Last weekend we decided to strap our boots, stretch our glutes, and take a trip to Wanaka. This place is sublime. I know I often say that certain places are my favourite, but this is now at the top spot. It has got everything you could possibly want: mountains, lakes, kayaking, hiking, biking, bars, restaurants etc. I could go on further. This edition has been penned ‘Part 1’ because we did two main activities while we were there, and I want to focus on both more closely. This first part will centre on our journey to Wanaka, which was a bit of a disaster, and my new favourite sport: kayaking.
We departed from dry Dunedin on Friday afternoon and were in high spirits ready for a fun filled weekend. Our first stop was Roxburgh on the way to Wanaka where we had booked to stay in an AirBNB overnight. When you hear yourself saying, ‘the worst case scenario will be that we sleep in the car’, you know you’re not in a great situation. As we got to around Lawrence the heavens opened and we were driving in torrential rain. It was almost as if we had entered the Bermuda Triangle. All at once it started to rain, my phone died, and my girlfriend’s phone reception went off the radar. It was a pretty dire situation, as we didn’t have our Satnav with us.
After driving for far longer then it should have taken we reached Roxburgh and now had the dilemma of finding the house. We somehow managed to call the owners, who through a crackly speaker explained, ‘… near lake Roxburgh… third left… after big sign…’ And so we searched on for a while longer, losing signal again. After a while we decided to turn into the first house we could see and ask for directions. By a miraculous turn of events it was the correct address, and they welcomed us with open arms and a warm bed.
We arose Saturday morning a tad groggy from the ordeal of the previous night. However, as we reached the outskirts of Wanaka our spirits were greatly lifted. What a place! It is a haven. For anyone that has visited Queenstown it certainly has similarities but is strikingly different in one way; there are far less people. If only Queenstown was not such a tourist hub it would be a great place. But there were too many people and there was too much going on. Wanaka is far better, and we instantly felt as we were on holiday. We had some breakfast and then took to the lake.
The vast lake is a sight to behold. Engrossed in the towering mountains it lies peacefully-still in the isolated town of Wanaka. After some deliberation on what activity to do first we decided on kayaking. At the reasonable price of $20 per hour each, we grabbed our paddles, secured our life jackets and thrust our kayaks into the water.
It has been 10+ years since I had last been kayaking. And this was on the rather gross Pugneys Lake in Wakefield, UK. I remember thoroughly enjoying it then. We had gone as an end of season football trip, and thinking back I don’t know why I didn’t go back and do it again. It is great fun. You can imagine that I enjoyed it tenfold this time, as I had transferred the murky waters of Wakefield to the clear lake surrounded by mountains in Wanaka.
We paddled out to the advised limit and sat staring at the wonders before us. Here we were lying in the very middle of a lake, in the centre of a huge mountain range, and we couldn’t hear a single sound. It was probably the most peaceful thing I have ever done.
The next day we learned that you can paddle to a small island, and also to the famous Wanaka tree. Both of which we had somehow not noticed (much to the amusement of one of the locals). After finding out this information we decided to take to the lake again. So on this occasion we rented the kayaks for 2 hours and set off to the Wanaka Tree. The tree is submerged in the water and from the right angle you can get an incredible picture. From the lake though, all you are looking at is a multitude of tourists. Therefore, we decided to walk back to it later. Just as some of the tourists were moving away I thought it would be a great opportunity to wade out to the tree and get a picture next to it. I nearly fell several times but I got the picture. When I came back I could see that the people had all congregated again like sheep, ready to take my picture. One of the locals had explained that in all her years she had never seen anyone stood next to it. I asked myself, ‘I am a local hero, or did I just kind of deface a famous heritage tree?’
Once we had realised we could not get a good picture of the tree on the kayaks, we pursued on to Ruby Island. I really have no idea how we missed it. It is fairly big. But I guess we were too consumed with the surrounding mountains. We got out and had a look around, skimmed some rocks, and soon realised we were running out of time. We had booked for two hours, but now only had 35 minutes to get back to shore. Moreover, we were definitely the most tired we had been while paddling. It took a lot of effort to get back in time, and we were thrashing the water a lot more than we had before. We turned up on land fairly drenched, and both looked liked we had been swimming, but we were on time. My right sleeve was soaked in water from where I had tried to turn around and nearly flipped the kayak. Oh well, it was still a whole lotta fun.
To sum up Wanaka Part 1, this place is very special. There is so much to do, and I’ve only really talked about Kayaking so far. In the next part, I will be talking about the hikes we did while we were there, and I may write more when we decide to go back in the next couple of weeks. I can’t speak for the North Island, but certainly for the South Island, if you are here, go and visit Wanaka, you will not be disappointed, and you will not want to leave.