WANAKA

Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Carla Munro

The early morn­ing buzz of get­ting ready. The re­sound­ing cries of “who stole my ther­mal socks” and “I can’t find my hel­met” bring a smile to my face ev­ery time.

Be­cause there is a happy ex­cite­ment in the air; a fraz­zled ca­ma­raderie to get what we need and get out the door as quickly as pos­si­ble. Why? To ski, my lovelies – to ski! And here in Lake Wanaka, the home of my heart, spring ski­ing is one of our most favourite things.

Snow stays late in the Lake Wanaka re­gion and the ski re­sorts of Cardrona, Tre­ble Cone and Snow Farm, are of­ten open right through un­til mid-Oc­to­ber. Crisp, clear morn­ings greet the early bird on blue sky days – the norm at this time of year – and warms to a com­fort­able tem­per­a­ture by the af­ter­noon. Overnight is still cold enough for the snow mak­ers so the runs are fresh and groomed in the morn­ing. Hence the early morn­ing mad­ness! We want to get there and carve those first tracks, be the first up the lifts, stand on a moun­tain and feel like you’re the king of the world! For a skier, noth­ing beats those per­fect early bird runs of pris­tine pow­der and uni­form cor­duroy.

But there’s so much more than ski­ing to be had in spring. The calmer weather and warmer, longer days bring so many op­por­tu­ni­ties to get out­side and en­joy our nat­u­ral play­ground. My per­sonal favourite af­ter­noons in spring in­volve the crys­tal wa­ters of Lake Wanaka or Lake Hawea, only 15 min­utes’ drive away, a kayak, and the tran­quil­lity of soli­tude. Kayak­ing re­ally is for ev­ery­one. I started out as a ner­vous kayaker. It took all of ten min­utes on the lake and I con­sid­ered my­self a pro! Far from it, of course, but the love grew from there. Slic­ing through glass-like skin of crys­talline wa­ter, the gen­tle slap, splash, of my pad­dle, the tran­quil skim across the wa­ter as you pause for a break – kayak­ing in­cor­po­rates ev­ery­thing I love about liv­ing in this spec­tac­u­lar place. Views of the moun­tains, unim­peded and all mine. Peace and quiet, the dis­tant chuck­les of ducks play­ing near the beach drift across the smooth ex­panse of wa­ter and are my only com­pan­ions. My per­fect level of ex­er­cise, en­tirely up to me the speed

and ef­fort in­volved. And the abil­ity to en­joy my­self my way, in my own time. A sim­ply glo­ri­ous ad­ven­ture! From early Septem­ber right through spring, sum­mer and au­tumn Wanaka Kayaks SUP and Sail hire kayaks and stand up pad­dle­boards from the lake­front down­town. Which, by the way, is an­other rather awe­some thing about Wanaka – ev­ery­thing is so close! The ski fields are no far­ther away than a 40 minute drive – and that’s to the park­ing lot at the re­sort! Then you head into town, grab a bite from one of the many fan­tas­tic, re­laxed and gas­tro­nom­i­cally divine cafes or take­aways, walk to the lake­front and hire a kayak! Easy! What a way to spend the day.

Even if kayak­ing is not your thing, there’s so much to do in Lake Wanaka, even the lo­cals find it hard to fit ev­ery­thing in! What do you do when it’s the per­fect day for moun­tain bik­ing, kayak­ing, ski­ing, snow­board­ing, hik­ing, rock climb­ing, ly­ing on the beach with a great book.... the list goes on and on and on!

Is it sym­bolic that just as the first signs of re­ju­ve­na­tion peek from lo­cal gar­dens, and dec­o­rate the trees in pink and white, the bikes and hik­ing boots and boats come out of

hi­ber­na­tion? Out­door café ta­bles be­come prized real es­tate and the lake’s sparkles prom­ise an end­less sum­mer of lazy beach lunches ahead. And the views are ut­terly magic. The moun­tains are draped in glossy white snow, the lake re­flects the blue, blue sky like sap­phires in the sun, and the trees are shak­ing off their winter slum­ber and dress­ing up in pink and green. Bring your sun­glasses, be­cause spring and early sum­mer in Lake Wanaka is a fes­ti­val for the eyes! Ev­ery colour vi­brates vivid and ev­ery­where there is a sense of im­pend­ing eu­pho­ria.

And then there’s the food. Fresh at the best of times, spring brings my favourite el­e­ment to din­ing – the out­doors! Oh, how I miss eat­ing out­side through­out winter. To be fair, there are plenty of restau­rants that cater for the lover of al fresco in the winter – Francesca’s Ital­ian Kitchen and Kai Whaka­pai both have out­door heaters and snug­gly rugs on hand – but there’s noth­ing quite so divine as sit­ting out­side with friends while the kids run wild, drink­ing a fine glass of lo­cal Pinot Noir and nib­bling on the dish du jour!

Spring and early sum­mer are also op­ti­mal sea­sons to ex­plore Mt As­pir­ing Na­tional Park. The World Her­itage Area is right at the doorstep of Lake Wanaka and the beauty and majesty of the park is lit­er­ally sur­real. Tracks beckon – my own favourite is widely called the ‘best half day walk’ in New Zealand. The Rob Roy Glacier hike is a mere two hours hike to see one of the world’s most stun­ning and amaz­ing nat­u­ral marvels – the an­cient Rob Roy Glacier. Braided rivers in the park pro­vide fan­tas­tic fish­ing as well, as my ten year old son Ethan can at­test to – with fer­vour! Ask him about the time he won a fish­ing com­pe­ti­tion on the Matuk­i­tuki River and you’ll be stuck in a con­ver­sa­tion punc­tured with sweeping in­di­ca­tions of “it was THIS big”!

How does one even try to get across the range of ad­ven­tures to be had in Lake Wanaka in spring and early sum­mer? Have I even men­tioned the moun­tain bik­ing? It’s EPIC. My first two day ride of the sea­son went some­thing like this…

Day One – stun­ning views, could see all the way from Mt As­pir­ing to Mt Cook. Biked tech­ni­cal tus­sock­be­lea­guered schist track across the tops of sev­eral peaks to get to cute rus­tic hut on top of the world. Ate great food sup­plied by lo­cal chef of im­pec­ca­ble taste and stan­dards. Slept like a rock.

Day Two – woke to stun­ning views and a sun­rise that made me cry. Took sev­eral hun­dred pho­tos of sun­rise. Ate breakfast. Got on bike – rather ten­der in parts af­ter yes­ter­day but ex­tremely ex­cited as it is down­hill day! Nailed the trail like a pro – or at least fell off less than five times an hour. Got back to the truck af­ter hours of ex­hil­a­ra­tion, ju­bi­lant whoop­ing, and mud. High fives all round. Booked next year’s trip in ad­vance. I think you get the pic­ture! From ski­ing and snow­board­ing, to kayak­ing, hik­ing and moun­tain bik­ing, the range of ac­tiv­i­ties and down-toearth, back-to-ba­sics, laugh-your­face-off ad­ven­tures to be had in the Lake Wanaka re­gion will truly blow your mind – if the wild beauty of the mag­nif­i­cent scenery doesn’t first!

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