Wanaka, Glendhu Bay and Rob Roy Glacier South Island 16 to 21 November 2007
6 Dec 2007
No need to rush this morning as we are booked in at this camp site for another night. Eventually, after watching some of the good Morning TV programme in bed, (TV reception is usually available when we are in a town), we had breakfast and set off on a loop walk round the local high spot, Iron Mountain. According to 'The Lonely Planet' book, who must have copied from the local liar who made up the tourist pamphlets, the walk is, "A fairly gentle climb to the top of Mt Iron, (549m, 1 ½ hours return)". The height of about 1,700 feet should have given me a clue.
It was a very steep winding gravel path to the top of Mount Iron. However the great views over the town and lake, plus surrounding hills, gave wonderful excuses to stop and take photographs. The walk down the back of the mountain was even more steep and rugged. Up and over Mt Iron proved to be a great walk and a lesson not to trust the pamphlets; our journey had taken us 2 hours. After a late lunch we drove round to the lake shore and walked the flat track along the eastern side of the lake for an hour before returning and walking round Eely Point. Today the weather had been fine.
Yesterday we located a good internet shop; tonight armed with our lap top we managed to upload two blog write ups and all of the accompanying pictures within the one hour purchased. Then we attended at a 'bottle shop', also identified last night as the best for our purchases. This had been a good and tiring day.
Nine mile away along the minor road travelling up the west side of Lake Wanaka is Glendhu Bay, where there is a camp site right by the lake side. We decide to move camp to Glendhu, with such a good Scottish name it must be a good place to stay; and it was. Before leaving Wanaka we had some supermarket shopping to do. Outside the supermarket was a fund raising event for a children's Nordic Skiing Team who intend to compete in 2008 in Canada. They were selling sausage burghers and we felt we must support them. Whilst chatting with the helpers, one of whom had worked in Scotland, we became aware of a film crew working for a children TV programme. After speaking with them I brought Squeaker my monkey along thinking it would look good for the monkey to be viewing the cooking. However a little girl came over to speak with Squeaker, and whilst crouching down to talk with her I found we were being interviewed whilst the camera rolled. (Sylvia kept well out of it; I wonder why?). Maybe Squeaker and his nutty owner will be on TV?
Sylvia would not allow me to take Squeaker with us round the rest of the shops. Ah well, soon we were travelling the lovely road to Glendhu Bay where we were soon installed in a position with views of the lake from our dining room. The weather was hot and our chairs were soon employed. A gentle walk along the foreshore was sufficient for today.
Glendhu camp site is a council owned site and the facilities were old but very functional. The couple in charge had visited this site for 18 years before taking up this employment almost 16 years ago. Business is on the increase and Christmas and New Year will see over 2,000 people enjoying themselves at this camp. The lake shore at this point is good for swimming and there are canoes and a power boat available for hire.
Sunday dawns and it is going to be another great day. We decided to follow the road along the valley as far as we are able. The road ends at Raspberry Creek but we are aware there are several fords across streams along the way. One look at the drop down to the first ford was enough for me. By the ford was a notice clearly stating, 'Some vehicles will get damaged', and we have a long over hang behind the back wheels. Our van is one that will get damaged. This is a disappointment for us as from Raspberry Creek there is a 4 hour round trip walk to Rob Roy Glacier.
Whilst at the ford we met a young couple and their two daughters who emigrated exactly one week ago from Forfar in Scotland, (just 15 miles north of our home). Fancy, you leave Forfar to live in New Zealand and within a week meet us from Coupar Angus; how unlucky can you get. You might ask yourself, why would they leave Forfar to live at Wanaka, NZ? Well, Wanaka has beautiful scenery, and a growing list of adrenaline-inducing activities. It is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, (wide valleys, alpine meadows, more than 100 glaciers and sheer mountains make Mount Aspiring National Park an outdoor enthusiast's paradise)' It is also the gateway to Treble Cone, Cardrona, Harris Mountains and Pisa Range Ski Areas. So why did they leave Forfar? We hope they keep in touch and tell us how they get on.
