New Zealand: Wanaka

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After a long day of driving through the Haast Pass, we finally ended up at the lake-side town of Wanaka.  Words simply cannot describe this beautiful and idyllic setting, but I will try.  Wanaka is located on the edge an alpine lake bearing the same name, and is surrounded by the spectacular Southern Alps. It is considered to be one of the hidden gems of New Zealand since it is not as well known as Queenstown.  With a population of less than 10,000, Wanaka feels noticeably less touristy than its sister city.  Here, you can walk down to the lakeshore on a sunny day and not be overwhelmed by visitors.

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Wanaka is located right at the doorstep of Mt Aspiring National Park with its glaciers, snow-capped mountains, alpine rivers, and forested valleys all combining to create the most jaw dropping scenery. The town’s proximity to this World Heritage Area, makes it a popular overnight stop for backpackers. In the winter, Wanaka also serves as a popular hot spot for snow enthusiasts, offering the perfect base to tear up Treble Cone Ski Area and Cardrona Ski Field.

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Accommodation  In Wanaka, we opted to stay at the highly rated Hawea Lake campervan park.  This campground has stunning lake and mountain views with both powered and non-powered  campsites.  It also has the standard facilities – kitchen, shower, laundry, and dump site.  The cost is quite reasonable at  $17 NZD per person for a non-powered camp site.

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Even though it’s a 15 minute drive from the town center, it was one of our best decisions.  The grounds were massive and not too crowded, so we were able to find a  spot right on the edge of Lake Hawea.  Even though there were a few people around, the trees and water kept us isolated.  It felt like we had the place to ourselves, and we were able to eat our Thai takeout on a picnic table by the water.  It was a good day.

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At night, I decided to go outside to take some night photography shots but it was too cloudy to get a great view of the stars.

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The next morning we woke up at sunrise and had our tea by the water, while basking in the warm sun.

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Wanaka TreeWhat is the Wanaka tree you ask? It is the most famous tree in Wanaka, possibly the world, with its own hashtag – #ThatWanakaTree.  It is certainly one of the most photographed trees in all of New Zealand.  The unique thing about this photogenic tree is that instead of growing on dry land, it seems to be thriving in the water.

The exact location of the tree can be easily found on Google Maps.  It’s located on the Southern end of Lake Wanaka, on the Outlet Track.  As you clear the tall poplar trees, you’ll see the solitary willow tree framed by the stunning Southern Alps in the background.  The most popular time to take a photo of the tree is at sunrise, if you show up at any other time of the day, you’ll most likely have the place to yourself.

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Waterfront Park – Right in the middle of the town is a nice park on the Wanaka lakefront at the corner of Ardmore Street and Lakeside Road.  This spot is popular with both local families and visitors alike.  There is a large lot with plenty of temporary parking spots where you can leave your car or campervan and go for a short walk.   Along the shore, you’ll find a fragrant flower garden, picnic tables, and barbeques.  You’ll also find the iconic Hand, a sculpture by a local artist.

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Other Things To Do – We spent the majority of our time in Wanaka trying out the various hiking trails found around town.   Our two favorite day treks are Roy’s Peak, which is located about 15 minutes outside of town, and Rob Roy Glacier, which is an hour away.  Click on the links to see more pictures and read about our experience hiking these iconic trails.

Information Round-up:

  • Distance: 200 km from Fox Glacier to Wanaka
  • #Nights: 2
  • Accommodation: Hawea Lake campervan park – $34 NZD and airBnB– $173 NZD per night

Photo of the Week: Gorge

IMG_8087Atlanta, USA

This week, I dug up some photos from our trip to Atlanta a few years ago.  Since we rented a car, we decided to drive out to Tallulah Gorge for a short day-hike.  This beautiful destination, filled with waterfalls, rock outcrops, and river cascades is one of the most popular trails in Georgia.  The easy to follow 2 mile trail takes you across a suspension bridge, down towards the gorge and back out again. 

Every week, I’ll share a photo with you from my adventures around the world and at home.  Most of my photos have little or no post processing.  If you would like to see more, please click the Follow button.

New Zealand: Rob Roy Glacier

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What I absolutely love about hiking in New Zealand is that it seems like no two trails are alike.  Each one is challenging and great in its own unique way.  So even though we ended up hiking almost every day, the experience felt different each time.  There are tons of great day trails around the Wanaka area, and one of which is the Rob Roy Glacier track – the jewel of Mt Aspiring National Park.  It’s hard to believe, but after after almost 2 weeks in New Zealand, I still couldn’t get enough of the picturesque mountains, sheer rock cliffs, hanging glaciers, and alpine valleys. Continue reading

Photo of the Week: City-center

IMG_2436Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Every few years I go back to my hometown only to find that it has changed beyond recognition.  Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, which has translated into more high rises and modern buildings. Although there is still one area that has remained the same, the main square overlooking City Hall. The familiar French colonial building with its bright orange roof is iconic in this ever-changing city.

Every week, I’ll share a photo with you from my adventures around the world and at home.  Most of my photos have little or no post processing.  If you would like to see more, please click the Follow button.

New Zealand: Roy’s Peak

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I’ve never been an avid hiker; I have attempted a few short and long hikes over the years, but it wasn’t until I got to New Zealand that I realized how much I enjoy hiking. The South Island is known for its incredible trails with captivating scenery.  Wanaka in particular has many must-do hikes, one of which is the popular Roy’s Peak,  a rigorous uphill climb with breathtaking views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring, and the surrounding mountain peaks.  The exertion and pain is rewarded when you’re standing on a trail overlooking the the best views in New Zealand.
Continue reading

Photo of the Week: Tranquility

IMG_6933Coco Plum, Belize

During everyone’s travels, one always has a place that one dreams about revisiting. That place for us is Belize, more specifically, Coco Plum Resort.  The time we spent on the little secluded island was a paradise where time ceased to exist. Since there was no TV or internet, we were blissfully cut off from the world; and instead we spent our time reconnecting with each other and our surroundings.  

Every week, I’ll share a photo with you from my adventures around the world and at home.  Most of my photos have little or no post processing.  If you would like to see more, please click the Follow button.

New Zealand: Haast Pass

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Driving across New Zealand, there is no shortage of beautiful scenery and spectacular landscapes, so when I read that the famous Haast Pass is THE most scenic highway in the country I had my doubts – but it didn’t take long for me to completely change my mind. This 140 km section of State Highway 6 starts at the Tasman Sea and winds its way along rugged coastline, skirting lush rainforests, passing through steep mountain ranges, crossing tumbling rivers and finally ending at Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, two of New Zealand’s biggest mountain lakes.  The road follows an ancient trail used by the Maori people. Continue reading

Photo of the Week: Roman Theatre

Aspendos (19)Aspendos, Turkey

One of the best preserved ancient Roman theaters is, oddly enough, not even located in Italy.  It can be found near the Southern coast of Turkey, by the city of Antalya.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is frequented by hundreds of thousands of people every year.  We were there earlier in the morning, and had the place to ourselves.  In the summer, the beautiful building also hosts the annual Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival where visitors get a chance to experience the acoustics of this ancient theater.

Every week, I’ll share a photo with you from my adventures around the world and at home.  Most of my photos have little or no post processing.  If you would like to see more, please click the Follow button.

New Zealand: Glacier Country

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From Hokitika we continued to head South along Highway 6 towards Fox Glacier.  A visit to  New Zealand’s West Coast isn’t complete without a trip to one of the two glaciers found there – Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. The topography in this area is unique with glaciers and ice surrounded by lush, green forest covered with ferns and mosses. Also, both glaciers are located only a mere 300 meters above sea level. Continue reading