South Island Adventuring (Wanaka to Queenstown)

Waking up and grabbing another venison pie in Wanaka started the morning off right. Returning to camp, we took down the tent and got packed up before heading to Mt. Iron, where most of the group went climbing again, but Greg and I did a hike up to the summit for a few goofy pictures and breath-taking 360 degree panoramas. Once back to the car, we bid farewell to our new-found climbing friends and hit the road, taking the Crown Range road over to Queenstown, a gorgeous city on the shores of a massive glacial lake. Meeting some of Greg’s friends in town, we took off to Glenorchy to see the far side of the lake and where many scenes from Lord of the Rings was shot. Back in town, a nice dinner by the water before returning to Jose’s place to sleep.

After a relaxing morning, I got the bad news that due to high winds and clouds, the flight I had booked to Milford Sound had been canceled, so I tagged along with Greg on a few social visits and got to see more of the town before getting a flight on a different airline for a Milford scenic flight. Settling into a small Cessna, we took to the sky, watching Queenstown shrink below us, and headed towards the mountains capped in ice and snow. After a breathtaking half-hour of dodging mountains and seeing waterfalls and lakes from above, we arrived and descended into Milford Sound with our cameras at the ready. Milford sounds is a fjord cutting to the see, with depths of over 1000′ and mountains rising to a mile above the water. A striking view surrounded by swirling clouds and dappled sunlight. After circling a few more times, we headed back via a more southern route towards Te Anu lake before descending back to Queenstown.

Meeting Greg at the airport, we headed to nearby Arrowtown for a drink and some excellent ice cream from Patagonia, before driving the “road” to Skipper’s Canyon. Road is in quotes because it is more of a narrow track carved into the side of the cliffs and in some places through the rocks. Eventually reaching a spot where the car couldn’t go any further, we set out on foot to enjoy the views of the sunset and the plunging canyon walls before returning to Queenstown for a night in.

Waking up to wet and gray skies, we decided to catch up on some work and run some errands in town before Greg and I hiked up Queenstown Hill, stopping in the Basket of Dreams to soak in the views. From there we quickly stopped back to change into mountain biking attire and headed for Arrowtown to ride Coronet Peak to Bush Creek with Matt, the owner of Arrowtown Bikes. After driving to the top of the ski hill, we pushed the bikes through the snow for about 30 minutes before Matt and Greg started riding down some seriously steep and exposed terrain in the drizzle while I walked down to a section of trail I could actually ride. Once we made it down to the ridge above Arrowtown, we hit some single-track that I felt comfortable to really let go and soon was hooting and hollering down the trail zipping overĀ fields, through the trees and splashing across the creek. After 50 minutes of adrenaline, we ended up emerging in Arrowtown center and biked to Matt’s to change and warm up.

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