Wanaka/Iron Mountain

Thursday 17 November, 2016

Eric's view of the southern part of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding hills. According to our Hema Maps New Zealand Touring Atlas, Peter Jackson filmed "Rugged country south of Rivendell" in those hills.

One of the biggest tourist destinations in New Zealand is Queenstown, nestled in the valley east of Milford Sound. Queenstown is famous for hardcore, adrenaline-pounding activities, and is the bungee jumping capital of the world. Eric has no fondness at all for these sorts of activities, and, while I of course adore things that spin and swing, I only like the uplift of postive gees. I am no fan of negative gees, or drops. Also, I'm an aerialist and I have plenty of opportunities to bounce around on bungees at home. We decided to take a pass on Queenstown and spend our next night in the smaller town of Wanaka, home of Hayley the travel agent, and a place known for good tramping. This also made a better split of the driving between Te Anau and our next major destination, the Franz Josef Glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

Since we only had about three hours of driving to do, and a planned 1.5-hour tramp in Wanaka, this was our one slower, more restful day. We slept in, played with the internet, and enjoyed our view of Lake Te Anau.

As we were packing out, Eric took a little time to make an adjustment to Fenway's damaged bumper. It looks much better in this photo he took, doesn't it? There is still a ding on the lower part of the bumper, and Europcar will probably notice that, but we felt better.

Along our way, we enjoyed views of Lake Wakatipu.

We were getting hungry as we approached the turnoff for Queenstown, and thought of having lunch there. Big mistake. Although it was only a short distance off the main highway, it was a zoo. We hadn't seen such traffic since we'd been in New Zealand. And it wasn't even the big tourist season yet! I took this picture out of Fenway's window, and we turned around and left.

Hayley's directions instructed us to take a "shortcut," the hypotenuse of a triangle, off the main highway on Crown Range Road. It surely took longer than the main road would have taken, but this was a day when we had time for the scenic route.

We arrived in cute little lakeside Wanaka around 15:00. It was much more peaceful than Queenstown, but still had plenty of commerce. We grabbed some sandwiches for lunch, and stopped into a supermarket for breakfast supplies. We were trying to leave by 6:30 the next day to make our glacier hike, and we wouldn't be able to buy breakfast at that hour. Eric noticed that the supermarket had hot whole roasted chickens, and we made a plan to come back for dinner.

We needn't have put off buying our dinner. Due to a mistake made by the motel staff, we were again given a much larger room than we had reserved. We had a full kitchen, with a lavaplatos and even an oven!

Eric took a picture of the nice living room.

View of the mountains from our room.

The bathroom had a washer and dryer and a hot tub in the bathtub. If only we had known the day before, when Eric washed a bunch of clothes by hand, that we would have laundry facilities in Wanaka.

We didn't have long to enjoy the room, though, because we had planned to hike to the top of nearby Iron Mountain. It was supposed to take an hour and a half, which probably meant it would take us three hours. We managed to start by 16:00, and I was estimating returning to our room around 19:30. We needed to get up at 5:00, so wanted to go to sleep by 21:00.

As we were parking, Eric recognized a young couple from Stuttgart, Germany. We had met Mathias and Katarina on our extremely rainy hike to Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park back on the North Island. Then we had seen them again on the Zealandia tour in Wellington. These were the first other tourists we had seen on both islands.

I wouldn't have thought anyone, especially anyone under 30, would want to tramp with super-slow Eric and me, but our friends tramped with us for the entire 4.5-km track. They were incredibly patient with our fascination with every rock and even our stopping at the top for geocaching. Mathias is an engineer for Mercedes, and Katarina is a sales representative for a kitchen supply company. They were so sweet.

Eric took a picture looking back down at Wanaka as we climbed to the summit.

He also took this picture showing the very many rabbits we saw. They are a real problem!

View from the summit!

It was incredibly windy at the top, and Katarina offered to hold my things while I hid on the lee side of a tree to put on more layers. Meanwhile, Eric grabbed a traditional cache near the summit. There was also an earth cache right at the summit. Since our friends were waiting for us, I took pictures of the interpretive signs, figuring we could retrieve the information from them later. Although it was not raining at that moment, the signs were so wet that reading my pictures proved difficult later, and I had to cheat slightly by finding the name of a Maori chief on the internet. We did, of course, visit the site.

On the way down, Eric took this picture of a Chaffinch. Mathias and Katarina seemed to enjoy my identifications of the bird life. They did go to Zealandia, after all.

I got very excited about the rocks we saw on the way down the loop trail. This looked to me something like the blueschist I had seen on the California beaches on geology tour in September. I took pictures to send to my guide, Tom, who will be leading a tour to New Zealand next year.

What are these swirls?

Many of the rocks had this deep reddish color in them. It looked too red to be iron to me, but Eric thinks it must be iron because of the name of the mountain. Perhaps it takes on this color in sufficient concentrations.

We passed this amazing cliff.

Is this three-dimensional stuff lichen? Or a slime mold?

Eric took a picture of a rainbow. Perhaps the rain would at least leave us for a while.

Mathias and Katarina were so patient with our fascination with everything, but we surely hiked faster with them than we would have without them. We got back in only two hours! We should always have Germans with us when we are tramping.

Eric took a picture of our new friends.

Since we had done so well on the tramping time, we actually had some time to enjoy our fabulous little apartment. We went back to the supermarket and picked up the chicken, along with some frozen vegetables and cooking oil, and some of those yummy New Zealand chocolate bars. Our kitchen had salt and pepper grinders, and our dinner was very tasty. I availed myself of a soak in the hot tub, and we went to sleep early.

On to Mt. Aspiring National Park and Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

Last updated: 24 November, 2018 by Eric and Beth Zuckerman