Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rob Roy Glacier Hike

I planned on doing the biggest and longest hike -- the Rob Roy Glacier Hike -- on our first full day after arriving in Queenstown to ensure we would have the energy to finish it. And it's a good thing I love glaciers, because it was a hard day for sure. To get to the start of the track, it was an hour to Lake Wanaka, then another hour, which I hadn't realized.
rough idea how far the glacier area was from Queenstown
The last 30km were on an unpaved farm road, and 30km doesn't sound like a lot until you're on an unpaved road for that long and your hands are going numb from the vibrating steering wheel and you're wondering when you are finally going to be done with it. We saw a glacier on the way there which helped encourage us to stick it out. Like the guidebook said, there were 9 fords to cross on that road. Thankfully, none were too bad. When we finally made it to the parking lot, we were glad to see many other cars there and other hikers preparing to start out.
this was a promising sight while on the dirt road -- a glacier!
I was not prepared for the blasting winds and droplets of rain/river water pinging my face as we traversed the first section of open fields. It literally stopped me in my tracks and almost bowled me over several times. I was tempted to turn back, but I saw that the track went into forest ahead and figured that that would cut down on the viciousness of the weather.

We made it across the swing bridge and settled into a slow but steady hike with our rainhoods on to keep out the constant sprinkling. We hadn't hiked in a while, and it was uphill most of the way. We reached the Lower Lookout after 2 hours and were tempted to head back, but the view wasn't that great and since we'd come all this way, we decided to keep going the 30 minutes more to the Upper Lookout. So glad we did! The view of the waterfalls and several glaciers was great, despite the rain making it difficult to photograph. It's hard to capture the sounds of the hike -- the river running alongside most of the track was so loud, it was hard to think sometimes, but that's part of the enjoyment of hiking for me. The wind blew one of the waterfalls sideways at one point which was fun to watch.

view from the Lower Lookout

view from the Upper Lookout
Glaciers are awesome!
The hike back was difficult because of having to go downhill -- hard on the knees. A few groups of fresh hikers passed us and I felt relieved to be on the way back to the carpack, not just starting out. Of course, now we had to go back another 30km on that dirt road. We did get to witness sheep crossing a bridge in front of us and took a video of them running and leaping to avoid the car. Their "bahs" are so cute! We stopped briefly in Wanaka to stretch our legs, then made the drive back to Queenstown.

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