Day 129: Hawea River Track, Clutha River, and Lake Wanaka
Sunday, March 17, 2024 8:57 pm
Location: Wanaka / Adventure Wanaka Hostel (2664.7 km)

A long day along water brought me to Wānaka.

Although I was in town, I opted against going to a restaurant for breakfast and instead had a bowl of cereal, using up extra food rather than carrying it to Wānaka. This probably also got me on my way to Wānaka a little sooner.

Lake Hāwea
Lake HāweaLake Hāwea and the Southern Alps.

After a bit of a runaround due to road construction, I joined the Hāwea River Trail, a gravel cycle path above the Hāwea River, which is the outflow from Lake Hāwea. Initially following a canal, the canal quickly ended in a pond.

Although this cycle path was not as wide as much of the Alps 2 Ocean from Tekapo to Lake Ōhau, there were a lot of cyclists on it, going in both directions. I suppose being a Sunday morning drew more people than during the week.

The initial stretch of the cycle path was forested, and I had only occasional views of the Hāwea River. Nearing a road, the trail came down to nearly river level, at a whitewater park with a pair of weirs that produced waves in the otherwise calm river. A sign warned that the water was cold, and often had very variable flow. A small mural by school kids encouraged people to use proper caution and not go into the water above their capabilities.

Hāwea River
Hāwea River
Hāwea River
Hāwea River

The cycle path continue to follow the river for another half hour, then diverged to cross through a meadow, and then a lightly forested area that would have made for a lot of great campsites.

The trail crossed over the Hāwea River via a bridge, and passed through a campground on the outskirts of Albert Town. Crossing over the Clutha River / Mata-Au, I began following that river upstream, towards Lake Wānaka.

The Clutha is the longest river in the South Island (second to the Waikato River on the North Island), and the largest flowing river in New Zealand by the time it reaches the Pacific Ocean. (It is also one of the largest- and swiftest-flowing rivers in the world.) The river is Lake Wānaka’s outlet, ultimately sourced from glacial meltwater in the Southern Alps, and filtered through the lake, which gives the upper portion of the river its sapphire color.

Now, nearly 13 km into the day, I stopped for a break in the shad underneath a tree overlooking a bend in the river.

I continued along a still-busy walking and cycling path, with a lot less shade, following the Clutha towards the lake. Following pretty closely to the lake shore, this gave excellent views of the mountains around Lake Wānaka.

Lake Wānaka and the Clutha River
Lake Wānaka and the Clutha River

As I proceeded around the lake, I started getting some vibes of Auckland: fancy ritzy glass houses perched atop cliffs, overlooking the lake. At least these seemed set a little further back than their Auckland counterparts, so their collapse into the water didn’t feel imminent.

Exotic pines had been planted in many places along the lake shore, which gave a weird (and “wrong”) this-feels-like-California vibe to the area.

The ritziness increased until I passed through a park, and then a marina on Roys Bay, where the central part of Wānaka sits. Now in Wānaka’s CBD, I headed towards my accommodation, the Adventure Wanaka Hostel.

After checking in and getting my bunk, I intended to relax, before getting a shower and finding food. This was interrupted by a fire alarm going off in one of the hostel’s buildings (not the one I was staying in), forcing the entire hostel to be evacuated until the fire department showed up to investigate. Fortunately, it was a false alarm of some sort, there was no actual fire.

Once I did get my shower, I learned that the hostel’s laundry service was staff-provided, and that there was a large backlog; if I gave them my clothes now, I would probably get them back tomorrow. This was a little problematic, since I wanted to wash pretty much everything (since thanks to getting dunked in the river two days ago, all of my clothes, except some socks, needed washing). I settled on doing my laundry at the laundromat attached to the gas station tomorrow so it’d be quicker (though slightly more expensive).

I got dinner at a Thai restaurant on my way back to the hostel from checking out the laundromat, and settled into my bunk to relax. Tomorrow will be a much-needed day of relaxation (and chores), and I’m looking forward to it.