentioning the free salad – also good), a few beers and a game of killer pool, we were well set for a great night with a great group of people. Although the night life at the hostel was great, about 10 of us decided to go into town, where we were surprised to see a good mix of averagely late opening places; and while many tourists we met previously had dismissed Wanaka as being too quiet at night I would beg to differ. A great night was had, although specifics fail me.

Davies admires the view of Lake Wanaka

The following day, I received a highly rated haircut at Ali-Barbers, the only barbers in town, and we rented mountain bikes and headed North East. Although we (mainly I) are not experienced mountain bikers, the routes are well made and professionally built with a good range of trails to suit all abilities. The lakeside track which you have to follow to reach them is great, although I'm not so sure I would say the same in inclement weather, in terms of scenery and readability.

Misty Mountains: The view from Mount Roy

Following another night at Base, we decided to try out the YHA in town as it seemed a bit quieter and didn't have an in house bar, which we were finding to be a major drain on financial resources. Located just over the road from X-Base, the front window offers a panoramic view of the Mountains over the picturesque lake on the shore of which Wanaka was built. This mountain range is classic Lord of the Rings Misty Mountains territory, and we planned to walk up one of the closer ones, Mount Roy, the following morning.

Me, Halfway up, Zipped off trousers

Setting out early, we loaded up on a good breakfast from the Car Boot Kitchen and headed to the start of the trail, only about 10 minutes outside the town centre. The trail was quite a steep walk; and although no challenge for International Tri-athlete I had to take quite a few breaks. Still, at a steady pace, and after several hours, the views are highly recommended, and for anyone looking for an easy/moderate walk with spectacular reward I would really consider doing this one, although I am sure the views would be equally good from any other trail. Although we would have loved to carry on to the trail which this was only the start of through several other hills, we knew that we had to get moving on, so after a return which seemed to take minutes, rather than the hours which it had taken to walk that morning, we headed back to town, picked up some coffees and headed on out; destination Queenstown.

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