Wanaka is a cutesy little town on the edge of a big lake, very like Lake George Village. From Wanaka we drove about an hour to the end of a gravel road, past sheep and beef cattle and a surprising number of giant intact bulls roaming the road verges. They just stare impassively when you honk. We don’t see too many “intact” bulls at home, but the beef herds here are “serviced” by the real deal, so these lumbering giants with their massive necks and dangling masculinity on display aren’t too uncommon.
Milo is able to walk further and further by himself. The track to Aspiring Hut starts at the end of the gravel road and passes through gentle pastures with cows standing in the other-wise pristine blue glacial river.
We stayed two nights at Aspiring Hut, and old hut owned by a mountaineering club, but open to visitors (for a fee!) during the summer. Set at the edge of the beech forest overlooking expansive grassy meadows ringed with snow-topped mountains, it’s an impressive site. The beech forest stops quite suddenly at grass in the valley, though why is a mystery to me. Someone suggested that it had been cleared for pasture in the past.
All that grass made nice bug-stalking territory for Milo. To our astonishment, he actually caught a fly all by himself, and even zipped the door closed. He was so proud!
There was another family with young kids staying at the hut too, Israelis here on holiday. Ella, Milo and Sheera had a blast playing tag and bathing in the river. The hut has two separate bunk rooms, and the hut warden opened the smaller of the sleeping quarters for those of us with kids….ostensibly for our comfort, though we suspect more for the comfort of the other guests. Actually, there were 30 sixteen-year-old girls from a school PE class staying in the hut with us, so we were glad to be in separate sleeping quarters.
The second day we opted to climb to a saddle and return to the same hut to sleep, and this track was no gentle switch-backed incline. The wooded part is more like climbing in the Adirondacks, straight up the shortest route over roots and rocks. Our lunch spot gave this tantalizing view of the clearing peaks, and after lunch we hit the really steep part.
What a sight! Our hut was down in that grassy meadow way below. Yeah, and we’re only about half way up.
I think the glaciers make those fluffy clouds, they appear to be blowing off the mountain tops as they’re made. Steep as the track was, there were rewarding open views the whole way.
While we were hanging out at the top of this ridge we hear the glacier rumble. It sounded like an airplane but no aircraft was in sight, and it started and stopped pretty suddenly. One might compare it to lake ice creaking in a cold snap, except longer and more rumbley. Pretty cool.
Here we are turning to start the decent. Mama and Milo are singing “I got a new way to walk” by the Oinker Sisters (Sesame Street). It wasn’t until the next morning when we woke up with super sore quads that we fully appreciated to that decent, all 1300 meters of it. But it was worth it!
That tall peak in the distance is Mount Cook, the highest point in the Southern Alps. This is as close as we got for this vacation, snapping a photo on a high-way pull off. But we’ll come back some day.