The owner of the homestead cabin that we had rented pointed us to a valley between Twizel and Wanaka. We headed down a long dirt road that put our little bitch of a car to the test (the Punta is a puta).
Just as we were about to call it quits, on the increasingly bumpy road, we came to a hut (the Ahuriri base hut). The tiny 6 bunk hut was near a nice river set in the middle of a calm, empty valley. We spent the day reading, winding down, escaping from tourists and giving the stink eye to 2 other groups that may have wanted to share our hut. In the end it was just McKayla, myself, and a small family of mice in a cozy little hut with a wood stove and a few candles.
We woke up well rested from our warm hut. Sleep came easy as soon as I put the garbage from the previous guests outside. I’d burned what garbage I could, and took some recycling into our car, but I wasn’t willing to dig into some of the nastier refuse left in an empty beer box. After a solid game of human vs. mice, I figured they’d get it one way or the other; at least with the trash outside, we’d get some quiet.
The next day we continued our drive to Wanaka, our summitting headquarters. There was a random summit hike (Lindis Peak) on the Wanaka area pamphlet/map; it was a good distance and would break up our drive between the hut and the town of Wanaka. The path was an ATV road leading uphill through someone’s sheep pasture. There wasn’t a tree on the entire hike. McKayla said it looked a lot like the Bear Paws in Havre. The summit was extremely windy, but the top gave us a great view of very distant mountains. It seemed like this peak stood alone for miles in every direction, alone and exposed.
There was a fancy campground in Wanaka, a Top 10 Holiday Park (there are many more than 10 of these overpriced lawn rentals). At least with its ridiculous cost, it came with a hot tub, nice bathrooms and a very modern living area.
I’m not entirely sure who advised McKayla on climbing Mount Isthumus, but I’m glad they did. Speaking to you now at the end of our New Zealand trip, I’m confident in saying that this was my favorite hike. We began on the east side of Hawea Lake, just north of the town of Wanaka, and were rewarded with views the intire way up the track. The prestige blue lake to our west kept getting bigger along with the outstretching scenery of mountains. Again it was windy, but as we reached the final ridge leading to the summit we got a clear view to the east of the waiting Lake Wanaka. From the summit we had great look at the expanding ridgeline to the north, 2 big blue island dotted lakes to the east and west, and to the south lay some very impressively jagged mountains that featured some pretty wild, vertical cliffs.
That night we pitched tent close to the Mt. Isthumus trailhead, along the north lake shore of Lake Hawea. We’d thought we’d found a nice corner site with a glimpse of the lake and a wind break from some tall brush. Instead, we soon found that tall brush contained some of the bravest mice ever (they would’ve been a match for Speedy Gonzales, drowned Rataoulie in his own soup, ate the 3 blind mice and made Despero their bitch). These ballsy little critters got into our car while we were setting up tent, made it into the roof and found our food bin within 20 minutes. At first we assumed we carried a few emigrant mice from our hut 2 nights ago but no, we saw the little dickheads darting in and out of the brush, impervious to threats, taunts and stick throwing. Eventually we surrendered and hauled our tent to the main area of the campground. We knew one of the bastards had set up in the tire-well, hope he enjoyed the ride. Also, the sandflies were relentless. I was able to squeeze in a surprisingly pleasant swim and we both retired early to read and escape the continuous nagging of sandflies.
Tuesday’s weather (March 7) wasn’t great so we made an attempt to check out a recommended rout of one of our closest hiking companions. However, her route was swamped out. This wet summer had left most places muddier than usual so we enjoyed a nice drive, set up camp at a free sight outside of Wanaka and made our way into town to see the new Wolverine movie. Apparently, 3 wolverines is better than one and a good days rest will do a body good.
On Wednesday, we’d planned on hiking Roy’s peak with an option to continue through on the Skyline trail, summit Mount Alpha and descend down to an unknown/unmapped location and hitchike back to the Mount Roy trailhead. Mount Roy was just outside of Wanaka and therefore very crowded. Like the last two summits, the route up was a 4×4 road, except this one was lined with a combination of tourists and locals. One of the big draws, other than easy access, was the potential for a view of Mount Aspiring.
McKayla wasn’t quite feeling right so, after summitting Roy, she offfered to go get the car and drive it around to pick me up at the end of the trail. While there’d easily been a person every 100 feet on Mount Roy, I didn’t see another hiker the rest of the day on the Skyline Ridge trail. The name alone was enough to make it worth exploring. The hike down from Roy’s was sharper and steeper than it appeared from the summit, making Mount Alpha that much more difficult but it was fantastic weather for a double summit.
Straight from the trail we headed to Queenstown. Queenstown was crowded, overbooked and in the mist of rush hour so we avoided it all together. I’ve always heard great things of the thrill seekers’ capitol but neither of us felt like dealing with the crowds of whatever big event was going on or the overcrowded, overpriced campgrounds surrounding Queenstown. Instead, we opted for the much, much quieter Lumsden. Lumsden was a sleepy little town an our outside of Fjordland National Park. It was a great place to relax for 2 nights and get ready for our final big hike of New Zealand.