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Published: March 28th 2016
My arrival in Wanaka was slightly marred by a mix up with my shuttle transfer and subsequent expensive taxi ride the evening before, but I made it and what a beautiful setting the hostel is in. I sit eating my breakfast looking out over the lake and mountains all around. Lucky me.
Later I'm sat in the supposed shuttle pick up spot and I'm not entirely convinced it will show, or if it does will be in some arbitrary change of pick up spot that I'm not privvy to. It's the same company that cocked up the day before! But on the dot into the car park rattles this beat up old minibus that's definitely seen better days, as has the driver, very chatty Andy who explains the reason for the state of the van, basically warning us in advance about the rough track part of the drive to come. In the bus we have a father and daughter from Florida just doing a shorter walk and we drop them off early on. That leaves just me and a German lad with a huge rucksack who is doing a four day hike via the hut system. Crazy dude! We also
pick up a kiwi couple from a holiday park a bit further on. They'll be doing the same walk as me.
Bearing in mind the van is rattling fit to bust, our crazy loon of a driver is attempting to give a running commentary on things that we pass. We can only hear about one word in ten which reduces to even less when we hit the famous rough track. I do hear the bit about the wishbone falls, so named because it splits off in two at the bottom making the shape of a wishbone. And at another pair of waterfalls a new adventure activity has been set up adding via ferrata style metal rod walkways, bridges and sections to carribener to on the way UP one waterfall and DOWN the next. Sounds horrendous. There's also a heli pad where 10 helicopters are kept. They take tourists with either bikes, backpacks, skis or snowboards up into the mountains where the adventurers are dropped miles from anywhere to make their way back with their chosen mode of transport.
We catch glimpses of Mount Aspiring, partially shrouded in clouds, the mountain after which the National Park we are in
is named. To the left of it is the alarmingly named Mount Avalanche!
As we get onto the track we are amazed at the speed our driver's going. He's basically rally cross driving over a rough track at break neck speeds of around 40-50mph where you or I would be carefully avoiding pot holes at 10-15 mph! We are bumped and jarred over cattle grids, bridges and across pretty deep, rocky fords with barely a slow down at all. The couple sat behind me shouts above the rattling, 'You'd have to pay good dollars for this ride in Disneyland!'
Bearing in mind the noise involved in rattling over all this stuff in a knackered old vehicle our crazy loon driver is STILL trying to point out various things along the way. It's hilarious as we only catch about one word in twenty! He obviously has some farming background as he tries to tell us the breeds of cows and points out herds of deer farmed for their venison and antlers. He waves at local farmers who seem to be the only other people attempting the ford crossings today. One ford is really muddy and we almost don't make
it, the wheels spinning as we skid about. We do see a couple of tourists stopped before a really deep ford, checking it out to see if they can cross, as we flash past in a blur of bumping, rattling, road grit spraying, mud sploshing and an almighty SPLASH as we hit the water! You can read the 'what the f**king hell!' expressions on their faces.
Luckily the nearer we get the clearer the skies are becoming and as we get out of the van at the Raspberry Creek car park, nursing our bruises, there's no rain to be seen and I even have to put on some sun screen. At the car park there are some rough toilets and a shelter, and this is where we're to meet our driver again at 2.45pm for another complimentary massage on the trip back.
As we set off it seems the others also want to walk alone so I'm relieved of having to chat to people while I'm walking - or I should say tramping, as that's what they call it out here. I head off along the side of a big, fast flowing river towards a swing bridge that
takes me to the start of the track up towards the Rob Roy Glacier. The paths goes up into cool, woodland dripping with ferns, moss, lichen and really great fungi. It's pretty steep going and the path turns right, up into a very steep sided gulley with another crashing torrent of water flowing down to my left hand side. Every so often the path flattens out and gives my lungs a break. I'm quickly sweating buckets and my face turns a lovely shade of beetroot. Just as well I'm not walking with the others! The way is marked with orange 'up' arrows and is really easy to follow. There's one funny section with a notice saying not to stop for 50m in case of falling rocks. There's a massive overhanging rock half way along this section which I'm guessing everyone stands under for a photo!
After about an hour and a half I find myself at the 'lower' viewing area. I have lunch with the spectacular Rob Roy Glacier as my view. It's then just another thirty minutes of up, up, up and across some stepping stones and path rivers and I arrived at the 'upper' viewing area, meeting
up with the people I'd shared the shuttle ride with. I spend quite a while admiring the glacier, and the nearby waterfall crashing down the cliff face before starting the long tramp down the mountain. Thankfully it's mostly down but I'm so hot and knackered the ups are accompanied by my 'f**k, f**k, w**nkety f**k!' chant in time to my laboured steps. So far I've only seen about 8 other people, but as I get lower down I meet more people on the way up. After what seems forever the swing bridge comes into view, yay nearly made it. Silly me, my knackered legs don't go as fast as my early morning enthusiastic legs and it takes so much longer to get back to the car park than I'm expecting. I'm in full sun now too so my face is completely roasting. When I DO finally make it to the car park I dunk my head in some cold water, I swear I heard a hisssss! The other two make it down half an hour after me and just in time for our hair raising ride back to Wanaka.
Another fabulous day in awesome New Zealand.
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