Our family, a not very fit Mum and Dad and our 2 kids age 6 and 8, have just stayed for two nights on the Routeburn Track. We are still on a high from this trip. It was amazing. If you are considering going, trust me, just do it!

The scenery is stunning, the changes in such a short distance make the walking pass very very easily.

So what about the logistics?

We stayed the first night at Kinloch Lodge. We love Glenorchy but think the camp ground there is not much chop. The charge for the cabins which are basically shipping containers is ridiculous. Whereas the family rooms at the Kinloch Lodge while small are clean and fine for an overnight stay. We also really liked the clean, well stocked, communal kitchen, the lovely position close to the water, the child friendly dogs. The owners are very child friendly too as they have young kids.

We could easily have just stayed at Kinloch as it was stunning but in the morning we mucked around for a while, packed the packs up and then headed up the road to the beginning of the Routeburn track. 20 kms or so up the road. Don’t forget the insect repellent before you get to the track start.

We booked in for two nights at Routeburn Flats hut. DoC says it will take about 3 hours for adults. We always add another hour to what they say and sure enought the walk took us about 4 hours with lots of stops to look at trout, swing bridges, eat choclates and admire the views.

The Routeburn Flats hut in bypassed by many walkers/trampers who head straight for the Routeburn Falls hut. So there were weren’t many people there either night we were there. The hut warden, Liz was very friendly and nice to us and the children.

The falls hut is in a beautiful alpine valley. Big grassy plains surrounded by high snow covered mountains. You will think you are living inside what is more often viewed in a postcard.

The next day we left our packs at the Flats hut and did a day walk up to the Falls. Stunning. We were lucky to get the “out of the box” brillant weather day, with perfect views in every direction. Did some swimming near the Bridal Falls and then another swim in the stream above the hut then back home for tea.

We all enjoyed walking without a pack. It was so much easier without the 15kgs on your back.

Next day we headed back to the Routeburn Glenorchy car park. It rained and rained and rained. We realised that the gear we have for the kids is not in any way adequate for a rain forest but soon we were in the car, then we all got changed into dry gear in Glenorchy. The Glenorchy cafe sells delicious coffee and food and way we fell upon it , you’d think we had been out of the city for weeks not just two nights.


Always in Wanaka during the summer we do the annual tadpole hunt. The lake is so high this year that last years swamp is no longer, so we had to find the new home. We only had to listen and we could hear the croaking of the frogs which led to the best places to find where they are.
The best catching equipment is the kitchen sieve combined with a plastic ice cream container. Before you knew it we had 146 tadpoles according to the kids.

Presently they are outside in a bucket but what are we going to do with them? The children want to go and add them to pond that is closer to town but I am wondering if this will do something bad to the ecology of the pond. Maybe I will be taking a late night visit to West Wanaka to set them free.

Wanaka has an annual rodeo held around the end of each year. it is held on a local property on the edge of town.
We have never been to a rodeo before so decided to go and find out what it is all about. We quickly could see we had the wrong clothes – cowboy boots, cowboy hats,  cowboy shirts, wrangler jean, drizabone coats were worn by the crowd and the competitors.  As it was raining most of the afternoon and really cold we stood out in our ski gear.

So even though we clearly weren’t part of the rodeo tribe,  it was great fun and we soon got the hang of it.

The kids liked watching the other kids hanging to a back of a sheep and seeing who could stay on the longest.  I liked the equivalent on a bull. The heaviest bull is 950 kgs. Hanging on to him looked terrifying and extremely difficult.

The traditional rodeo of the bucking bronco was great to see up close. The stadium is small as were the crowds so we could go right up to the fence and experience what has happening.

There is rodeo paraphanilia for sale. You should see my latest sun hat!

Peony Foglights

Originally uploaded by *Michelle*(xena2542)

The Wanaka Craft and Farmers Market has been running each Sunday since Labour Weekend and will continue on most Sundays through to May 3rd 10.00 am.The market takes place in Pembroke Park, Ardmore St. (The big park down at the lake)

I like to support the talented local artists and it is good that the rules state the market is only for New Zealand Arts and Crafts. Last week I bought a woolly hat from a lady who has a farm around here and knits up the wool from her own sheep.

It is great to get some fresh food and produce that it is locally grown. I like the Hawea Honey. Local eggs, local fruit and vegetables. Can’t resist a big bunch of peonies that grow so brilliantly in Otago. http://www.WanakaFarmersMarket.org.nz is the web site for more info.

This Saturday, Wanaka is hosting the Challenge Wanaka Ironman. The town is flooded with 450 fit folk who want to run a marathon, swim 3.8 km and ride 180km down to Cromwell on the same day.

I can’t do one of these things, let alone all of them together. The local paper, The Messenger has been calling for volunteers saying they are a hundred people short as the event has doubled in size this year.

I put my name down and now have the heady responsibility of bag transition after the swim.  My job is to have the bags in order so the iron people can get out of the water, find their cycling gear and gear on their bikes. This may sound trivial but my new friend who is running the glasses stand next to me, where the iron people pick up their specs says the transistion can make or break the race for the pro athletes. I have a 5.00 am start so (hopefully) have plenty of time to get the bags in order.

Apparently 10% of Wanaka’s population are either competing or volunteering for the event. Lots of people will be out cheering. Hopefully the weather will hold, the prediction is rain but at least that will be better than the baking 35 degrees we had last year.

The weather has finally settled down and it was perfect to take the kids on their first overnight tramp.  The wind had stopped, the rain had stopped, the sun was shining.

Aspiring Hut

Aspiring Hut

Aspiring Hut is up the Matukituki valley, the start is about an hours drive from Wanaka. The walk is described by DoC as easy and should take 2 -3 hours for adults. The hut is historic and set on a lovely flat, surrounded by mountains.

