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This is Paradise

Thursday 5th November 2015

sunny 18 °C

We have had such a busy day today, but it has also been amazing. It has also been one of those days when the scenery really does do the talking. This morning we were out with Mark from Ridgeline Adventures who took us up onto the West Wanaka Station in his Land-rover. We were really lucky as there were just the two of us and Mark's uncle who was in the front seat so put to good use opening the gates. The trip started with us driving in an anti-clockwise direction along the shores of the lake. The town is very small and so we were very quickly out into the countryside. We skirted round the edge of Roy's Peak and then Glendhu Bay. Once we crossed the Matukituki River we were entering West Wanaka Station land, passing by a couple of fields with sheep and newly born lambs and then some farm buildings. Apparently there are 4,500 Red Deer, 12,000 sheep and 1,000 cows grazing the property, although the deer proved harder to spot. We then turned off the main gravel road and started to climb up the hillside.

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The road twisted and turned and Mark expertly drove up the steep inclines. Once we had got up a little higher Mark parked up and we had the opportunity to look back towards the valley and take some photographs. The tall trees of the valley floor gave way to smaller and more stunted Manuka and other native small trees and shrubs. The views were stunning and when we reached the highest point accessible by road we had 360 degree views both back towards the river and to the lake. Mark again parked and we had coffee at what he called the Alpine Cafe.

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Whilst we were there he pointed out a number of local landmarks including Mou Waho Island which has a lake on it. We then left Mark behind and went for a a couple of short walks ahead of the Land Rover enjoying the peace and solitude as we went. From being high up on hillside we then made our way down to the lake side and along the shore line. Mark told us about the history of the station and a man called Henry Thomson who came out to New Zealand from the Orkneys in the middle of the 19th century. He cleared the native scrub and then built a small farm here by the beautiful Colquhouns Bay, but in the end it was the rabbits introduced by the early settlers that defeated him.

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We were shown some of the remains of the farm buildings and some artefacts including part of a shoe which could well have belonged to Thomson himself. Mark also had some photographs of the farm taken in 1865 when Thomson was still there. Mark's enthusiasm for both the landscape and history of the area was infectious and we really enjoyed the trip. From the old homestead we continued round the shore of the lake where we came across a couple of walkers. He summed up the landscape and the weather by saying "this is paradise". Sadly before long the trip had finished and we were arriving back in the town and our accommodation.

Our appetites had been whetted in terms of visiting Mou Waho Island and so we spoke to the owner of our accommodation and she kindly rung the tour guide Chris that had been recommended to us by Mark. Unfortunately he was busy with other bookings so she tried another guy called Davy and fortunately he said he was able to take us out that afternoon. We had time for a spot of lunch before going down to the marina to meet up with him. We had already been warned that he talked a lot and this certainly proved to be the case. He probably spent half an hour just chatting and showing us photographs before we even left the mooring! The journey across the lake was really picturesque and Davy pointed out lots of sights including some of the key points from our trip this morning.

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When we moored up we went to have a look at some of the wildlife near the shoreline including a number of birds one of which was the previously endangered flightless weka and also saw some wooden boxes laid to provide homes and protection to the weta, a large cricket type insect. Once we had talked about these and had a chat to some local fishermen we began the ascent of the island.

The path was pretty steep but fortunately there were a few strategically placed benches so a couple of times we were able to stop and rest and also admire the amazing views. After half an hour or more we reached a rock overlooking the stunning Arethusa Lake.

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What makes this so unusual is that this also has a small island meaning that this is an island on a lake on an island in a lake on the island of New Zealand. Davy took great pleasure in telling us this several times while we were there. We also saw several more very friendly weka including some juveniles and several other species of bird such as the bellbird.

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Our vantage point already seemed a little precarious but Davy took even us even higher point from where we had even better views of the lake. We could see for miles and it gave us a great view of Arethusa sitting above Wanaka Lake, with the mountains beyond. He also took us for another short walk to a viewpoint round the other side of the island where there was a rock feature like a chair again affording great views of the surrounding area.

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We had already been on the island for a couple of hours and so we then made our steep descent back to Davy's boat. Once on board we were given home made lemonade (which really took me back to my childhood) and muffins. We then made the equally scenic journey back across the lake with some lovely reflections in the water, as well as the sight of lots of small sailing boats near the mooring.

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We had been out for probably double the time Davy had said the trip would last, mainly as a result of his boundless ability to chat.

Posted by Gill's Travels 20:27 Archived in New Zealand

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