Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Today was long, eventful, scenically overwhelming and full of ups and downs. The weather was superb - bright blue skies and so, so warm compared to what I'd been used to.

I made it to Fox Glacier soon after leaving Frans and detoured off, further west and over to Lake Matheson, which apparently offers some of the most panoramic, picturesque scenery in New Zealand. After everything I've seen, felt and experienced here, I just had to see for myself. The weather was perfect so my hopes were high. You can saunter around the lake in just under an hour but it's the view that you get from about halfway round - at the back of the lake - that takes breaths away. I never even realised you could see it from the west but reflected in that calm mirror lake is the most perfect, powerful, monumental image of Mount Cook I've seen yet. It's straight off a postcard. It actually is too; it's on postcards in shops all over New Zealand. The way that it sits there with its neighbour, Mount Tasman, watching over the lake and smugly dominating the picture is magnificent. All I can say is that it is a view and a mental image that has etched itself in to the banks of my most memorable and spiritual. When the realisation hit me that I was now standing on the 'other side' of Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, looking at it from the West, from this point and this perspective, it felt like the final piece of the puzzle had just snapped in to place. Of course, there are still heaps of things to see and do here but that particular moment just seemed to round off my South Island experiences perfectly. Anything that happens now will be a cherished bonus, the icing on the cake.

I made my way over to Haast, the last stop on the West Coast before Highway 6 veers inland through the Mount Aspiring National Park and in to the heart-stopping alpine territory. About a 'k' or so short of Haast, hard to believe I know, but I ran out of petrol. Again. I pulled in just at the foot of the long, single-lane bridge, which spans the Haast River. I was rolling at the time but couldn't chance crossing it. It was a fairly narrow lane and must have stretched a good few hundred metres - not a great place to stop without fuel, so I pulled in. Very luckily and in no time at all, I'd hitched a ride in to town and hitched back out again with a small splash of petrol swirling around in a dirty great plastic container. To say I was lucky would be to put it mildly, but that whole West Coast and inland route is deceptively long.

By this time it was getting late and I'd got a lot of ground to cover in order to make it through to Wanaka with enough time as to drool over its lake and Lake Hawea in what would be left of the ever diminishing daylight. I'd also got the spectacular scenery through the Haast Pass to slow me down, so time was running short. In the end I was an idiot, blown away too much. I was stopping the van, pulling over, getting out, gawping at the view and taking photos, almost around every bend. It was too much; the scenery was just..... By the time I reached the northern shores of Lake Wanaka it was already dusk and the night was drawing in fast. Gutted. Make no mistake though, this will just have to be another two-day trip I'll have to make from Queenstown. I really didn't want to miss this squeezing route that winds itself between the two lakes, it's absolutely stunning. I'll be back.

As recommended by Kieran and Flo, I checked in to the Aspiring Holiday Park in Wanaka. Apparently, this is one of the rare few (if not the only) of the five star 'Qualmark' camping grounds. At the very least you get luxury facilities, heated amenities and complimentary spa and sauna. Sauna! If there's one thing I've craved for a very long time, it's a sauna. In a previous mundane nine-to-five existence with gym membership, I used to revel in the whole sauna experience. This was long, long, long overdue. I went to check in only to find the same stupid 'per pitch' rate as I encountered at the non-welcoming, do-yourself-out-of-business-if-its-that-important-to-you 'Top 10' in Dunedin. It was nearly twice the price. Twice the price yes, but with a long, hot, long, long hot sauna. The guy on reception waited patiently as I stood painfully for a few moments arguing and justifying wants, needs and costs silently with myself. Then it clicked. My eventual reasoning was that it was the last night of my mini West Coast adventure before hitting Queenstown and starting 'work'. Plus, I was pining for a sauna. I took it.

It was nearly 8pm by this time and the sauna closed at nine so I had an hour to make the most of things. I can't describe the excitement at that moment. I was paying over the odds for the night but the reward was to come and sting my pores in to submission and leave me groaning in a heap of lazy ecstasy. I hooked the van up, got my shorts and towel and pattered over to the sauna/shower block. It was a freezing cold night too and made for entertaining preparation. I bundled my towel and clothes into a nearby shower cubicle and shot excitedly in to the sauna block. As I swung the door open I noticed it was switched off. Deep breath. I also knew that saunas take a good thirty minutes or so to get warm. Deep breath. I turned it on, stood for fifteen minutes like a lemon with stiff nipples and tried it again. Nothing. It wasn't working.

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