Thursday, November 29, 2007

Te Anu to Queenstown, Wanaka, and Beyond

Queenstown is the place we thought we were going to go for a mid-morning to afternoon hike. As the picture above might indicate, we were underwhelmed by the town. The scenery was amazing but it's as if all of the tourism board's energy has been focused on this boomtown. For a rather coarse metaphor, the town is what Vail, CO might vomit up. Every storefront is filled with people wanting to relive you of you NZ dollars and in return show you where the Lord of the Rings was filmed, throw you off of a bridge with a bungie attactched to your ankles, send you skydiving, jet-boating, etc. It was all just a bit much after the relaxed beauty of Fiordland.

After a couple of hours, we decided to move on to Wanaka. The Rough Guide book on NZ described it as a sleepy version of Queenstown, which seemed more to our taste. The town was in fact a wonderful balance, having all of the beauthy without the frantic pace. We spent the afternoon by the lake and decided to try our hand at finding another free night of camping a bit further north.

The search brought us one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip. While not as lauded as much as the rest of the South Island, Mount Aspiring National Park was quite impressive. The area is one of the most remote in NZ, the small highway through its center was only completed in 1995. Though it was late in the day, we squeezed in a few hikes, including our first suspension bridge which led to the blue pools.

P.S. Though the highway was completed in 1995, it still has a ridiculous number of single-lane bridges, each its own adventure in trusting the right-of-way signs.

-K & D

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