Wanaka – The Tree, the Hike, the Beer
On a sun drenched April day in 2016, I found myself standing on the side of a road in Wanaka, New Zealand, holding out my thumb with two Danish girls. We were hoping to be picked up by a generous stranger to give us a ride to the trailhead of Roy’s Peak. In a matter of minutes, an Austrian gentlemen already carrying two Germans, offered me a seat in his BMW. I quickly found myself swept up in stories of Bavaria and Vienna. Experiencing this cultural variety was common while I made my way around New Zealand.
During my first few weeks in New Zealand, I traveled from Queenstown to Wanaka by bus. This small town is situated on the banks of its namesake lake, providing its visitors with the perfect base camp to explore the surrounding region. Wanaka is located near Mt. Aspiring National Park, Rob Roy Glacier, and many other outdoor adventures. On that day in April, I wound up hiking to the summit of Roy’s Peak with the three men that picked me up. Roy’s Peak stands almost 5,200 feet above Wanaka. It is a popular hike due to its well kept trails. It is also a hike that can be completed in seven to eight hours. This makes it a good hike for those that do not want to camp outdoors. Although this hike is fairly easy, it will still leave the casual hiker exhausted. The hike is all open terrain, so it is highly encouraged that hikers wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water. The hike consists of switchbacks up the side of the mountain. On the way, you will encounter sheep, cattle, and many other hikers. Once you summit Roy’s Peak, you will have great views of Wanaka, the lake region, and of Rob Roy Glacier in the distance.
Once you finish the hike, there is a famous tree on your way back to town. This tree is simply referred to as the “Wanaka Tree” or “The Lone Tree.” It is supposedly the most photographed tree in New Zealand, but who could possibly keep those statistics? This willow has become the symbol of Wanaka and a fascinating tourist attraction. What makes the tree so interesting is that its base is constantly submerged in water, regardless of the time of day or season. Being an environmentalist and having a deep love for nature, it is always incredible to witness how different species learn to adapt and survive. The lone tree of Wanaka is a great example of the resilience of the earth.
My last stop in Wanaka was to get a taste of some beers from Butterfly Effect, known as B. Effect, brewery. This brewery was featured in Air New Zealand’s in-flight magazine, Kia Ora, which is where I discovered them. Butterfly Effect is a microbrewery established by James Hay. James creates the recipes for his brews in his garage in Wanaka and then has them brewed and bottled in Invercargill. I spoke with James over the phone when I arrived in Wanaka, to chat and ask him where to find his delicious brews. You can find four of his beers at the New World supermarket in town. I also had his red IPA on draught at Urban Grind restaurant. On an unrelated note, Urban Grind’s smoked salmon pizza is amazing.
Each of the bottles of Butterfly Effect beer tells the drinker what inspired the taste and the name of the beer. For example, the Cut Cat session IPA reads like this:
“Dave has a jet boat that goes like a Cut Cat. Stopped towards the top of the West arm of the Matukituki River by a boulder bank for lunch, we needed a beer for the occasion. Something packed with enough NZ citrus humulus lupulus buds to make Bob Marley smile but that would not get all fear and loathing and cause sand banks to jump out on the way back down, resulting in unintended groundings.”
I really enjoyed the Cut Cat beer. It is a session IPA brewed with hops from New Zealand. I prefer IPAs with a moderate level of hoppy flavor. The Cut Cat was refreshing and had a delightful citrus taste. I also highly recommend trying the Pop n Pils pilsner. Usually, pilsners have the reputation of being boring. However, James did an awesome job using the malts to give the beer a full body with loads of taste. You can visit his website here and check out what he is up to: http://www.beffect.co.nz/