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A Welcome Ritual
It happens every day – morning. No matter what has happened in the previous 24 hours, I can always count on the fact that the sun will rise again and the day will start anew. Thank goodness.
And, on this particular morning we would soon be making our way to Wanaka, New Zealand.
A Breakfast Worth Mentioning
Morning found us just outside of Queenstown at the Shotover Lodge. It was an establishment that had more of an apartment complex sort of feel than that of a hotel or hostel. We made breakfast in the industrial kitchen that was available to all the guests/residents who chose to use it. Pots, pans, knives, cutting boards, dishes and utensils were all at our disposal – as long as we cleaned up after ourselves (like responsible adults should).
Ryan and I re-purposed leftover potato wedges from dinner the night before. We made them into a genius breakfast of home fries (that we shared), and an omelet for Ryan (I had yogurt because eggs are disgusting). I separated the potatoes from the congealed cheese and the fried ham. Then we finely chopped the cheese and warmed up the bacon; both were tossed in a pan with a couple of eggs. We re-fried the potatoes in a pan with some garlic butter.
Breakfast was obviously a triumph (as you can see from how much detail I am putting in here to tell you how it went). After we finished eating breakfast (out on our balcony!), we packed our gear up and were back on the road! We had only traveled a few kilometers before we were pulling over – it was the first of many times in the day. We stopped to take pictures of a beautiful bridge and the stunning, milky blue river flowing beneath it.
The next few stops were: The Warehouse – to purchase some socks; Pac ‘n’ Save for kiwi fruit (and an enormous blueberry muffin – they called a Texas Muffin! So good!) and the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. This particular bridge is the location of the worlds first permanent commercial bungee jumping site. We watched a few people take the plunge, including one very brave 10 year old!
I’m not so sure about the whole bungee jumping thing. It’s not the leap that concerns me, its the whole snap back and “second fall” that looks incredibly uncomfortable. It’s not a definite “No” for me, but it’s also not something I am actively pursuing.
After watching a few jumpers we scurried back to the car. It was pretty cold out on the bridge. I was wearing “jandles” (or flip-flops), so my toes had begun to freeze. We were only in the car for a few moments before we were once again bouncing down a dirt and gravel road in search of yet another Lord of the Rings film location.
Side note: It’s not that we are such huge fans of LOTR (we do enjoy the films) but rather that we are huge fans of film making. The Lord of the Rings was such an epic undertaking, how could we travel to New Zealand and not be interested in the how and the where of it all?
Wanaka and Mexican Food
After snapping a off the equivalent of a couple rolls of film (who remembers doing that?!) from a couple different vantage points, we turned our faces north and headed for the lakeside town of Wanaka, New Zealand.
It was not, however, without stopping multiple times more to hike, take pictures, gaze out at the breath-taking scenery and once to Google a fence that was laden with ladies undergarments.
Upon arrival in Wanaka we checked into our hotel and went out in search of food. We came upon a Mexican restaurant called Amigos Mexican Grill. Finding a Mexican restaurant in New Zealand has been like finding an oasis in the desert. We decided to give it a try and ordered the beef nachos and the Cordero Tirado – a soft taco made with lamb and mint chimichurri. It was beyond delicious. The waitstaff were all very friendly. While chatting with them, we found out that the different hot sauces on the table were all made in-house. Ryan and I could not get enough of the smokey, sweet chipotle sauce.
The Blue Pools Track
After our incredibly satisfying lunch, we still had so much daylight left we decided to go off in search of the Blue Pools. About an hours drive out of Wanaka we arrived at the trail head carpark. We set off in search of those jewel toned waters. It was a short, easy hike. The trails were well maintained and we quickly arrived at the first swing bridge that stretched out across the Makarora River. When we landed on the other side of the bridge, we were met with a sturdy boardwalk laid with chicken wire to provide extra traction when the wood was wet – which appears to be a majority of the time. We followed the boardwalk to the second swing bridge. It served as a “viewing platform” of sorts for the main pool. We were not disappointed. Those pools were the bluest of blues! I couldn’t stop starring down at them. They were so clear you could see the stones and individual grains of sand at the bottom of the pools.
The Makarora River Trail
We tore our gaze from the pools long enough to notice that the trail continued on over the bridge and around the corner. So, we decided to do a little more exploring. We could have hiked all day on that trail, but the sun had hit its zenith and was beginning its decent thru the overcast sky. So we decided to turn around and head for the car. That’s when we noticed the little rabbit trail heading off into the trees towards the river. We ducked under branches and found ourselves on a rock strewn beach on a bend in the river.
Ryan got his drone out, checked that weren’t any other hikers around to be disturbed, and took to the sky for an aerial view. I set off to exploring the surrounding area, stumbling on the ever shifting foundation of smooth river rocks ranging in size from golf ball to dinning room table. It seemed that more than a few hikers had visited before us and set up tiny monoliths of flat stones balanced on top of eachother. The threatening mist above us finally broke free and it began to rain.
Susan’s Signature Move – The Stairdive
Ryan called his quadcopter home and we headed for the car – but not before I juked off the beaten path. I ventured up some decaying stairs I had spotted partially hidden beneath leaves and moss. At the top of the stairs there was an old hiking trail, unmarked and mostly worn away, that lead up the other side of the gorge. I lamented to Ryan that there wasn’t time to go see where the path might lead and turned around to gingerly make my way back to the main boardwalk. My tread however was not ginger enough and I felt my boot slide across the slick wood and mud. The phone I was clutching was ejected high into the air in favor of catching my fall. I came down hard, tumbling down the hillside. Dizzy and rattled, I came up at the base of the staircase, my eyes focused on a wide eyed Ryan.
“Are you okay?!”
I did a once over and assured him nothing was broken, sprained, or concussed – just bruised, scraped and sheepish. He replied,
“That was scary, don’t do that again.”
“I’ll do my best not too. No guarantees though.”
We retrieved my phone from its loamy resting place and assessed the damage. It appeared to be undamaged! Astounding. We hiked (I limped) back to the car, used our traveling first aid kit to clean and bandage some bloody cuts and headed for the barn – and by “barn” I mean Amigos. We split another round of beef Nachos and a passionfruit margarita. Heaven.
After every last crumb had been scraped from the plate, and every last drop drained from our glasses, we paid our bill and retired for the evening in our lovely flat at the Fairview Hotel & Apartments.
OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!! can there be any place more beautiful? water more pure? how did you not rush to the government office to apply for citizenship????? I can picture the Signature Susan move on the muddy stairs and it hurts all over again (that was a LONG “a”) but it was worth it to imagine myself with you. I would’ve wanted to follow that hidden trail too…. plan another visit….
There is ALWAYS another visit to New Zealand bubbling in the back of my mind.