Flying over Wanaka

January 10th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

It was the final day of my 10 days in the Lakes District and I had had such a great time. Apart from just the company of friends, I’d seen Milford Sound, walked about Lake Hayes, explored Arrowtown, seen in the New Year from the Earnslaw, walked to the base of the Rob Roy Glacier, kayaked to one island, done some wine tastings and swum in an island lake at the top of another island.

All I had left to do on Tuesday was get to Christchurch. Then I got a text from Bill D saying “Are you still in Wanaka? Would you fancy a heli flight around the Wanaka basin this morning and maybe drop into Tarras for breakfast?”

This is not one of those questions you need to spend a long time thinking about. A quick negotiation saw my departure time delayed and Tea Party Girl and I headed out to Wanaka Airport very very excited.


The chopper has room for five including the pilot. It was so smooth that even when flying at pretty high speeds, you hardly noticed it inside.


Going up anywhere in a helicopter can be an amazing experience. But to do it around the Wanaka basin was extraordinary. The sights are legion, and from high up you see the entire basin, while lower down at 100 metres or so you get some great aerial views of activity below.


This is Ruby Island, where we kayayed to for a picnic lunch.


Some of Lake Wanaka.


And Mou Wahu Island, where the lake or pool we swam in is visible.


Another shot from the air.


And a great view shot by TPG.

After around 45 minutes in the air we landed. It was the perfect ending to a great 11 days in the Lakes District. An incredibly generous and appreciated offer from Bill. An experience hard to beat.


We then had a five hour drive to Christchurch. As one can see, the car was slightly weighed down by no less than three bikes and a kayak!


Lake Pukaki with Aoraki Mt Cook in the background. I’d almost forgotten how magnificent it is to drive through Central Otago. At almost every stage you have either valleys or mountains or lakes or all three. Just stunning scenery. I think I may do an RV holiday around the South Island in 2014. It would be great to be able to just stop for the night at so many of these incredible locations.


January 8th, 2013 at 7:02 am by David Farrar


On Monday we headed to Bannockburn, near Cromwell, where we spent the afternoon wine tasting. First stop was Terra Sancta, where former NZX boss Mark Weldon gave us a very knowledgeable rundown on the various grape areas, soil minerals and blends. Sadly as my suitcase was already full, I could only buy a couple of bottles of their lovely Mysterious Diggings Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer. Was also very taken by the Terra Sancta Estate Slapjack Block Riesling, which is unusual for me as I am not normally a Riesling person.


You can actually do a walk through parts of the vineyard.


After lunch we also went to Mt Difficulty and Felton Road. Mt Difficulty also had some great wines. Didn’t get excited over anything at Felton Road, but by then had tried well over a dozen so might just have been a tired palate.

We did lunch at Bannockburn Hotel. It was decent pub food, and pleasant service.

I must mention the appalling service at the (otherwise lovely) Cardrona Pub. We did dinner there on Sunday, and after drinking outside, moved to the restaurant area for dining. The others ordered a bottle of wine which was served up. As I was driving I was on soft drinks, so asked for a diet coke. The waitress said that I should go and queue at the bar to get one. Hugely unimpressed.

My last night in Wanaka was last night. Have been very fortunate with the weather – almost non-stop sun. It is a minor miracle I have not become a lobster.

Mou Waho Island

January 7th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

We’d heard about Mou Waho Island, as it has a lake within the island which has islands within that lake. Or to put it more clearly there is an island in a lake (Arethusa Pool)  in an island (Mou Waho) in a lake (Wanaka) in an island (South Island) in the ocean!

It is around 20 kms from Wanaka, which is far too far to kayak. You can do guided tours but they costs $150 to $200 a head. We just arranged a boat trip out and back for $400 in total which worked out excellent value.


Heading out on Lake Wanaka.


Mou Waho Island ahead. Took just 35 minutes, and brilliant views along the way.


Landing at the beach area.