All sounds very good so we loaded up the packs. The amount of food, clothes when you are carrying yours and your childs makes for a very heavy pack. The kids had to carry their own sleeping bag and drink bottle which they didn’t complain about.

So off we trotted, past cows and sheep and glaciers. Stopped at some ponds and looked for tadpoles. Then we started to have to cross small streams and then quite big streams.  The kids managed the streams and got quite good at finding the best place to cross. In wet weather some of these streams would be tricky with young kids.  The recent rain saw the streams and rivers swell to 10 times their normal size and at that height they would be impassable for young kids and very tricky for you if you were trying to piggy back them over.

We thought we had spotted the hut but instead it was the Cascade hut which belongs to the Alpine Club. It created a bit of diversion and another excuse for a stop but still there were 30 mins to go.

We arrived 4 hours after we started with plenty of stops and not too many moans and groans.

We are starting to figure out that when tramping with our kids, we need to double the shortest time that Doc suggests for adults and that is about right. So a super fit, fast walker can do this walk in two hours. We took 4.

It has been many years since I have stayed in a DoC hut and lot had been forgotten – like pots, crockery and cutlery, matches. Doc provides gas for cooking and that is it.

The sandflies are pesky so you need long pants, long socks, long sleeves for the evening plus sandfly repellent and antihistamine cream for when the kids invariably get bitten.

We all had a great time, met lots of different folk including another family with young kids who were 3 and 5. The 3 year old had to be carried part of the way. On the way back, we stopped and had lunch with this family and the little one was having a sleep under a tree. Absolutely tuckered out.  I would say 5 is the minimum age and then they should be used to walking on longer day trips.

A few other tips:

I left a change of clothes for everybody and some more food in the car. This was devoured and was a great bribe on the last hour home.

Take a second pair of light walking sandals. Great for the hut especially when your boots are all soggy, great for river crossings, great if a blister develops to have another option.

Keep as much skin as possible covered from the sun.

Plan to stay for two nights if you can. Once there it is a beautiful place to stay and enjoy

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Inside of a Persian Walnut nut with green oute...

The summer weather in Wanaka has been unusually squally, wet and windy. The hills are uncharacteristically green. We are waiting for the weather to settle so we can get out into the mountains for some walking. Time to get into some bottling with all the ripe summer fruits that abound.

A friend is in Wanaka too with a huge walnut tree on her property. We have decided to try making Pickled Green Walnuts. At this time of the year the walnuts are green and have not formed their hard outer shell. To pickle walnuts this timing is critical as once the shell is formed it is too late.

We have found a couple of recipes for Pickled Green Walnuts. One is from Digby Law’s classic “Pickle and Chutney Cookbook”.  The other is from the very beautiful and inspiring Saffron cookbook from the restaurant in Arrowtown. My friend is using Mrs Beeton’s recipe. After comparing a few they are fairly similar.

So have found the preserving pan and the green walnuts are now soaking in brine for 9 days with the occasional stir.

I have no idea what they taste like and have just checked Provisions, the fabulous preserves shop in Cromwell if they sell them as thought it might be worth trying them before we go the all this bother. They don’t. Will let you know how I get on.

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Matukituki River
The Matukituki Valley

This walk has been showered with high praise which it rightly deserves. We had never walked it as I had heard there were lots of high drops down into the river which didn’t sound like much fun for us or our kids.

This year though the kids are a bit older and we decided to give it a go.

The drive in is beautiful, about an hour from Wanaka to the Matukituki valley. The type of scenery you expect to see in NZ. Stunning mountains, green valleys, waterfalls. Had to take the car over a few small fords which the kids enjoyed. We have had quite a bit of rain here so they were running quite high.

For the walk itself we took full winter gear as the weather has been so changeable lately. Snow on the hills a few days ago. The walk is covered in bush and the wind comes down from the glacier and we were glad that we well covered.

The walk itself is stunning. There are somlarge drops that go down to the river and I wouldn’t take kids under 6 on it as they need to concentrate in some parts and not dance around looking for fairies or whatever! It is also a steady up hill climb so quite tiring for little lets. We took 5 hours there and back with lots of stops, lots of food.

Fantastic and will be one that we take our friends who visit Wanaka on in the future.

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Once you are in the pristine environment of Wanaka, the desire to live sustainably, buy organic, be green comes to front of mind.

I found a book recently at Soulfood Organics called “Organic Explorer – Green Travel Guide to New Zealand“. Gives some great suggestions for those who are travelling around some nice ideas for “green” places to stay, eat and things to do.

They are about to publish an updated 2nd edition. Here is a link to the online database for Otago which gives you a flavour of what the book is like.

The advertising is starting at appear for the popular Motatapu Icebreaker.  This is a high country marathon race or 50km mountain bike ride that is next held on Saturday March 14th 2009. Last year, this event was sold out iby December.

What is so special is that this route is used to be open only one day per year to bike or run through.  The race starts at Glendhu Bay,  Wanaka and ends in Arrowtown. In March 2008, the Motatapu track was officially opened which is part of the conditions that enabled Shania Twain to buy the property so it is now possible to walk/ride this route any time.

Don’t expect an idyllic solitary mountain biking experience as this is New Zealand’s largest off road mountain bike and 3rd largest marathon race and had approx 2,000 entrants. So if you are thinking of coming to Wanaka around this weekend book your accommodation well in advance .

For those not fit enough to compete in the event, the organisers needs plenty of volunteers to help the contestants along the way. And if you think you are going to spot Shania on the porch, the ride goes past Shania Twain’s house but you can’t see it from the path.

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