It's been a while since I last wrote, (sorry to all the fans out there.... ;-) ) so I thought it was about time that I got my act together and posted an update.
Since arriving in Wanaka, I've definitely become acustomed to the slower, quiter lifestyle. Wanaka is without a doubt the little cousin of Queenstown, which is a good thing. Not having the traffic, the busy streets, the big developments makes for a more relaxing, enjoyable atmosphere. It's the type of town that forces you to feel relaxed and appreciate that there are still places in the world where despite their beauty, and offerings they aren't overrun by the masses. Being on a lake with mountains all around, the outdoors plays a big part of everyones life here, and there is always something to do (i.e. hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, watersking, rock climbing.....the list goes on), and without the commercialism of Queenstown there aren't the mass crowds. It's pretty cool. I'd say that it getting there as being my favourite town in NZ so far.
When I first arrived here, I set up camp at the local caravan park. Being the only one deciding to take on the cold nights, I was able to pitch my tent in a way so that I had the best view of Roy's Peak, which is a part of the mountain range that runs along the western side of Lake Wanaka..... a pretty cool view to wake up to every morning. After spending many a cup of tea during breakfast looking at the peak and giving it the "I could hike to the top of that easily!!", the lure of snow on the top of Roy's Peak was too great and I put together a day pack together and threw on the boots, and headed off to the beginning of Roy's Peak track.
As I started off on my first real summit attempt (1578m or 4500ft....not massive I know, but it had snow at the top, and had a view from the top across the Crown Range and St Basins Range, so in my eyes it was a summit!!!), I was a little concerned when I started to get a sharp pain in my achillies tendon. Especially considering I hadn't even left the carpark of the caravan park yet!!. Thinking that if I ignored it, it will go away, I decided to just grin and bear it. Anyway, who needs two fully functional feet when going on a hike up a mountain!!! (albeit a small one)
After walking for about an hour (where the hell is the beginning of this track!!!!) I finally reached a small dirt car park with a sign at one end welcoming me to Stack Conservation Area. Sounded impressive, however I was told that I was looking for Roy's Peak Track.... Well I didn't walk the past hour for nothing so I decided to give it a go anyway, it's bound to go somewhere interesting (however it did end up being the correct track.....always helps if you get a map first).
With the pain in my tendon now turning to more of a numb feeling, I hit this track full of enthusiasim and started of charging up as if it was a race (there were a couple of other keen contenders starting at the same time so my competitive streak kicked in), the sign said 6 hours return, that meant 4 hours Jonesy time...
After about an hour of army like marching, I begun to think that this may be a little harder than I originally thought, after about two hours the pain started to set in. With shaky legs and a limp (yep, that pain in my tendon was back with a vengeance), I reached the first fence that I had to get over, but the steps looked like a good spot to stop and reflect on how far I had come, and how far I had to go. Sitting down looking back down towards the carpark where I had started and across Lake Wanaka, a sense of acheievment rushed through me given my acky legs the boost that they needed...... Turning around and looking up at how far I had to go gave my past hour a sense of insignificance. I wasn't even a quater of the way.
Deciding that sitting on my arse wasn't really getting me anywhere, I started on the next stage of the walk. The valley that I was walking up was becoming narrower and as a result, the track was becoming steeper. Trying to ignore the ever increasing pain in my left ankle, I put my head down and picked up the pace two fold and walked with a level of defiance... there was now way I wasn't going to get to the top of this mountain!!!!!..... Amidst my grunting and moaning (the type of nosies one would expect to hear during love making......with sheep...:) ), I looked up to see another walker heading down the track towards me. Looking at the relaxed, happy expression on his face ( which was far from the painfull, determined one mine ) I thought that he must have been coming from having a picnic or something halfway up, there was no way he had already been to the top...... "How ya going mate, your not even half way yet, but it's worth it. You may want to hurry if you want to see the snow that's on the top, it'll be all gone soon" ... I would've loved to have seen the expression on my face when he said that.....
As I got closer to the top, the track kept on getting steeper, the pain in my ankle just kept on getting worse along with my groin muscles starting to ache with fatigue, and the track turned form resembling a farmers track (together with the sheep shit ) to a web of corrosion, rock and plenty of loose scree.
The further I walked, the less it looked that I was any closer to the top. At one stage, I could see the telecommunications tower on the top, but I was walking away from it. It was at this point where the pain was becoming unbearable and my steps were now a third of the stride of those when I started. With my grunting now becoming louder, I started to set myself little goals...... I now had my eyes set on a small ridge where it appeared that the track did a u-turn on itself. As I got to the ridge, I was blown away by the view. Looking out towards Mt Aspiring and Treble Cone, the view was breath-taking. Being a slighty overcast day, the different shades of greens and browns from the farms below, and the sparkling reflection of lake with the backdrop of snow speckled mountains cried out for a few moments of respest so I stood back in the silence and took it all in. The shape of the ground below, the snake like way that the river ran between the ranges and the fierce uprising of the mountains from the lush green fields all gave a picture that will remain in my mind for a long time. It's one thing to look down on the world from a plane and see mountains and land formations from a 747 window, but seeing them from a viewpoint that you've spent the last 3 ½ hours walking up is a totally different experience all together.
