Meeting old friends in Wanaka

On our way out of Queenstown, we stopped at a supermarket to resupply then drove on towards Wanaka, this time taking the main road, through the Kawarau Gorge. Our first stop was at a bungee jump from the Kawarau Suspension Bridge. This is big business and done on an industrial scale. The victims are harnessed up, told to wave at three or four cameras (the photo is everything these days), then expected to jump. Anyone who delays more than a nano-second is pushed. Before they’ve even finished rebounding, the next customer is in place. Meanwhile others are zip-lining down the valley holding a selfie stick ahead of them. Most are so focussed on smiling for the photo, they forget to look around. 


“Did you have a go?” I hear you ask. No we didn’t.


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Bungee jumping from Kawarau Bridge


While we were watching, one man decided to jump naked, maybe he didn’t have any spare underwear, but whatever the reason, it wasn’t good advertising for his manhood!


As we drove away, we were overtaken at top speed by a car with four lads shouting out of the window. They must have jumped and were high on adrenaline. A few bends later, the car was stopped in a lay-by and one of the lads was throwing up his breakfast. Note to self: avoid a large cooked breakfast before jumping from a bridge with an elastic tied to your feet.


We were looking for a lay-by to stay put for a couple of days but we gave that one a miss.


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Kawarau Gorge


After the gorge, the valley opened up and became more populated. All the nice places to stop had signs prohibiting ‘freedom camping’. A few kilometres on, we came to a pleasant site by a lake on the Cluthra River, the sign informed us that it is managed by Cromwell Council and welcomes self-contained vehicles for a maximum of three nights. There was even a couple of loos.


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Our pretty view across the valley


Franco got stuck into some serious Pesda work and finished editing one book and, liaising with the author, approved the proofreader’s corrections of another. Meanwhile I contacted Gareth and Carol, friends from Wales, now living in Wanaka. Gareth and I started working for the Forestry Commission in Dolgellau about the same time in 1998. In fact on his first day, he passed me and my car in flames near Trawsfynydd, but didn’t stop because he was worried he’d be late for work. His mistake was to ever mention that he’d seen me! To be fair, I never held it against him and we were good friends.


A few days later we arrived in Wanaka where Gareth, Carol and their daughter Anna (now 18) invited us into their home and made us feel very welcome. We soon worked out that the last time we met was in 2007! We are all a bit more wrinkly (apart from Anna) but otherwise much the same. We picked up where we had left off and shared some great stories about living in New Zealand and sailing around the globe. 


Gareth works for the Department of Conservation, so on one day we ‘volunteered’ for him and headed up to the Liverpool Hut in Mount Aspiring National Park, which Gareth needed to inspect. It was a great day out.


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Franco and Kath on the way in


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The view back towards Wanaka


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Liverpool Hut


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Gareth and Kath (he’s on higher ground!)


While Gareth and Carol were out at work, we went climbing.


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Franco at Roadside


It transpired that Franco had left his fleece jumper in the staff quarters at the end of our ‘work day’ so we would need to return to Wanaka to pick it up.


We had planned to set off on Sunday but in the end stayed until Monday. It was hard to leave, Carol and Gareth were such good company, but Jumbo was feeling abandoned, and we wanted to see the far south.