Road Trip Days 5-6: Glaciers, Mountains, Lambs.

December 14, 2014
So last we left off… Queenstown, snow. Like, we woke to this:

Of course, Queenstown. At least you’re pretty.
The following 2 days were probably our most active, yet had the most driving, and the most lambs.
We left Queenstown fairly early and drove over the hill to Wanaka, a one hour drive away. Better weather greeted us in Wanaka, and we found ourselves lounging for quite some time on the lakefront before finally going on our hike.
The drive to the Rob Roy Glacier hike is so beautiful that if you didn’t know what you were going for, you’d feel like the drive itself was enough:

Around every corner a mountain, a waterfall, a lush valley with happy sheep.

The Rob Roy Glacier track starts out with pasture land, where hikers must brave the stares of cows and sheep as they pass by.

And lambs!

Soon though, you see a swing bridge and are reminded you are in fact in NZ.

We did this hike once before in much different conditions. Last time, the clouds were low and it was drizzling off and on. I still thought it was one of the most beautiful hikes I had done, but on my second time, with good weather, I was completely dazzled. The contrast of ferns and beech forest to glaciers and snow, blue sky and blue water… it’s breathtaking.

After our hike, we drove back in to Wanaka for pizza and beer (thank goodness that’s a meal you can get nearly anywhere in the world!) and then hit the road for Dunstan Downs.

Dunstan Downs is a high country sheep station. They have over 8,000 merino sheep on their 30,000+ acres of land near Omarama. The land here is rugged, but the sheep are tough, and the people warm and welcoming. Dunstan Downs is owned by Tim and Geva Innes, who run a farm stay (in their home) as well as a backpackers accommodation.

Kim and I stayed in their home, and Geva cooked us an amazing breakfast in the morning while she explained to us what really goes on year-round on a high country merino sheep station. (Hint: lots.)

After breakfast we got to meet her four lambs: Dora, Lily, Friday, and Halloween (the latter two named after their birthdays). Geva explained that each year she acquires a few lambs who have been mis-mothered: either mom has died giving birth, or she has up and left them. Apparently merino sheep are rather delinquent mothers, and every year Geva has a handful of baby lambs to bottle feed.

So, as expected, meeting and feeding the lambs was the best thing ever. And I want them all.

Friday, Lily, and Halloween.
Breakfast time!

Ok, full disclosure. I made a lamb video. I know, who does that?

I do. Here’s my lamb video… CLICK ME.

I’m soooo full……

So after Kim and I were torn away from left the baby sheep, we headed north to Mt. Cook. We revisited the Hooker Valley Walk, which Scott and I did nearly 4 years ago on holiday but haven’t been back to see. I had forgotten, again, how beautiful this part of the country is.

Drive to Mt. Cook, view of Cook across Lake Pukaki

This hike is fairly easy. It’s 2-3 hours round trip, but has a minimal gradient and a wide, new pathway. We passed lots of families and tramping groups, yet still managed to feel like the only ones there at many moments as well.

Kim on the swing bridge.

At the end of the trail, hikers are deposited at a lookout over Mt. Cook and the Mt. Cook glacier. The glacier is a dingy, dirty thing that dead ends in this glacial pool:

Kim: “Coldest my feet have ever been, ever.”
Icebergs. (Thats the glacier int he middle/background.)
The rarely un-obscured peak of Mt. Cook
Cool cloud formations as the weather changed on our hike back.
Looking back one last time at Cook and the alpine flora.

Kim and I then returned to Christchurch. I had 4 days of work, while she ventured to the West Coast. She saw black water caves with glow worms, flew in a helicopter and landed on the glaciers, and tramped around the Punakaki Pancake rocks. I don’t have her photos of these things or I would shamelessly share them with you. So I guess ya’ll will just have to come see those things for yourself!

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  • Reply deborah gregory December 17, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Wow! Your pictures are amazing, as always! Did you get a new camera?

    • Reply Kristen F December 17, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      Ahh, I wish!! No, I think Kim and I just got lucky with the weather 🙂

    Come on, you must want to tell me something!