A reminder not to take weather forecasts seriously

Posted December 11

The bad weather never materialized in Wanaka. My roommate had expected as much and I should have listened to her rather than letting myself worry about it. Areas to the south, north, and west reportedly experienced clouds or rain, but we did not. At times we saw clouds blowing through the Haast Pass at the north end of the lake, but we stayed clear.

A clear sunny spot surrounded by cloudy areas means a pretty steep temperature gradient. That in turn generates strong winds through constrained places like lake valleys. Sure enough, the winds built again in the afternoon. I got in a nice walk along the shore to the northeast of town before lunch and thought I’d do a more serious hike with the roommate in the afternoon, but we had to adjust once the winds kicked up (reports of 30-50 kmh gusts on some of the exposed trails). This will likely mean that the classic hikes in the area that go up mountain ridgelines will be missed on this trip because I don’t have the clothing or the gear for that. Also, I’ll need to get an earlier start tomorrow.

Not being able to take a major hike gave me time to explore Wanaka a little bit more. Getting out of the central area, I like it more than I thought initially. Still, I think I’ll mostly be feeding myself, as the restaurants at the center of town are exactly the kind of places I came here to get away from. The accommodations aren’t as nice as Te Anau but are more spacious: a cabin with a double and a bunk bed. We extended for a couple of days since the weather’s generally good and the location is hard to beat.

For the afternoon we walked out of town to the northwest along the main road. Rippon Vineyards is less than a half hour walk and was recommended.

I don’t drink that much wine anymore, but it sounded promising. After a brief post-lunch debate in the holiday park kitchen, a group of two Swedes, a South African, and an Australian from the holiday park joined in. We set out bravely into the breeze and hiked up the road in search of fermented grapes.

Whether you drink wine or not, this place is worth the visit. I’ve seen a good percentage of the vineyards in the western US and many elsewhere. Somewhere there may be another that is more perfectly set with a more beautiful backdrop, but I’m not holding my breath waiting to find it.

Rippon specialize in Pinot Noir, like most of the wineries in this region. They also have respectable Riesling and Gewertztraminer. I liked everything I tasted.

From the winery we hiked down to the lake at Waterfall Creek. There’s a lake shore trail from there that leads back to town crossing below the foot of the vineyards (winery building is on the hill in the photo).

Potluck dinner from the supermarket back at the holiday park, accompanied by a local pale ale.