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Published: November 11th 2014
Turns out that Maori names are supposed to be pronounced with no emphasis on any syllable. Hence "Wanaka" actually sound like "Hanukkah". We definitely were singing that damn Adam Sandler song the whole time.
We drive through Haast Pass and turn onto the most beautiful drive I could possibly imagine. The road climbs up a mountain and switchbacks and then meanders its way down. We were in a pass surrounded by Lake Hawea on one side and Lake Wanaka on the other. The water is so blue it's criminal, and the white capped mountains make reflections on the glassy water. If we wanted to capture every beautiful moment we would never have made it to our lodge. I can tell this was Anjali's "aha I now get NZ" moment. Mine was the glacier. We both love NZ.
We are feeling so great we decide to do a hike up Mt Iron for some more views. The town of Wanaka is small, but there are obviously some nice vacation homes adjacent to the village. I'm surprised at how few boats are on the water, and there are no docks and the waterfront is relatively undeveloped. I
figure there must be a reason for this, maybe it's still low season. The downtown is two streets, with about 10 waterfront bars and as many restaurants. It has a very ski town/Tahoe feel, and a ton of people are outside listening to the live music and drinking their pints, even though it's pretty chilly out. There are also some quirky parts of the town, like a life sized 3D puzzle world and a brewery attached to a toy museum. We head back to our lodge which is beautiful. Just like a ski lodge, with a spa and exposed wood. We make friends with some older travelers and get a well deserved nights rest.
The next morning we take off for Queenstown. We start on the Queen Elizabeth Hill "walk." In sweating terms, it's our hardest hike yet. Pretty much straight up, but promise of epic views at the top. It is so windy at the top that it feels like we are sky diving. We are completely exposed at the top at the same height as the mountain tops, and there's a time that we are actually scared we may get blown off. I ended throwing
myself on top of Anjali to protect her, and I'm in peels of laughter but she's genuinely scared - and for good right. We crawl off the top and get to a more covered area. Full of surprises, this NZ.
Once we get of the mountain the weather changes as we expect. So we start on our list of indoor activities, and head to the wineries of Queenstown. We go to three ultimately, and both of us were ready to buy a bottle, but nothing was all that good. The Sav Blancs paled to those from Marlborough, and the Pinot Noirs from Central Otago are just so so. But the buildings are beautiful, Paragrine particularly which was designed like the wings of a bird. We grab dinner at a bar downtown and meet two guys, one is a quantas pilot and one is a litigation attorney. They have obviously been drinking all day, which I find funny, and I would say Anjali less so. We make plans to meet up at a wine bar later, and set of to take pictures of the lake at twilight and get some churros con chocolate for dessert lakeside. The wine
bar turns out to be cozy and lovely, with a crackling fire and a very knowledgable bar man. I finally find a delicious Pinot, and we leave our new friends after a glass and turn in for the night.
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