Along dirt paths in a rumbling four-wheel-drive, sheep flee from the road as we wind our way through Mount Aspiring National Park. This morning, I was in Wanaka, about an hour north of Queenstown in New Zealand’s south. Now, heading for the Rob Roy valley, the rocky and snow-covered peaks are crisp and stark against the saturated blue of the November sky–it’s spring in the south.
Our drop-off is the Raspberry Creek Car park at the head of the trail. The shuttle will pick us up in a few hours from the same spot. It’s not a warm day, but one that lets you breathe deep with air that is cool and clean, and fills your lungs blissfully.
The first part of the trail winds over small hills and through grassy plains where sheep and cows graze. Lambs stick close to their mothers and never let us come too close. They are fleecy and white, and look like teddy bears playing in the grass.
After a few minutes, a swing bridge leads us across a river and here the path changes. Lush temperate rainforest closes in and our open mountain views become scarce glimpses through the greenery.
Signs that warn of avalanche hazards are placed along the path, though we are deep enough into the season that the risks have dissolved. The path traces upwards along the mountain edges, crumbling rock walls to one side, milky white river to the other.
It’s less than 2 hours from the start when the lush greenery recedes and alpine vegetation dominates. We find ourselves in the open valley, and past the grassy fields and waterfalls looms the Rob Roy Glacier, in all its glory.
We find a flat rock and eat sandwiches and cheese. A thunderous crack roars through the valley and we look up to see a shower of snow and ice flowing from the edge of the glacier. I’m too late with my camera, but take it out in the hopes that I might get a second chance. We wait for a while, but no such luck. Eventually, the trail calls again and it’s time to leave.
As we approach the car park, the clouds close in and cool droplets begin pelting me on the head. Our shuttle isn’t here, so we hide out under a shelter and wait. A few minutes pass and we can see dust kicked up on the unpaved road in the distance. Soon, the valley is behind us.
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