With a new spring in my step ( and I mean literally. I think that the view gave me a hit of adrenalin because now my legs didn't hurt at all ), I made a move on towards my goal....that damn communtications tower, and a little snow over the ground. Before long I was turning a corner to be greeted by the view of a ridgeline track that weaved it's way to the tower I had been eyeing off for the last hour or so. Walking on a track that wasn't even a foot wide, and with shear drops on either side definitely gave the sense of being on top of the world. However with the finish line now in my sights, I resisted the temptation of stopping and taking too many happy snaps and pushed up the last few feet of this 4500ft hike. With my sight fixed on the 12ft high white tower, I picked up the pace and trudged up with excitement pushing my stride to that similar to the stride when I left the caravan park 4hours ago.
Arriving at the top, I just stood and looked around at the 360 degree view of mountains, lakes and snow capped ranges. I was on the top of the world (well, my world anyway) and looking back down at the small dots in the distance that barely resembled the houses that they were... putting the distance that I had covered came into realistaion and I gave myself a pat on the back. (...not too soon, I still had to get back yet.!!!).
I spent about half an hour on the top of Mt Roy, and after taking in the serenity and thinking of how 12 months ago I wouldn't have ever imagined I'd bee taking in views such as the ones now in front of me. After making a little snowman to celebrate my first kiwi snow encounter and taking some happy snaps for the collection, I started on the decent back down to ground zero. On my way down I passed another keen contender with a pained look that must have been similar to mine when I was doing the uphill battle, and his expression told me that I must have been sporting a happy relaxed, content expression that must have been similar to the one I encountered.
Turning down an offer of a lift back into town (which I questioned myself about as the car drove off), I arrived back to the caravan park 8 hours after I had started. With burning feet and an empty stomach, I resided to my tent and cooked up some campsite culinary that was to die for. Then with a full stomach, and body that was screaming for rest, I had what I'd say was the best sleep ever in a tent on a -2 degree night.
After about two weeks staying at the campground, I finally found a couple who were brave enough to take me in. It's nothing like living with the legendary Kel Wilson, but it's a roof over my head in a warm house (which is good since a warm day is when the max temperature is over 5 degrees). Kath and Joseph are a young couple who have recently returned to Wanaka after each doing their own stint around the world, and decided that getting engaged was a good idea so have settled down snowy Wanaka. It's not a party household by any extent, but that's not a bad thing since I've meet up with a crew of crazy Englishmen, Irish and an Aussie who all have a passion for getting on the piss and are all here for the snow.
In the begining of May, I started work at Treble Cone as the Food and Beverage Manager, which was initially a bit of a shock to the system. No more sleeping in the morning, no more going off on hikes whenever I feel like it......yep, welcome back to the wonderful world of meetings, interviews, action plans and deadlines. It all sounds a little like being back in Sydney I know, however there are a few things that make the world of difference. The lack of a peak hour (busy is having to wait for a pedestrian to cross the road), views all around of snow capped mountains, fresh air, an abundance of outdoor activities makes for a pretty relaxed lifestyle (despite having to work!!). Where TC lacks in pay, it certainly makes up in location, hours and that all important season pass. Everyday I am on a mountain with amazing views over Lake Wanaka and despite how busy I am, the latest that I can stay at work is 5pm, when the last transport leaves the mountain. I'd say the most stressful part of the job is driving on the road that goes up the mountain (Kiwi's don't believe on barriers on mountain roads, so if you slip you fall 4000ft). On some days there is an inversion, which is the term for when the weather is shitty and miserable in Wanaka, but up on the mountain, it's beautiful with blue skies and a blanket of cloud covering the world below.... It's times like that when I find I have to pinch myself.
Treble Cone has the reputation of being New Zealand's more advance ski fields and is well known for it's legendary powder days. So hopefully, this season I am going to be in for some challenging terrain and some wicked snow. Apart from making friends with the local publicans, the crew of guys who are pretty keen on doing a fair bit of back county boarding (and drinking!!!!) so with any luck, I wont get lost or become victim to an avalance and will be able to post some wicked photos onto this site over winter. The journal entries may become a little less frequent compared to when I was gallivanting all around the place, but that's just because with only two days off each week, most of my time will be spent on the mountain carving it up... :-)