Tea Party Girl, Romeo and Juliet at the landing. The temperature was sweltering at close to 35 degrees.


There is an area where you can camp. Would be a very cool place to camp for a weekend.


We then headed up to the summit. It isn’t a very long track at just over a km, but it is pretty steep as you climb around 200 metres or so via a zig zag path. When you combine it with the 35 degree heat, we were sweltering. But as you can see the views are worth it.


Then almost at the top, is the pool. It wasn’t much warmer than Lake Wanaka, but after that climb, nothing could have kept me out. Yes that is me in the water. Actually after a few minutes it warmed up quite nicely, and there is something cool about swimming in a natural pool or mini-lake at the top of an island with such scenic views.


This is the pool, from the side. Just stunning.


You then can climb a further five minutes or so to a ledge overlooking the pool. From there you get this magnificent view of the pool, and the lake beyond it. In the photo they look like they are almost at the same level, but in reality the pool is at the top of the island.

The views from the top were just unbelievable. In one direction you see snow covered mountains, in another lake views for kms on end.


Another view from up high. A perfect day with the water so still, no clouds, and so hot. Almost too hot!


They also have quite a few wekas on the island, which is in fact a nature reserve. The wekas like to try and get into your bags.

Ruby Island

January 6th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Seven of us decided to kayak to Ruby Island on Lake Wanaka on Saturday. It was a brilliant thing to do. Around 45 minutes each way, and a picnic lunch on the island.


This is the view from the picnic area we found on the island.


The group getting the bubbles and sandwiches out for lunch.


Tea Party Girl playing frisbee.


The view from the front of the island. Could never get sick of it.


Part of the island. It take barely 20 minutes to do a loop around it.


The view inland. Lovely clear waters.


Part of the track around the island.


Handy Girl coming into land.


It was such a hot day, a couple of us went around the lake and decided to go in for a swim. We learnt that no matter how hot the day, the water is still freezing! I lasted five minutes or so. despite the cold was a nice way to finish the day, before heading back home for drinks.

Definitely loving my Wanaka experience. Not spent much time here since I was a student and working on Cardrona Skifield.

Rob Roy Glacier

January 4th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

This half day walk must rank of one of the most spectacular in New Zealand. I can not recommend it highly enough.

Even the drive to the starting point is superbly scenic. You drive for around an hour from Wanaka into the Matukituki Valley. Most of the 54 km road is unsealed and you cross around half a dozen fords, but they can be done without a 4WD. The drive through the valley is beautiful, with scores of waterfalls.


You park at Raspberry Flat and head off along the West Matukituki River.


You walk through farmland for around 15 minutes.


Then you have the swing bridge over the West Matukituki River. It is rather bouncy!


There is a fairly steep ascent, and then you get a nice view of the Matukituki Valley as you fork off it. Those who are doing overnight tramps continue up the valley.


A lovely backdrop at the rest bench, where Earnest Girl and I take a break.


You then head along next to the Rob Roy Stream, and again reasonably steep climb in places, but not too bad. You ascend around 400 metres in total. As you can see, a few challenges along the way.


If that rock came down, you’d need DNA to identify you!


They may call it a stream, but it is pretty strong as the glacier water flows down it. You spend most of your time next to the stream.


Almost at the top, this is the view of where you have come from.


Then you see the bottom of the Rob Roy Glacier. You end up less than 100 metres from it, and the ice is 15 metres or so thick I would say. Despite being so high up, it wasn’t too cold – even in t-shirt and shorts.


One of the waterfalls at the top.


The end of the track, with some information on the glacier.


One of the Keas that hangs around there.


Our group about to start the champagne lunch to celebrate making it up there.

Rob Roy Glacier

EveryTrail – Find hiking trails in California and beyond
Above is the map of the trail. It is 10 kms in total, and up took around 90 minutes and down around 75 minutes. Again, it is a stunning walk, and must be one of the best in NZ. We all had a great time.