Tuesday, 2 January 2007

From Waihi to Wanaka

In the continuing New Zealand adventure, yesterday has got to be one of the most incredible days that's ever happened to Narg. The long and short of it was I need to get from Waihi beach on the north island:

To Wanaka in the south island:

The plan was to drive to a place called Rotarua in the middle of the north island from Waihi Beach to grab a quick flight to Christchurch (south island) then change to a smaller plane to fly to Queenstown and drive to Wanaka. Simple eh?

I've been waking up around 7am here but yesterday I awoke at around 6.30am at Waihi to the sound of the swell thundering into the break a mere 30 feet from the beach house. Jumped out of bed faster then a flea having it's ass dipped in vinegar and promptly grabbed board, dove into the water and surfed a good while. A quick outside shower then sliding down a fresh fruit breakfast and jumping into the car to the airport rapdily followed. Rotarua is beautiful - this big volcanic crater containing the lake with the smell of sulphur and hotsprings everywhere. Real "Planet Earth" stuff. Taking off from the tiny airport there and looking down on the lake was incredible. The lush vegetation and thousands of these huge ferns called ponga trees making it feel like you were lifting out of a tropical rainforest.

Ponga tree fern.

My board shorts were still wet jumping onto the plane and I still hadn't sorted out any footwear - tis very liberating travelling in bare feet =) A brief touchdown in Christchurch then onto Queenstown in the smallest passenger plane I've flown on. Narg struck gold in the seating arrangments too. Ended up sitting next to this gorgeous half maori girl with the most beautiful dark skin and brown eyes. She was hugely chatty and we spent the entire flight laughing away and working out on the map the names of the majestic snowy peaks slicing their heads through the clouds. We even saw Aoraki (it's the Maori name for Mount Cook - the highest mountain in NZ - its name literally translates as "Cloud Piercer") very cool.

We were struck dumb when the plane dropped between the mountains into the valley to land at Queenstown though. It really takes your breath away. These huge, craggy peaks misted at the top towering aggressively over the tiny plane banking it's way through the giant folds of land. The plane dropped down to land at the small airfield and there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air from all on board.

Queenstown airport with the lake in the background.

I said goodbye to my travelling companion then waited for a while in the middle of mountains until some of the rest of the group pitched up on a later flight. Blue skies, snowy peaks, hotter than satan's crotch - no problem guys, take your time! Arrive they did though and we jumped into the hire car and crossed the Crown Range Road to drop down into the spectacular Wanaka sitting by the side of the lake shown further above.

Crown Range road.

So we stayed over in our wooden chalet by the beach, drinking the local white wine that was grown in the vineyard owned by a friend of my brother-in-law before crashing out. Ended up sleeping with a blanket to fight off the unwanted advances of an inquisitive mosquito.

Today's a new day and a beautiful one. The mountains rise up on all sides encompassing and hugging and feeding this warm glacial lake, the sun is shining and the small town has a strong, quiet energy to it unlike anything I've ever felt. Glaciers fork their iced tongues down the side of sun baked rocky outcrops in the distance. Trees of every shape, colour and variety imaginable cling to the shores leaning their branches to the blue water as if using their delicate leaves as fishing lures. The people are warm and friendly and generous. There's a sense of peaceful vitality and I'm looking forward to spending the day relaxing and getting ready to continue travelling.

It will be a shame to have to leave this place.