Mt Aspiring – Rob Roy Track

Date: 1 January 2015
Distance: 10km (+6)

On the morning of the last day of 2014, Gerry and I left Te Anau for the Wanaka area in the hope that we would find a deserted spot in the mountains to see out 2014 and celebrate 2015 somewhere tranquil. We just weren’t in the mood for loud music, heaps of drunk, puking people and the usual hustle and bustle of new years parties.

Wanaka was buzzing with people, as were all the other towns we passed through on our way there. We stopped to return Gerry’s hydration vest, went for a quick browse through Mt Outdoors to see if they might have larger size packs, and ended up having a nice long chat to Steve Hart who told us about all the nice camping spots and walks in the area. Afterwards we went for a quick beer before following the road next to Lake Wanaka and into the Matukituki valley.

It rained lots the previous night, on and off during the day and started raining quite a bit again while we were in the pub. Our tent was still soaking wet from the previous night and we were hoping we’d get a chance to let it dry out a little before nightfall.

The quiet dirt road next to the river quickly turned into a very bad corrugated mess. The poor car and everything inside was shaking and rattling to pieces while all along it was still drizzling. Quite far down the gravel road, we reached the first of nine stream crossings. Got out of the car to assess our options, but with all the rain, the ford seemed impassable with our very low, overloaded little car.

We turned off into the car park to discover that someone else had the same idea. Turned out it was the company of three Chechs we met on our last day of the Kepler Track. They also decided to spend the night there, hoping the rain would stop and the streams will run off and clear by the morning.

We found a spot and sat in the car waiting for a break in the rain. Poured a glass of bubbly and started celebrating 2015, with the rain drops softly tipping on the roof of the car. In no time the windows were steamed up while the snow capped mountains that surrounded us made sure we were in for a chilly night.

Two more cars pulled in and one got stuck in the mud in seconds. While the other winched it out, we saw that it was a whole bunch of youngsters and immediately thought that was the end of our tranquillity. But boy was I wrong. This laid-back bunch pitched their tents, built a fire and drank beer all night without ever getting noisy or loud. Heck, I myself can’t even claim that after a few!

When finally the rain subsided, we jumped out to pitch the tent in record time as it already started drizzling again. A gust out of nowhere blew the tent right over the car and down the road while we were looking for a stone to secure tent pegs. We caught it just in time and luckily nothing was damaged. With the tent secured, we were quickly back in the car for a refill. But before long the rain disappeared, the wind stopped and the evening turned into a wonderful tranquil occasion next to a river in a valley of magical mountains. We could not have hoped for a better setting.

By morning, lovely blue skies welcomed us and when we checked the stream crossing, it subsided considerably and we were hopeful that we could drive the final 10km to the start of the walk. Unfortunately with three kms to go, one of the streams was just too much of a challenge and we opted to park and walk from there.

Since the Kepler hike, we only managed an 8km trot down the road from Hollyford where we stayed at the time. But we figured that with the previous week’s 120km of combined running and walking, we could take it easy for a few days.

With mountains all around us, we followed the Matukituki River deeper into the belly of Mt Aspiring National Park. Cattle and sheep grazed the valley while snow capped mountains and peaks completed the picture. A perfect day in picturesque surroundings to start off the new year.

The Rob Roy Track is an easy 10km out and back walk up the valley in beech forest, into subalpine herb fields. Slips and avalanche damage makes for a few tricky spots in the path, but nothing serious. Starting at the Raspberry Creek carpark, the track includes spectacular alpine scenery, glaciers, sheer rock cliffs and waterfalls.

We soon realised that this is a well known little walk as tour busses by the dozens were passing us in the gravel road already. Only later on did we realise that we were still ahead of most as hordes of people were making their way up the valley. The scene at the lookout point gave the impression of an amphitheatre as heaps of people sat staggered on the rocks in awe of the glacier and beautiful scenery.

The trip down went a bit faster and we were soon back at the car, driving back to Wanaka on a newly scraped gravel road. We thanked the poor guy who had to work on the first day of the new year, but it made the trip out considerably nicer and easier on our poor little car.

Sixteen kilometres on the clock for the first day of the new year was not too bad going. Hope we can keep it up!

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