Friday, January 31, 2020 –
Sunrise in Makarora
We left Makarora after an early breakfast, for a drive inland and our first look at some of the enormous glacial lakes that line the landward side of the Southern Alps.
The first of these was Lake Wanaka, whose shores we drove by for a while. To the east we could see Mt Aspiring in the Southern Alps.
The highway crosses over to the shore of Lake Hawea, another vast body of water, beyond what I was expecting. The lakes look huge on the map, but driving along them for many miles gives a true sense of their vastness.
Cabbage Tree near Lake Hawea
We arrived in the town of Wanaka, at the south end of the lake, for a short stop.
Curious attraction outside Wanaka…
Lake Wanaka waterfront, Southern Alps view.
We then drove up the west side of the lake to our hike of the day – the Diamond Track up Rocky Mountain.
It was windy, and in some areas the trail was very steep, with ladders up the cliffs.
Trail up the glaciated schist cliffs.
Views from the Diamond Lake overlook:
We continued upward through strong wind to the very top of the mountain, where the golden grass of late summer lay nearly flat in the wind.
Almost to the top…
Panorama from the summit.
Windy view of Lake Wanaka
After taking a few quick pictures from the top, we descended a short way down the return trail to a sheltered spot where we could eat lunch and enjoy the view back toward Wanaka.
Coming down out of the wind…
Lunch view of Lake Wanaka from Rocky Mountain.
This was our hardest and steepest hike so far, and a good warm up/conditioning hike for a couple of more challenging hikes ahead. (Hike #8, 5 miles, 1400 feet.)
We made another short stop in Wanaka.
The Southern Alps again, from Lake Wanaka waterfront.
Tourists and sea gulls
Next, we drove south over the high Crown Range Road with amazing views in all directions.
Looking east – we are on the dry side of the mountains now – no rainforest in sight.
Queenstown ahead, from the Crown Range Road.
From the pass, the road descends two thousand feet into Queenstown, situated on lovely Lake Wakatipu. Our guide dropped us at our hotel, and we now had the next day off from the tour to explore Queenstown on our own. That will be in the next NZ2020 post.
The well named Remarkables on the far skyline are the backdrop to beautiful Queenstown.