Two and a half weeks. Not enough time to see a country but a decent amount of time to see one small region of one island of this magical place. Wanaka, Glenorchy, Manapouri, Te Anau and Fiordland National Park. We knew nothing about them except that Glenorchy is aka Top of the Lake for all you BBC fans and that any place with “fiord” in the name has a high probability of being spectacular.
Bob and Lorrie met us with smiles and open arms, expertise with left-side driving, and tips on NZ-speak like G’dai and good on you. No coveted golden kiwis, but plenty of Otago pinot noir and sauvignon blanc and encouragement to join Bob’s pursuit of the perfect pie (meat pie that is).
First stop, Wanaka. Together we hiked in the rain to Roy’s Glacier, only to find at least a dozen or more waterfalls flowing from it, a sight even cooler than the glacier on top. Next day the sun came out and we hiked another Roy namesake, the 4000 foot Roy’s Peak, each switchback bringing us ever more impressive views of Lake Wanaka, its many islands, and mountains upon mountains surrounding it. Wanaka was also the first of our chilly dips/swims in lakes and fiords.
Next stop, Glenorchy. What a sweet, tiny town of several hundred. Gorgeous hikes, including part of the Routeburn Track, one of NZ’s 10 Great Treks. We had our first encounter with Lord of the Rings tourists who’d come to see a shoot location in neighboring Paradise (true name of the town, and not nearly as creepy as Top of the Lake makes it out to be). And our first experience getting stuck driving behind a sheep herder guiding his hundreds of sheep down a dirt road with no possibility of a car passing.
Manapouri was our one oddball place. A town even smaller than Glenorchy, where the only restaurant is called The Church because it’s in a converted church building, and where we stayed in an Air B&B called The Lodge which consisted of a cavernous living room with 6 chandeliers, a ping pong table, and early morning visits by the owner’s 3 hens who checked us out through the deck’s sliding glass doors. Manapouri and Te Anau were the launch points for a Doubtful Sound (really a fiord) cruise and kayak trip, a visit to NZ glowworm caves, a mountain bike ride along the lake and river, a 21 (!!) mile hike by Marty and Bob, our most intrepid hikers. And finally, Queenstown where we paraglided, visited a vineyard, and watched tons of crazy young folks ham it up for the cameras before plunging off a platform at the world’s first commercial bungy jumping bridge.
Thank you Bob and Lorrie for inspiring us to travel across the world to the 45 parallel south and letting us be a small part of your huge life adventure.
Marty, Helen and Donna