After experiencing all the stunning scenery of Canterbury, it was time for us to head down to Otago. Our next destination was the lake town of Wanaka. I must say that Wanaka was not initially on our list of places to visit on the South Island. However, after doing some research, we actually liked the look and feel of this lake town. We found that Wanaka was more relaxed and laid back than its famous cousin Queenstown. Wanaka also happens to be along the way to Queenstown, and within a short 2 hr drive to the scenic Haast pass. So for all those reasons, Wanaka was added to our trip itinerary.
Tired from all the walking the previous day, we woke up a little later than usual, relaxing and taking in another beautiful sunny day at Mount Cook. After some breakfast at the scenic kitchen of the Alpine Lodge, we started our drive south. As was the case during our drive to Mount Cook from Christchurch, we drove along Lake Pukaki for a few kms and could not resist taking some more photos of this stunning lake, this time with the morning sunlight. After a couple of stops, we drove non-stop on highway 8 till we hit the Lindis Pass. As we started to approach Lindis, we noticed a change in the landscape. The green plains were nowhere to be seen. What we saw were dry brown hills with patches of dry grass. Then, the hills started to become mountains and we almost felt as if we were in Ladakh. Winding roads with elevations and drops, the drive was absolutely stunning! We did not expect the Lindis Pass to be so good, and it became one of the highlights of our trip.
(Lake Pukaki in the morning)
(drive along Lake Pukaki, leaving Mount Cook)
(driving south on highway 8)
(highway 8, approaching Lindis)
(hills near Lindis)
(approaching Lindis Pass)
(The changing colours of the hills)
(sunlight seeping through the clouds)
(stunning landscape of Lindis Pass)
After driving through the winding roads, we reached a summit lookout point, which provides fantastic views of the area. The sunlight was not facing us, so the lighting for the pictures was perfect. We took some stunning pictures of the hills.
(approaching the summit lookout point)
(interesting grass colours and shapes)
(view from the summit)
(this picture could easily have been mistaken for Ladakh in the Himalayas)
(Lindis Pass hills)
(winding roads of Lindis Pass)
(interesting shapes of rock formations)
(another lookout point on top of the pass)
(rare green grass admist ubiquitous brown)
(on the other side of Lindis Pass)
Our next stop was at a small town called Tarras. Our car needed refueling, and so we made a quick stop at an ‘RD Petroleum’ petrol station on the highway. Something interesting happened here. Initially, the petrol pump seemed like any another automated petrol station; you swipe your card at the pump, and then you fill up you car. But that was not the case this time. Firstly, this station had a common terminal where you had to make a payment first, and then select a pump number from which you wanted to fill. You could not pay at every individual pump. Secondly, there was no attendant/cashier at an adjoining shop; normally there is someone in person to help you out. So basically it was just you and the machine. I followed the procedure as was listed on the written signs, swiped my card at the common terminal, selected the pump number, and filled up petrol worth $31. Then I went back to the common terminal to get my receipt. However, I did not get one, because the machine was out of paper. Oh well, why bother for a receipt right? Wrong! I checked my credit card account later that night, and found that a transaction for $147 was made! How is that possible, I said to myself, perplexed and concerned. After our troubles with Akaroa shuttles earlier in the trip, it felt like deja-vu all over again! This episode went on for another day before it was sorted. More on that will be posted on the blog post for Day 5.
After an eventful time at the Tarras petrol station, we were back on the road, eager to reach Wanaka. As we approached the lake town, we started seeing more greenery and turquoise-blue water bodies. Within minutes, we were at the city center of Wanaka. A sunny day meant lots of people out on the streets, some cycling, some jogging, while some relaxing by the lake. We reached Wanaka around noon and had some time to kill, as the check-in to our B&B was not until 3pm. So we decided to grab lunch and headed to Red Star burgers. This place was packed, even on a Tuesday noon. There was basically a large group of American cycle riders, ordering burgers one after the other. So we had to wait quite a while for our turn to order. There were only one or two vegetarian options, so we did not take a very long time looking at the menu. As there was no place to sit at the restaurant, we took our burgers to perhaps the most obvious place, alongside Lake Wanaka. It was burgers-by-the-lake time for us. Red Star makes quite decent burgers, and I would recommend this place to anyone visiting Wanaka.
(turquoise waters of the Clutha River)
(Puzzling World Wanaka)
(approaching Wanaka town center)
(Lake Wanaka visible from Ardmore road)
(Lake Wanaka shores)
(Red Star Luxury burgers)
(our vegetarian Falafel burger)
After lunch and a bit of a wander along the lakeside, it was time to check-in to Avalanche Bed and Breakfast. While researching accommodations in Wanaka, I had come across this B&B. It was very highly ranked (# 2) on tripadvisor and had some rave reviews. After seeing it in person, Avalanche B&B lived up to its lofty status; it was one of the nicest accommodation of our entire trip. What made it amazing was the fact that we actually got to interact with a kiwi family. You can read a full review of Avalanche B&B here.