A walk and a soak
Having managed a good nights’ sleep in the hotel, and following rest the previous day, it was time to set out for another adventure, albeit returning to the same hotel in the evening.
New Zealand is famed for its “Great Walks“. Whilst we had not really travelled prepared to do one of these multi-day hikes/”tramps”, we did want to experience some of what they are about. We therefore drove from Queenstown west then north along the shore of Lake Wakatipu up to Glenorchy. We then carried on along the gravel road to the carpark at the Glenorchy end of the Routeburn Track. From here we walked about an hour along the track across the river and through the beech forest.
There is a short circular walk available here, so even though we went beyond the range of that walk, we used it to provide a different return route to the car. The scenery in this area of New Zealand, in the Mt Aspiring National Park, is primarily that of evergreen beech forest, clinging to the mountain slopes. Our hour’s walk took us upwards through this forest, across the river, and alongside mountain streams, climbing gently all the way.
The mountain streams here have carved out impressive gorges, and are also superb for the more adventurous to get wet in!
The Great Walks are managed by the New Zealand DoC (Department of Conservation), and as such places for overnight stays and camping can be restricted, although day access to the Routeburn is not. We were pleasantly surprised how few other walkers we met on our brief trip, and the amount of peace and quiet available even on a very famous walk.
Eventually we decided that we didn’t have time to go further, and had reached a point with views out from the forest (the beech canopy is very dense and long views are hard to come by at this point), and turned back alongside the mountain river.
As we returned by car to Queenstown, we observed that there are a lot of beautifully coloured flowers by the side of a lot of roads in the South Island. Some investigation revealed these to be lupins (Lupinus Polyphyllus in this case), which are a non-native plant, but which have escaped into the wild in New Zealand and are very commonly to be found alongside roads. They take on a lovely range of colours through blues, purples and pinks.
The next day, we had booked accommodation at Milford Lodge, which is at Milford Sound (more in later instalments). The road to Milford Sound is notorious for being closed (which we didn’t realise when we booked the accommodation – top tip to visitors is to check the road status regularly before you start your trip to the sound). We discovered during the afternoon, that the road would be closed the next day, so we needed to reorganise accommodation at short notice.
That evening, we decided to treat ourselves to something a little different. Having been very disappointed by the pool at our hotel, we decided to book ourselves an hour at sunset in the hot pools at Onsen Hot Pools. We booked the romantic twilight package, with candles etc. The roofs of the pools open up so on pleasant evenings, you are effectively in a private outdoor space. My tip is not to bother with the candles – they are battery powered rather than real, and by the time it was dark enough for them to take effect we had to leave anyway! However, it was a very relaxing way to spend an hour in the evening, in beautiful surrounds, about 15 mins drive from the hotel.
Next – Te Anau (an unexpected stop!).