#thatwanakatree

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Wanaka. My last new spot in New Zealand. It is another mountain town by a lake. But smaller than Queenstown. It has a few ski resorts nearby and is a bit drier than the west. Wanaka also had a few pine trees. If this doens’t sound familiar. It reminded me of Reno-Tahoe again. I booked my canyoning tour for the following day. It was supposed to a bit cooler and maybe even rain. I would save the long day hike for my second day in Wanaka. I have decided that going for a run is an easy and efficient way to view a new place. You move at a quicker pace than walking, and can see spots you wouldn’t see driving. I took a path along the lake and it was gorgeous. My friend I had met in Rotorua was also in Wanaka, so we made dinner plans for the following day. The mountains in NZ aren’t really that high in elevation, but they look so dramatic because the towns are close to sea level, so the climbs up are always intense. I can’t remember exactly where I was, but one bus driver told me if they put in a pipe from the lake to the ocean the town would flood. The mountains are 1000 meters or 600 meters tall (which isn’t really that tall compared to some mountains in the States) but the town is basically sea level. Some are below sea level. Where in Tahoe or Denver the towns are already at a higher elevation. This is my theory on why the mountains in NZ look so dramatic. I was pretty pumped for canyoning. I went to check in and the guide was hilarious. He guessed I was from California. I don’t know if that was a lucky guess, or if California natives have a certain vibe. In our small group it was two couples and me and then the guide. Everyone in the group was really rad. We were going to be canyoning in Hasst Pass, so I made the drive up like going to the west coast for the 3rd time. Good thing it is such a pretty drive. I had been once before in Costa Rica, so I was excited to see how they were different. For one this water was freezing! In Costa Rica you wore your own clothes. Here we had  thermals and a wet suit and some special shoes and gloves. And you needed it all. The 2nd difference was the group was a lot smaller. We had about  4 guides and 30 people or something in CR. We made the hike up and did our first practice abseil. Abseil is what they call repelling. In total we only abseiled twice. Once for practice and then once down a 12 meter waterfall. The other ways we would get through the canyon was by walking, jumping and sliding. The slides were wicked. You go down a natural rock slide and then it just ends and you fall into the pool of freezing water. It was also beautiful. I didn’t bring my camera, but I did buy the photos. I can’t wait to look at them. Some of the jumps were smaller and easy. But I will admit I am a bit afraid of heights, so when the first 6 meter jump came about it took me a moment. The guide started to count for me, but I can’t do that. I have to jump on my own terms. I would look over the edge and think oh heck no and step back. I know the longer I stare at it the harder it gets. So my method, is I say I’ll jump on the count of three (mind you this is my third time counting to three), in reality I count to three but I finally jumped at two. I think it catches myself off guard and I am able to overcome my fear. The day was awesome, but cold. Some times you would have to slide and hit in a certain spot, or jump in a certain spot. Our guide didn’t abseil once. Not even off the 12 meter waterfall. He jumped or slid everything. But hey that is his job. So the girl I met in Hokitika, that had been living in Wanaka, said she had some friends who were canyoining guides. Turns out my guide was one of them. Small world. The other hard jump was about the same height as the other, but you had to jump out because the rock went out a bit at the bottom. That was trippy because boy I wouldn’t want to break my legs on those rocks. I still have too many adventures ahead of me. We all made it successfully out of the canyon and stopped to have some well deserved lunch. At this time we were all hoping for a hot shower and some warm tea. We had been freezing all day. I got back into Wanaka just in time for dinner with my friend. I decided to explore around Wanaka a bit before calling it a night. Turns out the best way to window shop is to go when the stores are closed which isn’t hard to do in NZ. The next day I was going to hike Roy’s Peak. Another hike that had been recommended to me by a few people. The trail head is about a 10 or 15 minute drive out of town. I was now a hitchhiking expert. This was going to be easy. I did walk along the lake a bit to see the sites and the Wanaka tree. The tree is a sole random willow tree about 3 or 4 meters from shore in the lake. And everyone flocks there to take pictures. Then I decided to keep walking and stick out my thumb again. This time I walked for about 15 minutes before getting picked up. It was a French guy who was driving around looking for different trail heads. He dropped me off at the trail head and I was on my way. The hike was steep. Boy was it steep. And some of it went through a sheep farm. So lots of poop on the trail. The baby lambs were worth it though. I met a Hungarian who I ended up walking with. His sister lives in Auckalnd, but she was still working, so he was going on a South Island tour on his own. And then he would do a North Island tour with his sister. We made it to the first picturesque peak and then made the journey to the summit. It was a climb, but completely worth it. One thing I thought was cool was while we were at the summit another boy came up and he was from Colorado. And then a girl came up and she was from Texas. Why is that cool? Because you never out number the Europeans like that! Its always Europeans everywhere and one American, and here we had three Americans and one European. Its the small things haha. We walked back down and then decided to get some well deserved ice cream in town. I ran into some people from my hostel I had met at breakfast. We chated and one of the boys was like hey I saw you hitchhiking. It always funny when this happens because the response it always “Why didn’t you pick me up?” He was with a guide, so I got it. I made some dinner and went to bed. I had one day left in Wanaka. Did I mention how sore I was becoming? Between Canyoning and the hike I was feeling like an old woman. But I had one more day in Wanaka and one more hike. I went up Mt Iron which also has a nice view and then went to puzzle world. Puzzle world was cool, they have an illusion room and then a real life outdoor maze. I totally felt like a character from maze runner. It was getting hot and my feet hurt. I just wanted to chill by the lake while I waited for my bus, and that is exactly what I did. Wanaka was awesome. I loved it. I could of stayed longer, but I already had everything booked. Its okay though, I was headed back to Queenstown for my final days in New Zealand. Life is good.

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