Friday, January 31, 2020 –
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.
We arrived in the town of Wanaka, at the south end of the lake, for a short stop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next, we drove south over the high Crown Range Road with amazing views in all directions.
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.