On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

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27 February 2017

Wanaka. A taste of summer

Basking on the shores of huge Wanaka Lake and exploring the surroundings of Glendhu Bay.
Wanaka on South Island, New Zealand © Claire Blumenfeld
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With its large lake and pretty mountain ranges all around, Wanaka is probably one of the prettiest regions of New Zealand. Millions of years ago the melting of the region’s glaciers gave birth to Lake Wanaka. For the Maori, the legend tells that the lake would have been dug with the force of the arms of the giant Rakaihautu. As with Glenorchy, Arrowtown and Cardrona, the city was built during the gold rush of the mid-19th century. With its mild climate, the region is particularly popular with New Zealanders seeking tranquility. Wanaka has a very pretty lakeside stretching for several kilometers. Lounging on the pebble beach on hot summer afternoons seems to be Kiwis’ favorite activity. Understandably, the view is so beautiful. On one side of the lake, there is the famous “lonely tree of Wanaka”. This one gets its portrait taken by all the tourists passing by (myself included). It must be said that it is quite strange to have a lone tree about ten meters from the shore. In any case, having the roots permanently submerged does not seem to hurt it. The willow is a national icon for the Kiwis who consider it a symbol of determination.

Windsurfers, kayakers, jetskiing or simply swimmers, the lake attracts all lovers of water activities or simply those looking for refreshment. Many vineyards extend over the hills bordering the lake. In the small town center, ice cream shops offer tons of different flavors. I opted for an ice cream from the famous Black Peak Gelato stall. Chocolate and Tiramisu flavours to be enjoyed while basking on the shore. Wanaka is a tourist town and tourists make up the majority of the population. Most stay for a few days and enjoy the Puzzling World amusement park and the Paradiso cinema in addition to the lake. It is one of the coolest cinemas I have seen. The walls are covered with movie posters and two projection rooms are available, one with sofas and soft cushions instead of the usual armchairs. Homemade cookies are sold at intermission and they are delicious.

For athletes, Wanaka has 750km of trails. It is also the gateway to the Mount Aspiring National Park. The Glendhu Bay Trail from central Wanaka to Glendhu Bay runs along the edge of the lake and offers splendid views of the mountains, the lake, the islands and the small white sand beaches. After spending one night in the center campsite, I moved to Glendhu Bay. Little corner of paradise and tranquility, Glendhu Bay is a bay slightly set back from the lake which shelters only a large campsite and an organic farm. Glendhu Bay Motor Camp is the friendliest campsite I have stayed in so far. Lying on the edge of the bay, with a somewhat old-fashioned charm, without too many people, the campground offers an almost infinite number of places. And a wifi connection (paid) which is very good. Rare thing in New Zealand. Being able to put your tent on the edge of a pebble beach with a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains and Mount Aspiring right in front is the best. Soaking in the water, relaxing in the shade on a summer afternoon, listening to the birds singing and the rustling of the water evokes a scent of paradise.

About ten kilometers continuing on the road to Mount Aspiring, there is a superb valley which was used to depict Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings. Diamond Lake, a beautiful, almost oval lake with black water, is a little further. The view over the valley is very beautiful. In addition to touring the surrounding area, I also hiked the Roy’s Peak Trail, taking on the ridges above the bay. I did not stay long in Wanaka but my stay here was tinged with a scent of fullness.

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