Wanaka and Franz Josef Glacier

From Queenstown I made my way to another lakeside town just few hours away, Wanaka, named conveniently after the lake Wanaka. Quite like Queenstown, Wanaka has some nice cafes and restaurants, but the activity offering is way lesser, which suited my sneezing and tired body rather well. Wanaka has grown exponentially in the recent years, and now it is a rather bustling little town, the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Besides the gorgeous views (like everywhere), Wanaka offers options for water sports, skiing and scenic flights.

Le Wanaka beach.
Le Wanaka beach.

After checking in to my hostel (The Flying Kiwi, in case someone is looking to head that way) I took a little walk around town and sat by the lake for a bit, trying my best not to burn in the sun. In the afternoon I cooked some monster-resembling fish and fell asleep by the lake, deciding that maybe it was best I have an early night in. 8 people dorm and no snorers, WIN! The next morning after breakfast I dragged my overflowing backpack and bags to the bus towards Franz Josef.

Eager travelers waiting for their ride.
Eager travelers waiting for their ride.

The bus ride to Franz Josef took 6 hours, including two 30 minute breaks to a in-the-middle-of-nowhere-cafe and a salmon farm. Interesting stops, but not much to eat if you’re not into sandwiches and pies. In between appreciating the ever changing nature – from rough rocky terrain to lush rainforest to double tier forest to mountains, and the seaside with trees that grow in an angle – I dozed off between unconsciousness and the driver’s soft talk about why the trees grow in two layers and how it is not allowed to have the trees so close to the road as they at one point were. Beautiful drive, but I would have liked to have a pitstop in a place like Jones’ Fruit Farm, where we stopped on the way to Queenstown and to Wanaka.

New Zealanders wanted to save money way back when, and so the bridges are one lane only.
New Zealanders wanted to save money way back when, and so the bridges are one lane only.
Native bushes and trees living in harmony.
Native bushes and trees living in harmony.

I arrived in Franz Josef glacier town at 4, which left me plenty of time to find the hot pools I read about and have a proper soak. Franz Josef is way bigger than Mt. Cook, consisting of 1 main street and another street for mainly motels and backpackers’, several (pub/Asian) restaurants and glacier tour operators. I do kinda feel bad for not taking a helicopter ride (I’ve never been) to actually see the glacier, or do anything ice-related for that matter, but I didn’t feel like investing in such an experience, and opted for the pools in stead. 3 different pools, 36, 38 and 40C hot, just what one needs after a day on the bus sneezing. In the evening I went for a little walk to try and catch the sunset, but there was too much rainforest and mountains on my way. Another early night, luckily I fell asleep before the snoring begun. I woke up at 5, but managed to stay in bed for another few hours. Onwards to the longest leg of my journey, 10.5 hours on the bus! Apparently there’s one of the world’s most dramatic coastal roads on the way.

I expected to see him on the mountains.
I expected to see him on the mountains.
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Mökki party

There are roughly half million summer cottages in Finland; I suppose we just can’t get enough of our nearly 200,000 lakes, plus we need some more space and privacy, and some time off from our neighbors. I am still learning how to love the cottage life in our family summer house near Kuopio, but sunny, warm weather and parties like the one last weekend certainly make it easier to go to the woods and listen to the mosquitos.

The "White House"
The “White House”

Vaajasalo, our cottage, hosted a summer party of 63 people: we even had a military tent in the yard to accommodate the residents, since the guests occupied all the indoor space! I didn’t know pretty much any of the guests (most of who were over 50), but it was still fun!

Muurinpohjalettu, flipping pancakes from a bucket
Muurinpohjalettu, flipping pancakes from a bucket

We had food including traditional summer dessert, “muurinpohjalettu” pancakes, followed by sauna and swimming in the lake…

 

Partying in sweatpants, cottage-style!
Partying in sweatpants, cottage-style!

3 sets from a 5 person band playing in our front porch, followed by a rave with popping champagne…

Who needs festivals when you can have your own
Who needs festivals when you can have your own?

All in all, not your typical a) weekend or b) summer party.

By the way, in case you are ever in Kuopio or in the near-by area: there’s a winery in the same island as our cottage (Vaajasalo). They have a smelly, huge pig, some peacocks and an ostrich. He (she?) Was a weird-looking fella.

Weird neck and bigger eyes than brains
Weird neck and bigger eyes than brains

Ostriches are the fastest 2-legged species. The kick of an ostrich can kill (not surprised). Usually they live in Africa. I wonder, if the one in Alahovi winery goes to Africa for winter holiday…