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We wake up early on this cold morning, the sky is still covered by  the starry veil of the night. We are camping in Albert Town, 8 km away from today’s meeting point and we must thing about walking all the way if a car doesn’t pull over to pick us up. Yes, we have a rendezvous!  Yesterday evening, we had a party with some friends in Wanaka and we met a group of French people in their 50’s. We discovered we have a common goal : to go discovering the amazing Rob Roy Glacier. It was then decided that we should go together!
An hour away from Wanaka, in Mount Aspiring National Park, the Rob Roy Glacier is not as famous as Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier, but everybody told us that it is a lot more beautiful!

Camping under the stars in Albert Town, not far from Wanaka
Camping under the stars in Albert Town, not far from Wanaka

We are quite lucky, this morning. We get a ride fairly quickly and we manage to get in time to the rendez-vous. Our new friends even offer us a french breakfast  : jam and butter on toast with black coffee. Luxury!

Hiking at Rob Roy Glacier

Mariette gets a lift with René and Catherine in their hired camping car and Quentin travels in the other vehicle with Patrick and Christine.  On the road to Rob Roy Glacier, we learn a little bit more about our new friends. They are from Lyon and are anesthetists. Patrick and Christine are crazy about 4WD and traveled on every dirt roads of the world, while René and Catherine are volunteering every year in Africa to help surgeons fighting against the Noma sickness that strike only underfed children! Great people!

On the track to Rob Roy glacier
On the track to Rob Roy glacier

During this time, the camping cars are vibrating terribly on the quite rough 30km of dirt road. We even cross two creeks. Catherine is happy like a child, probably remembering the time she was driving her big land cruiser! The scenery is more and more beautiful as we get nearer from the glacier. A perfect New Zealand picture, with cows and sheep grazing peacefully along clear blue streams and mountains in the background. And then, after a turn, we suddenly face the most beautiful valley we’ve ever seen! A river flows in the middle, coming from the nearby snowy summits sparkling under the bright blue sky. It’s an other perfect day! Unreal…

The 1h30 long track starts in a field amongst cows which don’t seem to care much about tourists walking on their lunch.
It steps over the river via a swing bridge before going through the woods, following the stream coming directly from Rob Roy Glacier. From time to time, an opening in the canopy offers us a beautiful view on the valley or on the glacier. We finally reach the jewel we came to see : the magnificent Rob Roy!! As we wander at the foot of the glacier, we can truly appreciate its greatness and its purity. Enthroned like a king at the top of the mountain and shining like the whitest diamond in the sun, the glacier is incredibly more impressive than the two previous one we saw!

Rob Roy Glacier, view from the trail
Rob Roy Glacier, view from the trail

On the left, a waterfall jumps from the gigantic cliff that holds the Rob Roy Glacier. We stay there a long time, gasping in front this beautiful scenery. It’s unfortunately very hard to take nice pictures, as the midday sun flattens everything. We tried our best though!!

From Wanaka to Queenstown, through the mountains.

Sur la route de Queenstown (Photo par Mariette)On the way back, our anesthetists tell us more about their jobs and about the evolution of science in their field. We learn a lot, especially about fascinating new techniques of medical hypnosis. We also learn that our friends are going further south tonight, toward Queenstown, through the little scenic road that winds its way through the mountains, and they agree to give us a lift again. Awesome!! En route for Queenstown!

After a nice trip through beautiful golden mountains, we pass a ridge an start our way down to famous Qweestown. This city doesn’t attract us at all despite the fact it’s set in a perfect place nearby a splendid lake surrounded by mountains. What’s the matter then? This city represents everything that we try to avoid in our travel : it’s fashion, it’s expensive and crowded. It’s « the place to be » in New Zealand if you are rich or a cool young dude looking for night clubs to party all night not too far from the ski fields.

If you know us, you will understand that there is no way we spend some time there!! So our friends dropped us on the outskirts of town, where we find a cheap very expensive caravan park, but set just nearby the lake! Tomorrow morning, we will carry on down south and will try to reach the south east coast…


Tintin & Riette

Tonight's panorama and sunset in Queenstown, from our tent !
Tonight’s panorama and sunset in Queenstown, from our tent !

Tips :

Camping in Wanaka :

  • The cheapest option is situated at 8km from the city center, in Albert Town where you’ll find a large campground with toilets, where you can camp for 7$/night/person.
  • Around 40km south of the city, you’ll find a huge free campground just before Cromwell, on the shore of the lake. Be aware that the campground is higly exposed to strong winds. There is toilets on site.

Camping in Queenstown :

  • When you arrive in Queenstown just after the roundabout with the fast food restaurants and the petrol stations trun left on Yewllet Cres. At the end of the road you’ll find Frankton Motor Camp. The campsite does not look amazing at first sight, but it surprised us. There is everything needed, and the owners are nice guys. There is even the possibility to camp by the lake !

Hitchhiking in Wanaka :

  • To Rob Roy Glacier :
    Fro, the city center; walk along the lake front on Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Rd to go away from the touristic area. Pass the Queenstown scenic road crossroad to get rid of the traffic going that way. Put your thumb up as soon as possible then, most of the cars driving that way are going to Rob Roy. There is only one road.
    Start quite early to get more chance to meet some fellows hikers.
  •  To Queenstoswn, or north :
    2 options. First one is to stand up at the Ardmore St and Mc Dougall St crossroad. That the scenic road to Queenstown. Second one it to wait outside of the city on SH84 after the roundabouts. There is more traffic here : all the local trafic to Cromwell, and all the traffic to the north.

Hitchhiking in Queenstown :

  • To Wanaka :
    Wait just after the roundabout with the fast food restaurants and the petrol stations. The SH6 goes up to Cromwell and Wanaka. The tourists who want to drive via the scenic road also come through here.
  • To the south (Te Anau, Milford Sound, Invercargill) :
    From the same roundabout, walk to the next one. Continue walking along the airport to get rid of the local traffic going there. Post yourself after the next traffic lights, there is some room for the cars to pull over safely. Most of the traffic here is going south, and there is a lot of tourists passing here that might goes in the same direction than you.

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