One of the most popular walks around Wanaka, second to the Mt Iron walk which I did soon after I got into town, is the day trek to the Rob Roy Glacier. Phil had done it a couple times and raved about the views. So on one of my days off from the bar I jumped in the car and set off.
We had attempted this one before. Ash, Phil, Jacques and I tried to do this walk several months ago, but were stopped by rain and rising water levels that blocked the road. Instead, we turned the car around and decided to check out Shania Twain’s property. More on that later.
This time the weather was gorgeous. I had no idea where to go after the point we had to turn around the last time, but in that area there was only one road, so I assumed it would be hard to miss. The drive around the lake and in the valley were picturesque. It was all farmland, and my only other companions were cows, and the occasional car.
One such traveler (car, not cow), flagged me down as I passed. An old man got out of the car and asked for directions. Turns out he was from New York, and was wondering how to get to the road that leads to Franz Josef/Fox Glacier. He was on the exact opposte side of the lake, as far as he could get away from his destination without a 4WD vehicle.
Now I feel I must sidebar for a moment and explain something: cows stare at me. I don’t know what it is, but anytime I pass by, cows will stop what they’re doing, and just watch me pass. Ash tested this theory out by pausing several times in front of a group of cows and watch them slowly turn their heads towards my window. He would relent only after several pleas from me; I mean, it really freaks me out. Needless to say, several cows and their equally curious offspring gaped at me from paddocks.
Despite the best bovine efforts, I made it to the Raspberry Creek car park. By the way, I love that name, it just sounds like something out of the Wizard of Oz.
The walk was pretty easy and began with some great views.
There were some challenging parts, including several sections that warned hikers of falling rocks and other dangers, but in general it was pretty straightforward. The track was also quite popular and I often passed other walkers, some with small children with them. This overhang was especially intimidating:
As I got closer to the glacier viewpoint, I started spying between the trees bits of white clinging onto cliff faces and the peaks of mountains. I tucked my head down during the last few kilometers and powered to the finish. But only a few minutes before I reached the end, I looked up, and the view literally stopped me dead in my tracks. As usual, none of these pictures do it justice. What I saw was one of the most beautiful sites I had seen in New Zealand. The contrast between the eerie blue/white of the ice against the grey mountain rock, in the background of bright green flora, was simply inspiring.
I reached a viewing point with some information panels and some scattered rocks. There were a lot of other hikers there, some reading the information, many just laying on the rocks and taking in the view. I sat down and ate a snack while gazing up at the ice. It seems ice breaking off the glacier was quite common in the summer and I was keen to see it happen.
A kea (annoying Kiwi parrot-like bird) tried to swipe my banana peel, but I managed to fight it off.
After a few songs on the iPod I made my way back down to the carpark. Shortly after leaving the viewing area, I ran into another traveler who wanted me to take a picture of him with the glacier in the background … on his camera phone. For God’s sake, if you’re gonna travel to New Zealand, let alone a glacier, invest in a regular camera.
Now this is gonna sound horrible, but the guy not only followed me down after that, he struck up a conversation too. Damnit! I was actually looking forward to a quiet walk down with my music and the beautiful surroundings, and now I was stuck making small talk to someone I’ll probably never see again. After the conversation died, which it inevitably always does, he would stop from time to time snap a couple pictures. I was a pretty fast walker and soon lost him … not intentionally, don’t look at me like that, I simply zoned out and when I returned he wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
The drive back was just as good and I finally crossed the Rob Roy Glacier walk off the list. Summer in Wanaka had quickly become my favorite season of the year.