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Published: January 16th 2007
Hello again, we hope 2007 has got off to a good start for everybody! First of all, a big shout out to some friends who have recently embarked on travels of their own: Dan dodging danger at every turn in Guatemala, and Jeannot and Tony on their 'am-asian' adventure (still funny!). We are enjoying reading your blogs so keep them coming!
As for us, we continued to make the most of the Christmas break, and set our sights on Wanaka in Central Otago. It's somewhere we've wanted to visit since we got to NZ, and it's somewhere we were thinking about living and working over the winter. So we thought we'd check it out.
We set off late afternoon last Friday, and planned to stay until Sunday. Most of the trip was the same route as you take to Queenstown, so we were able to enjoy the same scenery with sunshine this time. The weather had been fabulous all week so we had our fingers crossed that it would keep up. Wanaka is pitched as "the new Queenstown" by many, so we couldn't help making comparisons. It has a similar lakeside location with stunning mountains sweeping down to the
water. The skiing is said to be even better than Queenstown with Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields nearby. As we drove into town, the location wasn't as immediately stunning as Queenstown, but amazing all the same, and Wanaka has it's own advantages. Firstly, it's not nearly as developed as Queenstown (nor as expensive). This is quickly changing though with houses popping up all over the place, and prices rising!! One of my current patients is from the area, and he feels it's already losing its small village feel. To us it still feels like a very small town (you can walk everywhere) and there's not as many tourists flocking in. You can still do all the adrenaline sports the Queenstown offers such as canyoning, rafting, skydiving, hang gliding etc, but it's not as 'in your face' as Queenstown.
It was still technically the festive season so busier than usual, so long waits for tables in the restaurants (some really good ones though!). On Saturday we had planned to rent a sailboat and go for a sail on Lake Wanaka. It was super windy though and we didn't fancy getting cold and wet too much. Instead we decided to
rent a couple of mountain bikes and put our skills to the test on the slopes of Treble Cone. Outside of ski season you can take your bike up on the chair life and bike down various specially created trails. We were pretty pumped up for it, but things didn't go quite to plan. Firstly, after the 25 minute drive to get to the base of the mountain, we had a somewhat perilous drive up a very windy, dusty, unsealed road to the chair. Unlike resorts in the USA and Europe, none of the towns are built at the base of the ski field, so you have a ways to go before you can get on the lifts. We made it up the dodgy road safely, but we met a bunch of lads on the way up who were not so lucky. Their engine had overheated, but we came to their rescue with our huge bottle of drinking water. Our ever trusty Honda didn't let us down, but I think next time we'll take the shuttle bus to avoid knackering the car. At the base of the lift there were dozens of guys dressed top to toe in mountain biking
Just a small part of the great maze.
gear with bikes that were certainly in a different league from ours! We had heard that there was a mountain biking competition on the mountain on the Sunday, and checked with the girl selling lift tickets that we could still go up. She assured us that today was "just a practice day" and that tomorrow was the real race. Part of me was aware that "practice" would still mean flying down trails at lightening speed, with no regard to amateurs like us, but she sold us the ticket so we guessed they must be on different trails from us. We stood in line for 20 minutes or so, and just as we were about to get on, the lift operator pulled us aside and apologetically told us that only competitors were allowed on the bike trails today for safety reasons. She said that we could still go up and do one of the walking tracks, but we had come up here for some mountain biking action, so we got our money back and headed back down the mountain. More than being annoyed at the ticket seller for telling us we could go up, we were more than a tad embarrassed
that we'd lined up with the serious competitors and nobody had told us. Despite having wasted two of our four hour rental and not ridden yet, the guys at the rental place said we could take them for the full time tomorrow instead at no extra cost.
So we spent the afternoon instead at the nearby 'Puzzling World'. The main attraction here is 'The Great Maze', a complex wooden structure comprising 1500m of dead end passageways packed into a dense labyrinth, with overhead bridges linking the two halves. The challenge is to reach all four corner towers, either in any order, or in a specific sequence. This maze was apparently the prototype for the 1980s maze building boom that swept NZ and Japan. Rob and I decided to split up and see who could finish first. I started out confidently but hitting up two towers in the first 20 minutes. My hunt for the third tower took way longer, and I met Rob several times around the maze, smugly telling me that he was on his way to the finish. I think he was at an advantage because of his height and was able to see over the walls!!
It was frustrating, but I was determined. Eventually, when the heavens opened, I admitted defeat and called on Rob to rescue me. We took one of the emergency doors out.......I'm so ashamed :-(
Next day the weather had cleared up and it was a perfect day to be by the lake. The guys at the rental shop gave us a map with a few trails around the lake to choose from, each requiring different levels of skill. We started out on a relatively gentle ride along the lakeside, which still had plenty of dips and mounds to jump over. We ascended upwards away from the lake to a point called 'The Hub', where tracks of various skill levels spilled off down the hills. We plotted our route down on a combination on easy and intermediate trails. It was fun and definitely got the adrenaline pumping, but I have to say, there were some hairy moments when I thought I was going to end up airborne and upside down in a tree. All was well though, and with sore bums and satisfied with our day, we turned our bikes in four hours later.
Back in town, the place had
really come alive compared to Saturday. Every watersport imaginable was happening on the lake, so we whiled away the afternoon having lunch on the grass and watching the action. We had a 3 hour drive back to Dunedin and work in the morning though, so sadly our Wanaka weekend was over.
So back at work it is for us now, and time to save up some more money for our next trip. We'll keep you posted!
Bye bye for now, Kirsty and Rob x
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