Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National park sit in a glacial valley situated in the Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand. If the South Island were a person, we would be in the appendix.
Wanaka is essentially a tourist magnet, but it is a picturesque village that has not quite yet lost its wild charm. We love to come here for some of the many day and half day walks in the area. Or to just simply park up at some neat spot beside the lake, boil the kettle and chill for the afternoon.
But as we rolled in, it became increasingly clear that walking anywhere today would be unlikely. It was bleak. It was grey. A machete wind was slicing out from the valley, flustering the lake with whitecaps. Icy needles of rain tapped out intermittent weather warnings on Newts roof.
The maximum temperature forecast was 7 degrees Celsius.
We rugged up and poked around the village centre for a while before driving up the road and checking into the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park so we could tap into some power, and warmth and get some laundry done. We have stayed here before, it is clean and tidy with great views and ample facilities.
Once settled in we braved the elements for a short walk down the road to the Wanaka Station Park, a beautiful green area that rolls out to the lake and has been planted out with Elm and Black Poplar, and Larch, and English Walnut and thick stands of Rhododendron bushes. On a sunny day it would be a sublime picnic spot.
Instead, the wet grass leeched through my sneakers and my toes soon became numb toe-cicles. We hurried on.
Back through some local streets. Some pretty expensive real estate by the looks of it. Big stone and wood affairs with huge living room windows overlooking the lake. Of course we did our fair share of peeping in to other peoples lives as we walked past. Inside one particularly modern looking building a lanky silver haired man wearing a black turtleneck sweater was sitting in an opulent chair reading a large coffee table type book. In my mind he was a retired architect. I could be wrong. But Im not.
After getting a few pressing chores done back at the Kiwi we spent the evening mingling in the communal kitchen/lounge. Kelly cooked up a mushroom, garlic and pumpkin ravioli which, along with a glass or two of red, went down a treat at warming the internals.
The kitchen became an increasingly crowded refuge from the cold as the evening progressed. Noisy conglomerates of couples or small groups of young travellers stood around chatting as they prepared and cooked their dinners, or sat updating their social media reports, editing photos or just lounging on the couches watching TV.
There is a guy fiddling with a tangle of cables trying to charge the muddy battery of his electric mountain bike. There is a girl sitting at a table surrounded by an impressive spread of pencils as she sketches a very decent portrait of what appears to be a Nepalese porter. There is a small kid running wild between it all wielding a wooden spatula as a light sabre.
By now I was splayed out across one of the couches looking as if I was reading but actually sliding into some sort of hypnogogic reverie, soaking in the wash of the multi-lingual conversations and rich dinner smells.
It was most decidedly pleasant.