About 5 days before the weekend, I decided I was going to do a trip to Wanaka to hit up Roy’s Peak. Me being me, #yolo is never truly #yolo because I plan my #yolo(s). Accommodation is painfully expensive in Wanaka. So is fuel. I highly recommend getting a full tank and praying that you don’t need to top up there before you leave. In conclusion, this weekend was a costly #yolo experience.
I only had 2 days in Wanaka, so I had to make the most of it. Reaching on a Friday evening, the first trip was to that Wanaka tree, where there were mobs of photographers with tripods getting that one perfect long-exposure shot. There was also an opportunistic pianist there who created quite a nice ambience for everyone by the lake! The tree itself is nothing to write home about. In fact, it is probably quite underwhelming. Its value is likely in its photogenic qualities, and how sunrise comes up behind the mountains and across the singular tree.
My friend and I set off early on Saturday morning, starting the hike just before 8am. The hike is estimated to be about 5-6 hours long for the general public. I’d recommend going early because there is literally nothing worse than going in the scorching, deathly-UV-ray, afternoon sun with the betrayal of warm winds. We scored a jackpot with the weather – it was sunny with a cool morning breeze.
I’m not gonna lie, I felt like death every step of the way up. Roy’s Peak is a 16km steep hike, with a 1.2km elevation. I don’t even want to know how many flights of stairs that equates to. About 15 minutes in, I was contemplating my life choices and wondering how I had ended up in choosing to climb up this godforsaken hill as a choice of leisure.
The track itself is straightforward – it’s paved with gravel all the way up and you can’t possibly get lost unless you somehow managed to topple over the side and plummet to your death. The steepness, however, is an entirely different story. You need some kind of fitness to be able to do this track. If I had even a slight hint of arrogance about my fitness before, I can confidently say I have been truly humbled by this experience.
It took us 2.5 hours and a whole lot of motivational speaking by my friend to get me to the top. While he breezed through the hike like a walk in the park, I felt like I was about to have a heart attack from the exertion, and golly, it was not a pretty sight. The view at the peak was breathtaking and so worth the near-death-cardiac-event (was it really though?).
We had our packed lunch at the top of the peak and admired the view for an hour. From the point of the typical photographic spot, there’s another 30 minutes hike to the real peak of the mountain, but like, life is too short to struggle that much. There is only so much pain a human body can take. We made our way to the bottom again within 1.5 hours, and I don’t think water has ever tasted so good before – I even choked on it because I got too enthusiastic.
After 5 hours, a lot of sweat and tears, almost rolling my ankle 3 times, and multiple counts of chest pain, I can now proudly say that I have completed Roy’s Peak.
My final recommendations:
- Bring at least 1L of water
- Bring food for sustenance
- Take your time; it’s not a race, you’re not going to win anything other than chest pain by getting to the top faster than everyone else
- Start early to avoid the harsh sun
- The first 20 minutes is the steepest so don’t be put off!
Blue Pools Track
The next stop was about an hour’s drive away. The Blue Pools Track is only a 30-minute return walk. This one is truly a leisurely stroll through the forest, and the Blue Pools is so stunning. It awed us with its clear, aqua-blue waters, and people jumped from the bridge into the water below.
While we didn’t go for a dip, touching the water with our fingertips felt icy cold! If I could do it again, I’d definitely bring my swimming togs for a spin.
There are quite a few walks you could do from this spot, ranging from the 30-minute walk we did to 5-6 hour return walks. If I’m not mistaken, they are quite popular, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time, and I think I’d torn like 3 separate leg muscles by then.
We only got the chance to try out a couple of places. I would highly recommend Francesca’s Italian Kitchen – their wood-fire pizzas are divine, with a side of polenta fries! Their portion sizing is generous, and very reasonably priced for an authentic Italian dining experience too. Service was impeccable too, and the waitresses there were very attentive. I’m not sure if my hunger biased me but I would definitely go back again!
Another place we tried was Red Star Burger Bar – good burgers! Probably wouldn’t compare to Ferg burger or Velvet, if you’ve had either of those. Or, if you’re a Dunedinite like me, definitely doesn’t compare to Re:burger! However, it was very reasonably priced (~$10), which made it an affordable and quick meal for us.
Patagonia’s is another classic kiwi favorite. I’ve ventured to their Queenstown branch more times than I can count, and their Wanaka branch is consistent with them. I had a blueberry froyo which really hit the spot after our huge hike!
All in all, I had an amazing time in Wanaka. I’m looking forward to going back and doing more hikes and risking my life again. Next on the list is to go through Mount Aspiring National Park and to do the Rob Roy Glacier! Who’s with me?