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Our Travels in New Zealand Part 2

Author: Mal Part (More Trip Reviews by Mal Part)
Date of Trip: March 2007



I’m still puzzling about how to use my birthday money, so we go to the i-Site to check out some glacier options. Naturally, the Kiwis have covered all the bases: guided or self-guided trips, ½-day or full day, lower part of the glacier or upper part, walk or delivery by helicopter, flying over the glacier, and so it goes on. My natural choice would be a walk on the glacier, but I see I can afford a heli-hike: a helicopter to the upper part of the glacier and a two-hour guided hike – that’s the trip for me so I book it.

We spend the balance of the day walking around the town and getting our bearings (and selecting a restaurant for dinner tonight).

Wanaka is a pretty town. A shoreline road separates the lake and town, and there’s a small marina at one end. For half the length of the shoreline road there’s a greensward and park – our motel over-looks this space, and we can see the lake and snow-capped mountains beyond. In the ‘towny’ part of the shoreline there are quite a few cafés, bars, ice-cream parlours and restaurants – we pick out Speight’s Ale House (a bit like Yates’). Chris has the Lamb Roast and I have the baby-back ribs. My ribs prove a bit of a ‘mountain to climb’, being at least a foot long and 6” wide, with roast potatoes below and a side salad. But, with perseverance I get through it – Chris fails and has to leave some of her roast, sacrilege.

Day 26 – Paying the Price

After yesterday’s eating excesses, we decide on a walk, and go to the i-Site for a DOC map of local walkways. We also go to the supermarket for the makings of a picnic – this needs to be a serious walk!

Map in hand and with rolls/ham/cheese/bananas/muesli bars/isotonic drinks in my backpack we head off for Bremner’s Bay and the mouth of the Cultha River (which empties into Lake Wanaka). The walk is alongside the lake for the whole distance, and meanders across the shore and through bush lands and woods along the way. The trees and an occasional breeze off the lake prove a blessing – it’s a hot, sunny day, and not really suitable for a strenuous walk. Well, I say strenuous but in truth it’s only 4 miles out and 4 back but in the heat, we’re more than ready for our halfway picnic and a drink.

The scenery is quite dramatic – the blue lake, the buff-coloured mountains, the distant snows on the high slopes, the town of Wanaka set in the valley’s head in the distance and, all the time, the lapping of the lake’s water on the shore. And, not a soul around - very peaceful.

Back at the motel, we laze away the balance of the afternoon and agree a major re-plan of the back-end of our time on the South Island based on everything we’ve learned so far and the fact that we’re still a day ahead of the schedule for the ferry on 6th March. After Wanaka, I’d originally planned two nights in Franz Josef for the glaciers, two nights in Greymouth, and a night in Picton ahead of getting the ferry the next day. Since my ‘glacier experience’ finishes at 1pm, we can reduce to one night in Franz Josef, and since Greymouth has little to offer we can cut that to one night too. There’s no need to stay at Picton to get the 2pm sailing from Picton, so we can have a stopover somewhere else. All this leads to a plan for 1 night at Franz Josef, 1 at Greymouth (just an over-night) and 4 at Nelson, said to be another South Island ‘must see’.

Pleased with our new plan, we head off to town for an ‘Indian’ at the Bombay Palace. Our waiter is from New Delhi but was born in Varanasi (was Benares), so I’m able to impress him with my reminiscences of Chandni Chook (a famous street in Delhi) and Mughulsarai (the mainline station for Varanasi). His eyes lit up and we were quick to agree that Mughulsarai Station’s rats were the biggest in India! We part on good terms and well fed and watered for our $48.90.

Day 27: What a Puzzle

Our plan for the day only involves a visit to Puzzle World – this is an amazing place devoted to puzzles of all kinds and is situated on its own site about 2km outside Wanaka.

The main attractions are an ‘illusions’ display and a 3-D maze. In the first, there’s a full sized room that distorts the perspective of height (Alice in Wonderland style) – in fact at one end its 8ft high and at the other, only 4 ft high, but it ‘looks’ like a normal room. There’s also a second room that has been built on a slope, but all the walls, fittings and doors have been placed on the same, sloped angle. So, it looks to be upright, but isn’t. Water appears to flow uphill, and everyone in the room looks to be walking at a seriously unbalanced angle. It’s easy to fall over. It’s all good fun, and makes the always giggly and snap-happy Japanese even more giggly and snap happy.

Having had our fun out of the illusions, we make our way to the 3-D Maze. This is built with 6-foot high, natural wood fences, and the object is to find your way to the four towers, one placed in each corner of the maze. There are also a number of bridges and high-level walkways that are part of the maze and criss-cross the lower level. Of course, when you’re on the walkways you can see the layout of the maze below and (in theory) plot a route to the next tower. In practice, once you get to ground level all you can see are the fences around you and any route you may have plotted is soon forgotten.

Chris and I have an infallible way of solving mazes, and we have no difficulty finding all four corners and the exit. Others are less lucky, and we see them time and again looking totally lost or peering down from the walkways trying to plot their route to their next tower. Of course, if you’re on the correct route and see someone more than once, they MUST be lost – people on the right route are in a procession and would never cross each other. It’s great when we see people again and smugly say, “You’re lost aren’t you?” and get the answer “Yes”!!!

We busy ourselves with some of the tabletop and indoor puzzles before heading outside for a couple of photos and the drive back to Wanaka.

As we head back, I see a sign for the Crown Range Road – the route between Wanaka and Queenstown we should have taken on our way here. I suggest we go on a drive along this route (since we have no other plans) and Chris agrees. The route takes us high up the Wanaka Valley and into the major skiing area between Wanaka and Queenstown around at town called Cardrona. We pull in to the Cardrona Hotel for a drink and a snack.

The Cardrona Hotel in a “major skiing area” paints quite the wrong impression – it’s a single storey, cream-coloured wooden building that would not look out of place on the set of a cowboy film. There’s an old Ford car parked outside with the hotel’s name on it and gold-mining paraphernalia to the side. The inside is equally 1900s but, at the back, there’s a wonderful garden, all set up with wooden table and chairs, wooden sheds and other old, outbuildings. We share a piece of New York cheesecake after each downing a slice of spinach quiche with salad – wine and beer accompany the snack of course. Although it’s cooler in Cardrona, the sun’s still shining so we sit in the garden for a couple of hours reading before going back to Wanaka via the Crown Range Road.

Our snack proves enough food for us and we can’t face a full dinner tonight. So, we drop into the Four Square and buy some soup, rolls, cheese and a piece of cake. The sun’s still good and we sit and read until it sets, then prepare our ‘meal’ in the communal kitchen in our block. We find two Taiwanese already there preparing their meal – they tell us that meat is very expensive in Taiwan and very cheap in NZ – they’re been eating meat every night since they arrived in NZ two weeks ago. They had rump steak, broccoli, some other vegetables and garlic bread; putting our soup and rolls to shame!



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