We stayed in the Lake Wanaka area enchanted by the beauty of the Southern Alps. We headed into Mount Aspiring National Park to hike the Rob Roy Glacier track which ended with spectacular views of the hanging glaciers beneath Mount Rob Roy. As we ate lunch, we heard part of the glacier collapse and saw ice and rock cascade into the valley below.
We camped near the town of Wanaka and set off for a hike the next day for a view of the lake. As we started the ascent of one of the mountains surrounding the lake, we noticed several active possum traps set along the track. Several had been successful overnight. Warning: picture of a successful trap below. Dan thought it was good to include the picture since it shows the active fight New Zealand is engaging against the possum. Before the Polynesians arrived on these islands, New Zealand’s only native land mammals were two species of bats. The abundant bird species here evolved without mammalian predators and many had even lost the ability to fly. After the Maori had driven many of these slow moving birds to extinction, Europeans arrived and thought it was a great idea to bring many of their own animals to the island, such as possums, for fur trapping. Possums were introduced from Australia in the 1800s and have since decimated native bird life in the country. New Zealand currently spends about 80 million dollars a year to eradicate possums, which not only kill birds, but also defoliate and kill trees very efficiently. Traps were set on almost every hike we went on in New Zealand, but the war against the possum (and stoat, and rats, and many other non-native land mammals) seems never ending…..ok, enough ranting….
The view of the lake from the top of the mountain was incredible. We had a 360 view of the Southern Alps around us and Lake Wanaka below us.
From Wanaka, we passed through Queenstown and headed to the small town of Glenorchy. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy provided the most breathtaking views that we had seen on the South Island. The road hugged the crystal clear waters of Lake Wakatipu and provided us a preview of the epic views that we would see on the Routeburn Track later in the week (next blog post to come).
Across from one of the vineyards, we stopped at the Kawarua Gorge Suspension Bridge to witness bungee jumpers plunging into the gorge. This bridge is actually the world’s first permanent commercial bungee site…the place where it all began back in the 80’s.
After a relaxing day of wine tasting and sightseeing, we headed back to our campsite in Kinloch along the shores of the lake. We enjoyed the quiet forest and prepared our packs for the 5-day trek on the Routeburn and Caples Tracks that would begin the following morning. Recharged from our relaxing stay along the lake, we left the car behind to set out for an alpine adventure in the Southern Alps.