Keen Adventure Guide
Tracing the source of Lake Wanaka by foot and in packrafts during winter seemed like a crazy idea, but that didn't stop us from going. So, we packed our bags for a four day journey through the wilderness to Aspiring Flats where the headwaters for New Zealand’s most Instagrammed lake could be found.
Our adventure began by fording the very river we’d be paddling in the days to come; the water was thigh-deep, swift-moving, and cold--oh, so cold--leaving my feet and lower legs totally numb. When the sun came out and I finally regained feeling, it was only to feel pure pain.
That pain was merely foreshadowing for what lie ahead of us though: A six hour hike through the most rugged terrain to reach Aspiring Flat. The first five hours were tough, and I powered through--but the last hour was impossibly hard and it broke me down to my core. Tired, hungry and sore, I pleaded for there to be no more.
The next morning we awoke surround by mountains; snow-covered peaks towered above us in every direction. The valley was ours and ours alone; in that moment I felt pure joy. That afternoon we hiked back down to Junction Flat to set up camp by the river and rest, but I restlessly anticipated what was ahead.
Day three; it was time to paddle. Though we had scouted the river on our way in, it held many surprises once we got in; for eight miles we paddled whitewater contrasted by mirror-like flats on the East Matukituki. It was my first time experiencing whitewater; the emotion that manifested was pure fear.
Our final day we awoke to a frost-covered camp, but it would be another three hours until the sun burned it off and we could finish our trip: 18 miles of paddling the braided river to reach Lake Wanaka.
We spent four long days in the wilderness; it was the longest I'd ever been out. During the adventure, I experienced pure-pain, -fear, and -exhaustion--but I’ve also never felt stronger, more courageous, as empowered, or totally free. This journey taught me to trust myself and give in to the experience, not just seeking joy but accepting every struggle encountered along the way.