Sharing stories and learning from others is one of my favourite things about travelling, and the most interesting conversations often come from the people that you meet when staying at hostels. On our first night in Queenstown, we met a couple of European backpackers at the hostel, who were on an extended holiday helping rental car companies to relocate cars between offices around New Zealand. These backpackers had just arrived from travelling down the West Coast of the South Island and had been through many of the places we were looking forward to visiting. When it came to exploring the area around Wanaka, they gave the highest recommendations for the Rob Roy Track in Mount Aspiring National Park. They said it was “challenging, but really, really worthwhile – one of the best walks we have ever done!” So, who were we to resist such high praises?!
This half-day (4 hours return) walk is located approximately one hour outside of Wanaka. The drive includes approximately 40-50 minutes of unsealed (gravel) road along the Matukituki Valley and the possibility of needing to ford rivers. Luckily for us, this region of New Zealand had been in a state of drought for a few weeks, so we did not have to take the rental car through any rivers at all. The other potential hazards on this spectacular drive are the flocks of sheep that reside in the pastures close to the road, as well as being distracted by the beautiful Rob Roy Glacier and the surrounding mountains in the distance.
This walk lived up to everything that we were told about it. I really fell in love with it. It was certainly challenging, definitely dramatic, and simply awesome – and not just because Rob Roy is the first glacier that I have ever encountered in real life. The walk starts off by winding along the glacial stream through pastures full of sheep and the occasional, until a rickety swing bridge. From here, the walk to the viewing area is mostly uphill and fairly steep at some points, but there are plenty of picture perfect spots to stop and admire along the way. (Just make sure you keep moving through any of the signed avalanche zones, though!) The reward at the end is totally worth the effort – and I’m not talking about reaching the only toilet on the Track, or encounters with pesky kea begging to steal or destroy your things. The Track ends with a clearing where you are confronted by the intimidating face of the Rob Roy Glacier and its several waterfalls hanging above. All extremely impressive stuff, so this is one walk that is definitely not to be missed if you’re ever in the area!