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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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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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Looking down from Treble Cone

Many people who come to Wanaka, visit because of  Treble Cone mountain. Treble Cone offers great skiing in the winter and down hill mountainbiking in the summer.

I have an admission to make, yesterday, after about 10 years of visiting Wanaka, I finally skied at Treble Cone for the first time. My husband knowing my skiing abilities has kept me away from Treble Cone, knowing it probably all would end in tears and a sulky bad mood. My skiing though has finally improved from plenty of days in Cardrona. We had some great friends spending the day at Treble Cone so decided to give it a go.

I loved it! Even though the snow is now in spring condition, I now understand why our keen skiing friends go directly to Treble Cone and never leave it when they come to Wanaka.

What was great:

  • The drive there is stunning – spring lambs, green fields, huge snow capped mountains, waterfalls
  • Being able to park so close to the amenities when we got to the top.
  • The incredible views
  • No queues
  • Fast lifts
  • Huge variety of skiing. My friends tell me TC has the best skiing in New Zealand.
  • Seeing keas up so close

Not so great:

  • The road up the mountain would be frightening when the conditions are bad
  • The price of the season passes. I havejust heard though from a shareholder, that things may be changing next season. Hooray!
  • Not that much skiing for the low intermediate level skier. The whole mountain is quite steep and lots of runs are ungroomed.
  • Having the keas pinch your keys, your lunch!

Here is the link to a lovely Treble Cone blog by one of the ski instructors there. Russ’s Endless Winter

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What happens to the rubbish is not something most of us think about. Every Monday we put it out on the kerbside and for most of us, that is the end of it

In Wanaka we have lots of great sustainability initiatives which are commendable for such a small town. Maybe you can take some of these ideas back to where you live?

This morning was a miserable one in Wanaka. Raining, very cold, but the good news is that snow is falling on the slopes.  Home day today so switched on National Radio to hear Kim Hill interviewing the Manager of Wanaka Wastebusters, Susan Coutts.  I switched on the radio Susan was already talking.  I was thinking how interesting she was and then Kim mentioned that Susan was from Wanaka Wastebusters. Fantastic! Hopefully,  the podcast will be available at Radio NZ if you missed it.

Wanaka Wastebusters is now seven years old, All the profits go back into the community. Wanaka Wastebusters now employs 35 people and has a turnover of over $1 million! All from collecting and sorting the rubbish.

We like to go out to the Recycling Centre up Ballantyne Rd to get rid of our junk. This is where old skis  and snowboards go to die, old phones, old computers, you name it. The best reusable stuff gets taken out and sold through the shop. I need to go alone or the children invariably find something they have to have. Most things are very, very cheap. Great place to fill up with household bits and pieces if you are just here for awhile. Especially if you are fond of things from the “80’s.

  • Sustainable Wanaka – you can sign up for the newsletter which notifies you of coming activities. I like the sound of “WannaRide” which is a carpooling project. Sustainable Wanaka ran a great campaign called “Bag the Habit – towards a plastic bag free Wanaka.” Outside the supermarket for a longtime last year was a large plastic bag “statue” which was a gruesome reminder of how many plastic bags are used. There is also mention of Green Drinks to meet the other like minded locals.
  • Already in existence is http://www.snowpool.org.nz – Sharing rides to save the planet.
  • Recirculate is a resource exchange for the Queenstown Lake Area

Wanaka is about to have our own Farmers/Craft Market from Labour Weekend, which will be great for encouraging us to eat local.

Wanaka has permaculture group for those who want to garden in this way wanakapermaculture@paradise.net.nz  . Permaculture is perfect for the dry, alluvial soil/rock we have here. If you are into gardening you may want to get along to the composting workshop. Check it out at SustainableWanaka.

This morning I got up early and walked to the top of Mt Iron. I hope you can feel my virtue rising from your computer! The morning was crisp and cold, a light frost was covering the ground.The sun came up into a clear blue sky. The rabbits hopped about. Other walkers and their dogs did the ‘up and over’ circuit.

From the car park, DOC says it takes 1 hour 20 minutes to do the circuit.  This means climbing to the top one way and coming down the other sound, round the base of the mountain and back to the carpark. The track is very clear and easy to find. If you don’t want to go up the top you could just follow the track around towards Albert town.

I went to the top for exercise this morning but it is a beautiful walk and the top is a great place for a picnic. The 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking. Right now they are still dusted with snow, it is beautiful though at any time of the year.