After our picnic lunch by the glacier river we returned down the road to one of the several walks available in this area. We are in the Diamond Lake Conservation Area and our chosen walk is up the Rocky Mountain trail, first to the lake and then the viewpoint before choosing whether to do the east or west route. You would think that we would have learned from past experiences. Rocky mountain peak is about 2,250 feet above sea level. Well we are learning, for instance, when the path begins to zig zag it is steep; when you begin to clamber up rocks and tree roots it is more steep; when you find they have bothered to provide steps you are really in trouble. We were in trouble.
After climbing to a small lake we could see a viewing deck high above us. After passing the deck we eventually came to a very high point with marvellous views of Lake Wanaka and the town of Wanaka in the distance, and a bench seat where we sat for some time; the previous viewing deck was now well below us. Our track climbed high into Rocky Mountain and due to the hot day we were getting low on water. So when we came to a diverting of the path, we settled for the lower Rocky Mountain route which was still very high but did not entail the extra one hour longer trail right over the mountain top. Back at the camp it was time for a well earned happy hour, and I wasn't drinking water.
We awoke to another glorious day so decided to book an extra night and just be lazy; well I was lazy whilst Sylvia did a couple of loads of washing and hung them out to dry. What a lovely place this is to catch up on some reading, or blog writing. At the camp we met a family who are travelling for 6 months; first California, second Fiji; now New Zealand before Australia and then India. Today they are going to Raspberry Creek; with no rear overhang they will manage the fords. We just enjoy this beautiful hot day.
When we awoke to yet more glorious weather we thought, why spoil a good thing; I booked another night. Before lunch we drove to a lovely river gorge 7 miles to the west and strolled by the river before going to look down on the steep rock sides of the gorge. When I had the chance to speak with our new friends of yesterday, I learned that they had done the walk to Rob Roy Glacier and rated this as their finest experience in New Zealand, and one of the most unique of their travels. We had a re-think on our plans. Sylvia has learned that there is a small bus that takes walkers to and from Raspberry Creek, travelling in a morning and in the afternoon; cost £18 each. There are some special walks from Raspberry Creek and we still want to visit Rob Roy Glacier.
We set the alarm to ensure an early start and our camp host phoned and booked us on the bus up the valley; I booked another night at the camp site. At 9.15am we were collected along with another couple from Keighley in Yorkshire. Both came from Bradford, (my home town), and the lady had been a teacher on the housing estate I lived on from the age of 11 to 18. We were not disappointed with Raspberry Creek, despite their being no raspberry's, and soon set off alongside the fast flowing river that constantly tumbled over rocks and down rapids. The first half hour of the walk was up a gentle slope across fields where sheep grazed, until we reached the obligatory swing bridge.
Once across the bridge the thin path hugged the hillside and we walked through woods and often looked down on the river as it carved its way between the hills. Again the path was far steeper than the information had indicated and we had frequent stops. After a walk of 1 ¾ hours we could see a very long waterfall. After 2 hours we could see the glacier and the surrounding catchment area for the snow which would eventually compound to ice. We stood and marvelled at the numerous waterfalls, far more than I have ever seen at one time, before walking to the top of the path where we enjoyed our picnic of a block of cheese and an apple in the most impressive of surroundings.
Whilst eating our food amongst people of many nationalities, including a film crew from Spain, a Kea, (large mountain parrot), obligingly hopped around the spread out throng receiving some tit bits. The walk up to the glacier had taken 2 ¼ hours; the walk back took 1 ¾ hours. We arrived at Raspberry Creek at the same time as a guided party completed a 5 day walk. They saved 1 ½ days walking through travelling by helicopter up the valley, before climbing Mount Aspiring, (over 10,000 feet high), and then walking from the mountain back to Raspberry Creek. They looked as tired as we felt.
When the bus arrived for us all the driver asked if we minded giving a lift to 3 good looking girls. They had left their car at the first ford and walked the remaining 6 ½ miles to Raspberry Creek, and now were walking back. To their delight our driver picked them up and saved them the long walk on this very warm sunny day; though he did suggest they should get out on the wrong side of the ford.
Once back we enjoyed another well earned happy hour, this time with our new Yorkshire friends. Tomorrow we leave this beautiful spot where we have enjoyed such good weather, saving some steep hill walks for another time; maybe.