NZ South Island: Wanaka and Mount Aspiring

Some months have passed since I have published the last part of my travel report about my trip to New Zealand’s South Island. I have to apologize for the delay.

After my hike on the Routeburn and Caples Tracks, I drove to Wanaka. I had a few days to explore the area before I would return to Fiordland where I had arranged transportation for the Dusky Track.

What do a lot of photographers think of, when they hear the name Wanaka? You are right: The famous tree in the lake.

"The" Wanaka Tree
“The” Wanaka Tree

As I was already there, I also wanted to capture my version of this scene. I camped at the Wanaka campsite and visited the tree on two days in the morning and evening. It can actually be a fun experience if you don’t get there dead-serious. Just look at the scene:

Photographers gathered at the Wanaka tree
Photographers gathered at the Wanaka tree

For me, the importance of getting the perfect image was not very high and thus I was quite amused about some people’s effort. There were even two that waited for sunrise in the water, blocking the view of all other photographers. The perspective from there was not really better. What did I do? Wearing rain pants I went into the water and positioned myself in front of them and told them that I would leave only if they returned to the bank as well. It worked and everybody was happy ;-).

Roys Peak

Roys Peak is located not far from the town. The hike to the top is not really spectacular (not considering the gradually improving vista). The first part follows a vehicle track used for sheep farming. It is an ascent of about 1300 m in total. The top of Roys Peak is disfigured by antennas. Nonetheless, the view is spectacular and worth every drop of sweat.

Evening View from Roys Peak
Evening View from Roys Peak

I took a different approach than most visitors and wanted to spend the night up there in the hope for the evening and morning light. Due to my large pack some people gave me a strange look on my way up. I set up my tent not at the top but a bit further down as I preferred the perspective from there. It was great to sit there in the evening and enjoy the view as the sun slowly set. Finally I was left alone and the sound of the wind was the only noise.

Camping at Roys Peak
Camping at Roys Peak

The night was quite cold at this level of elevation. In the morning the sky was cloudy but there were also gaps in the cloud cover so conditions looked quite good. Wearing gloves I left my sleeping bag and tent. And finally the light-show started:

Morning Glow
Morning Glow

After the red glow of the clouds was gone, the sun peeked through the gap in the clouds near the horizon and cast an interesting light across the landscape. The following image shows the view from my campsite to the west – the prominent peak in the background being Mount Aspiring.

Mount Aspiring - First Light
Mount Aspiring – First Light

Just before the light turned dull due to the cloud cover I got the following shot. It is interesting to compare it to the evening view above.

Light and Shadow
Light and Shadow

I was really happy with the experience up there, had breakfast and finally packed up my gear and descended from the mountain. It took some time until I met the first people climbing up again.

Rob Roy Glacier

My next excursion from Wanaka was the drive along the Mount Aspiring road and the following hike to the Rob Roy Glacier viewpoint. From the carpark at the end of the unpaved road you cross a swing bridge and walk up the valley of the Rob Roy stream.

Mount Aspiring from the swing bridge
Mount Aspiring from the swing bridge

At the end of the hike there are some information boards and you can get a glimpse of the glacier. I actually was a bit disappointed but assume that the glacier has retracted a lot in recent years due to the global warming. There is a small waterfall to the left which fits nicely in the overall scene.

Rob Roy Glacier View
Rob Roy Glacier View

To me, for the glacier alone the hike is not worth it, but all the details, the stream and the valley certainly are. So walk slowly and enjoy.

Rob Roy Stream
Rob Roy Stream

Next in my itinerary was Dusky Track in Fiordland which turned out to be my favorite hike during the trip.

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