The Department of Conservation says it is a very popular, close-to-Wanaka-town loop walk. It suits all ages and abilities and offers great views from the summit

Here are what some tourists recorded on their webcam.

Mt Iron is easy to find. it is “behind” Wanaka town. Opposite Puzzle World. People say it is shaped like an old fashioned iron. You will have to use your imagination.

Here’s a map if you can find it from the Lake.

My aim to get fit enought to make it up Mt Roy. That’s quite another challenge.

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Down by the lake on the waterfront is the Skatepark. The boarders seem to become skateboarders here when they can’t ski.

We like to go down and watch them and ooh and aah over their abilities. Free entertainment for the kids.

My son had a turn and was crying within about 10 minutes. It is harder than it looks!

The Clutha River at Albert Town, New Zealand. ...

Setting off from the Dinosaur Park down by the lake, there is a path that leads all the way around to Beacon Point. When you are looking at the lake, take the path to your right.

This is a perfect easy cycle for young kids on a path that is away from the traffic. We stopped when the path gets sandy and rutted but if you were with confident riders I would keep going, along the Upper Clutha Outlet and then complete the circle back through Albertown and back to Wanaka. I just didn’t fancy seeing my children tip into the  fast flowing Clutha River.The Outlet track is not difficult for a mountain biker at all.

It took us about an hour each way, but we go slow and stop for all sorts of things.

DoC and the local Wanaka bike shop have a good map of the area and all the rides. Take all the food and drink you need.

This is a perfect ride for kids who are just getting started cycling. Scenic, safe and breathtaking scenery.

Wanaka has lots of great mountain biking – Check out the Laka Wanaka Cycling

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Wanaka is presently discussing the future of its Sports Facilities.

This is important as “Sports Facilities” cover such things as will the Camping Ground remain in the centre of the town? 35,000 people a year stay in this centrally located camp ground. Very easy to then walk down and support the local businesses.

Two local meetings have just taken place this week and the process is very consultative.

Here’s a section from the document:

The buildings on the camp are owned by the Council and the camp is operated by a lease agreement that
expires on 13 August 2010. A Camping Ground Strategy was adopted by the Council on 26 August 2005. This strategy recommends that at the lease termination the camp be returned to Council
management and be developed as a Holiday Park (similar to the Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park.
This feasibility study is currently in progress assessing a number of options:
(i) retaining the motor camp in its current location;
(ii) redeveloping the camp at its current location but with a reduced footprint; and
(iii) relocating the camp to another location (such as Albert Town) and redeveloping that alternative location.

Having visited the Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park last summer, the camping was so expensive, the sites were tiny and we quickly fled to Glenorchy after only one night. It was full of motel units and didn’t feel like any camp ground we have ever stayed at. Let’s hope Wanaka has something a little more low key and more in keeping with the spirit of the town.

Here is a story about moving the swimming pool from the Otago Daily Times.

This is such a great deal that most of our friends who come to Wanaka to ski take this up.

Jucy car rentals have been doing this for the last few years.

Here are the rules for this year. Certainly be worth checking out if you are coming here next winter.

FREE SKIING WITH JUCY
All bookings made for travel 01 July – 30th September 2008 receive 1 free adult all lifts day pass for Treble Cone Ski field Wanaka for each day the vehicle is hired. Vouchers will be issued on dispatch of the Jucy vehicle.
Travel Period: 1 JULY 2008 TO 30 SEPTEMBER 2008
Pick Up Location: ANY
Drop Off Location: ANY
*Maximum 14 days worth of ski vouchers given per booking *Only one voucher (valid for one adult) per day can be used at one time *Special only valid on all Jucy Cars, Jucy Crib, Jucy Cruiza, Jucy Chaser and Jucy Charga vehicles. Excludes the Jucy S/T, Jucy 4 and Jucy 6 *Multi Hires are not available for Ski For Free Deal *Jucy Rentals Ski Passport will only be valid for one rental per season *Ski Passports will not be given out for multi hires *Jucy reserves the right to decline the Ski for Free deal to anyone they feel trying to get more than one pass per season *Minimum 2 named travelers per vehicle to be valid for Ski Passport *Special Terms and Conditions Apply
Jucy also offer a car relocation service, Transfercar,  which means free rental cars if you can get a car back to where they need it. Worth a try.