Saturday, December 29, 2012

NZ drives and Queenstown

Yesterday I drove from Franz Josef to Wanaka. I started by getting up at 4:00am to make it to Lake Matheson in time for the sunrise. This was pretty cool... although it was a cloudy day.

I lucked in during the hour walk around the lake because the rain held off. I'm glad I did the walk... and got some beautiful pictures from the back end of the lake... Mount Cook and Fox Glacier are reflected like a mirror in the lake... it is one of the most photographed spots in New Zealand! Lenny gave me a good heads-up to get there for sunrise, before the wind picks up and creates ripples in the water.

WELL, I did NOT love the early morning walk. Alone. In the woods. I'm really good at creeping myself out. I'm glad that it was actually lighting up... but I also had my head lamp on that I bought in Sa Pa, Vietnam from a lady on the street. I just walked at a good pace and crunchd an apple that I had brought along.

I made it to 'Reflection Islamd' without being caught by the Boogie Monster... took a bunch of photos... and then enjoyed the return walk much more than the first half. I passed one guy on the trail when I was almost back to the cafe area and my car... other than that, I was the only one at the lake up early!

I stayed and had breakfast at the beautiful cafe... and then hit the road at 9:00am. Lexey, thanks for the recommendations for the chai and salmon pesto bagel! Mmmm.

Wow. What a drive! I remember thinking that all of Lenny's photos from New Zealand look like postcards.. so incredibly beautiful... and this drive was no exception.

I stopped at a bunch of waterfalls along the way as well as pulling to the side of the road numerous times to take in the views! Rolling landscapes, crystal clear lakes, and just pure beauty... the entire way!

I arrived in Wanaka just after 2:00pm, checked into the hostel... walked around town a bit and was happy to crawl into bed early.

Wanaka is a cool town... Very resorty. A TON of Kiwi teenagers are in the area for New Years... I read in the guidebook that they flock here at this time... and it's the truth.

The hostel's common area has a beautiful picture window overlooking the lake with The Remarkables behind... they are an awesome set of mountains.

This morning I got up and drove to Queenstown for the day.

WOW! The epic driving adventure continues!

I drove over the pass on the Crown Range Road. Wow. Wow. Wow.

The views of the mountains and valleys were spectacular. Lenny told me I must drive over the pass and I can see why. The road is hairpin turn after hairpin turn going down the other side!

Queenstown is a cool area. Very 'happening' for the holiday!

I took the gondola ride up to a lookout view over the lake, The Remarkables, and on and on. Gorgeous.

I also did the luge ride! It was a lot of fun. And long! I appreciated that it was a true adventure of a ride down the luge!

I lucked in AGAIN with the weather! I might not be so lucky in the next day or two but that's ok because I have really had amazing weather so far this trip.

Two German girls are in the hostel room with me tonight and they said that they just spent two rainy, cloudy days in Franz Josef and the heli hikes on the glacier were canceled because of the weather! So different from my two days in FJ.

This morning was super gray and rainy... Once I got into the car however, it cleared up and just sprinkled here and there on the drive to Queenstown.

The entire time I was in Queenstown it was clear, sunny, and just some clouds in the sky.

On the way back to Wanaka I took the longer route, which goes through a bunch of wineries! Also a beautiful drive. It seems impossible to NOT have a gorgeous drive in this country. It did rain more on the way back... I think it was the first time I had to put the windshield wipers on higher than low. But now, again, the sun is out :)

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