Jan 18

Wana(ka) Stay

I can't explain it, but it took me only 5 minutes to fall in love with Wanaka. In second thought, it's easy to understand, the stories about the best cookie in the world, the good old ice crean from Patagonia (South America) and the good weather made it pretty easy. Some of those high expectations were met and some didn't, but still, Wanaka will always have a small warm place in my heart.

Our plan for Wanaka was simple, 3 day tracks, rest, movies, cookies and lots of ice cream.

The first destination was Rob Roy. To get to the Rob Roy track you'll have to drive through 30 km of unpaved road and cross 6 fords. There is no problem to drive this road with a private car when the weather is good, but note that after a day or two of rain the fords might be higher. Alternatively, you can take a taxi (140 nzd return) or a bus (40 nzd per person, one way).

Rob Roy Track Rob Roy Track

Rob Roy Track Rob Roy Track

Rob Roy Track Rob Roy Track

The track is short, easy and rewarding. The 10 km return hike starts with 15 minutes flat walk until the bridge. Once you cross the bridge there is an easy to moderate climb up to the first lookout. It's a nice lookout but don't waste your time on this one. The upper lookout is much more impressive, enormous waterfall can be seen on the left and another dozen or so coming down from this iceberg along the mountain. Small avalanches can be heard and seen frequently.

Rob Roy Track Rob Roy Track

Rob Roy Track Rob Roy Track

Rob Roy Track Rob Roy Track

Take a beer or two with you, you might wanna seat in the lookout for a while. We spent there more than 1 hour, eating lunch, drinking beer and having a pineapple for desert. It took us 1:20 to get up and 1:10 to return. Definitely the easiest "track" we've done so far and one of the most rewarding.

The day after the weather seemed to be good and we went to see Roys Peak lookout. This one is more challenging, 16 km return and 1300 meters climb ends up in a beautiful, 360 panoramic view of lake wanaka and the mountains around. Luckily for us, we still got to see some snowy peaks. It took us 2:10 to climb and a little less than 2 hours to return as we walked fast with small bags.

Roys Peak Track - Summit View Roys Peak Track - Summit View

Against the forcast, the next day was sunny too and we couldn't resist another short walk to Wanaka lookout. The Diamond Lake can be seen after a 20 minutes climb. It's a small lake, and really not that interesting in my opinion. The lookout (20 minutes ahead) is nice and very similar to what you see from Roys Peak, only it's much lower and the view was not as impressive as Roys Peak. You may challenge yourself and climb more to the summit but we had enough and just came back to relax in the hostel.

 Diamond Lake Lookout Diamond Lake Lookout

Wanaka Lookout Wanaka Lookout

The next few days we were busy with movies in Cinema Paradiso. This cool little cinema have only two small theaters. Comfortable coaches instead of cinema chairs will make you love it, but the true 2 secrets of the special cinema are excellent service and wonderful cookies. The first time we saw a movie (The Imitation Game, which is recommended as well) we ordered a pizza before the movie. The cashier told us it won't be ready before the movie starts but it can wait for us, warm, at the break. We came out at the break and the pizzas were waiting for us, we just set and ate them and once we finished eating we went to buy cookies and got back to the theater and only then the movie resumed. Did I already say? Excellent service!

Cookies from Cinema Paradiso Cookies from Cinema Paradiso

One thing though, the cookies are good, not doubt about it, but I know someone at home who makes excellent cookies as well, Shaya, the credit is for you. If you traveled in South America or just heard stories, I bet you know "Jauja". The best ice cream in the world origins in El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina. Here in Wanaka, "Patagonia, New Zealand" does the almost impossible and makes top ice cream who can match the softness, texture and taste I remember. The only down side is the limited flavours collection, with very little fruit flavors. That didn't stop me from eating there more times than the number of days we spent in Wanaka. If you crave for some more variety, Black Peak Gelato won't let you down.

We stayed at Base Wanaka which was in a great location but I would stay away from this one. The kitchen is horrible and we really didn't feel like cooking our whole stay there. Not cooking has its own advantages and we got to visit some of the restaurants in Wanaka. The Lake Bar is my favorite, great location, reasonable prices and excellent food. Kai Whakapai comes second with excellent pizza. Francesca's Italian Kitchen have good Italian food but with very small dishes and too high prices, totally fails in the value for money test. If you just want to grab a burger, try Red Star.

We heard great things about the Gillespie and the Liverpool hut, but we can't do it all. Our next destination is Queenstown. With beautiful tracks around, Patagonia ice cream and Fergburger, I can't wait to get there.