So we finally made it to Wanaka, which has been high on our list of places to visit ever since we started this trip. On arrival, we did our usual thing, which means walking around town, popping into the local visitors centre and getting a bit of a feel for the place.
In the afternoon, we parked up the van right on the side of the lake, which resulted in the most awesome view from our living room. Our friends Hope & Ollie, two other vanlifers we met in Takaka and who we call Hollie, came over for a hot chocolate and a catch up and were able to provide us with the best freedom camp spots in town, so that’s where we headed after they left. Even though we hadn’t had dinner yet, it was dark already, t’s getting dark so early these days (or should I say, this far south?).
The next morning we woke up in a beautiful spot, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. That explained why it was fricking freezing! We drove to a nicer spot in the sun where we had multiple coffees till the sun had warmed things up a bit. Ollie had time to hang out today, which meant that we would be climbing. We headed to one of the crags, only to discover that the rock was a bit wet and very, very cold still. Thomas and I decided to go for a short hike in the hope that it would be warmer by the time we came back. It kinda was but not really, so we did two routes before we gave up. It’s really hard to climb when you’re losing the feeling in your fingers cause they’re too cold!
We drove on to another climbing spot, trying to find a sunnier and therefore warmer place to climb. When we parked up, the people in the van next to us were just unloading not one, but two boulder mats from their (compared to us) small van. We instantly felt like bouldering instead of climbing, made friends with Tim and Steph and their boulder mats and added our crash pad to the heap. There are actually some really nice boulders around which kept us busy for most of the afternoon, and, more importantly, we finally warmed up!
After the boulder session, we made our way to town to grab a beer with our newfound friends before dragging them out to the free camping spot in the mountains. They were driving to Punakaiki the next morning but since they wouldn’t need one, let alone two boulder mats there, we decide to help them out and adopt one of the mats for the time being. We were going to house sit close to Castle Hill next week after all! We headed for town for a few hours of work, I love it when there’s public WiFi which is strong enough so I can work from the van!
Today Hollie moved into their new home, they are ditching their van for a proper home for the winter months. We did our usual thing when it comes to friends with houses and parked up on the drive where it stayed for the rest of the week! We had a great time hanging out with them for a week, doing some more climbing and bouldering, exploring town, riding our bikes along the lakefront, cooking up meals together as well as baking bread, cookies and woodfired pizza. Seeing Hollie settle into their house made us realise that it wasn’t a bad idea to spend the coldest months in a place like this. Thomas emailed some cabinet makers, got invited for an interview, landed a job and that’s how it became decided: we would be spending the winter in Wanaka! All we needed now was a house, that couldn’t be that bad, could it?
Boy, were we wrong. See, the thing is, we weren’t the only ones with the idea of living in Wanaka over winter. Actually, there are a TON of people doing the exact same thing as the local skifields hire a lot of people pretty much around now so we were actually joining literally hundreds of people looking for a place to live for a few months. We did what we could while we were still in Wanaka, looking at rooms to rent, checking out rental properties and trying to get the local real estate agent to offer us a place without even viewing it first. But we ran out of time and there was too much competition and we had to leave Wanaka to drive to our house sitting job. So reluctantly, we said goodbye to Hollie and left their driveway, told the cabinet maker we’d be in touch and made our way back north to Greendale.