June 2024

The Roaring Meg and Mighty Roy

The Roaring Meg

The Roaring Meg

Scott and I have had the pleasure of meeting two of Lake Wanaka’s great natural forces: Meg and Roy.

We arrived into Wanaka two days ago after the drive through the Haast Pass (which actually wasn’t so bad). We immediately went straight to the informaiton centre in town to see if we could book a sledging trip for the afternoon – we were in luck!

We booked our trip with a company called Frogz, who came to pick us up at around 1 p.m for our adventure. We had about a 45 minute drive with four other people in the van: two younger boys (who I think were a couple) and an older couple from the UK. Our destination was a small power station in the middle of the Kawarau river. Upon arrival and greeting from the rest of the guide team (Rose was the guide who picked us up, and Assaf had picked up the four folks from Queenstown – he was a HUGE Israeli and had his crazy full facial beard), we started gearing up. Full on wet suits, jackets, booties, helmets and flippers. We then piled back into the van, as we weren’t able to depart from the power station because the river was too high (because of the recent rain Scott Montgomerie had brought).

Scott looking like a frog at Frogz sledging!

Scott looking like a frog at Frogz sledging!

So, we trekked down to the river, had a very brief (I thought it was brief considering I was going to be pummeling down a river on my belly on a small sledge) safety talk and demonstration, and got in. Our group of 10 was pretty big, so they split us into two groups of five and Scott and I got separated. It’s ok though, you can throw pretty much any water sport at me and I’ll be ok. So, we got in and started practicing in the calm eddy on the side. A few of the people in my group were not natural water people and were really irritating. One guy managed to gash his nose on a rock in the eddy 2.5 minutes into the demo. Awesome, that boads well. Finally, we were set free into the river with Rose guiding us and shouting directions and signals and Assaf behind us making sure we weren’t banging into rocks (but was mostly taking care of the freaked out, useless nose-bleeder guy). It was exhilirating. Cold water rushing everywhere, being tossed around in the water like little rag dolls…and it was pretty easy! As long as you held on to your board (which was difficult at times), you were buoyant. All you had to do was look where you wanted to go. If a whirlpool caught you, you just went round it and it would spit you back out. We also stopped in a calm spot and did a jump off one of the riverbed rocks which was fun. After round one, we were allowed to go again, our choice, for round two. I was so in, and so was Scott. However, the lover boy couple and the UK coulple with the bashed nose opted out…so our second round only had 6 people (and the 6 calm ones), so it was a much better experience. Less bumper sledging and fear of losing your teeth by people kicking franctically around you. I was sad after it was done, but pretty tired – it took some serious upper body strength to keep yourself on the sledge. A few of the other people mentioned sore legs, but that didn’t bother me…probably because I was calm enough that I wasn’t kicking around as much as the others.

Kenna watching the sheep who adorned our trek up Mt. Roy with little presents.

Kenna watching the sheep who adorned our trek up Mt. Roy with little presents.

So, that was our experience with the Roaring Meg. We had so much fun, and would do it again in a heartbeat. Problem is, I’ve never seen this adventure anywhere else – it is apparently from France and is a recognized sport there, brought over here in the early 90s. But both Scott and I, having been to France a few times each, have never seen it. So, I think our sledging days are done. And the name of the river – the Roaring Meg, you ask? Well, the area above the river used to be a goldmine, and apparently that was a very popular red-haired barmaid who used to “service” the miners and made the best salary of anyone around. She was so renound, they named the crazy part of the river after her. I believe we were only on class 3 rapids, and Scott and I felt as though we could handle more…but I don’t think they take tourists past a class 4 (and those ones are all-day ones and REALLY expensive).

Now, onto the Mighty Roy. Day two in Wanaka, we decided to climb Roy’s peak – the tallest mountain in the range in which Wanaka sits. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any information about why the mountain is named Roy (it’s a plan of ours to google it when we get internet again), but it is Mighty because it’s the hardest day-hike either Scott or myself has done.

Us at the top of Mt. Roy

Us at the top of Mt. Roy

We started off in the morning at the trail head, which wasn’t spectacular. Basically, we started at the bottom of the mountain in the parking lot, and could see the peak from where we were. It looked HARD. So, we set off. The recommended time for the trek was 6 – 7.5 hours, and we weren’t sure how long it would take us because it was only an 11 km hike straight in and out…so not long, but we had no idea the kind of elevation gain we’d experience (and it looked BAD). The first stretch involved walking through private New Zealand farm land. This means sheep. We spent the first 1.5 hours walking through a sheep bathroom/kitchen, dodging all the bleeting beasts as we went. We were most unsuccessful in avoiding the sheep excrement (our runners are now disgusting) – it was EVERYWHERE. The sheep were pretty dodgy and would run away as you approached (and the moms would bleet at the babies to get out of the way), except for one sheep which I will get to later.

This was a SLOG. There was nothing nice to look at, and it basically just kept switchbacking up the mountain. And it was hard. I was so out of breath early on, that I made Scott tell me about his 1200 page book that he’s reading to take my mind off the crappyness of the situation. After about 1.5 hours, we exited the farm land and were in Department of Conservation land. This was better (no dung), but the nasty switchbacks just kept going and going. The damn thing was like 25 Keilor Roads (and the hard part of it) over and over again. There was no respite. I think we got approximately 2 flat parts, maybe about 2 meters long for the entire thing. But, we kept going. The car in the parking lot kept getting smaller, and the view kept getting more spectacular. We finally came to a gorgeous lookout on one of the smaller peaks and took a break and some photos. Then, it was time to trudge on. We finally made it to the peak (after many instances of me stopping, closing my eyes, trying to get my breathing under control and trying to convince myself that I could do this) in 3.25 hours. Not bad. I was pretty impressed with myself.

View from the top of Mt. Roy

View from the top of Mt. Roy

The view at the top was stunning – 360 panorama view of the mountain ranges and lakes surrounding us. Definitely well worth the trek. We didn’t stay at the top long, just enough to eat some lunch and rehydrate because the platform was quite small and quite busy…and it was really windy. I was kind of scared I was going to fall off. I also wasn’t sure how I was going to make it back down – my knees were already sore and I knew the descent wouldn’t be a slice of cake either.

Scott had the idea to GPS our incline as we went down. The peak of Roy stands at 1578 meters above sea level, but we weren’t sure where we started from. The beginning of the descent wasn’t too bad, but killer on the knees. By about halfway, every fibre in my body wanted to lay down and barrel roll down the hill. The only thing keeping me from doing this was the sheep dung. Both Scott and I’s legs were so jelly, that we started to wobble and trip a lot, which resulted in me taking a good fall/roll and somehow managed to avoid the sheep goodness. As I mentioned before, most of the sheep kept ignoring us…except for one really fat female (or was it a male?) guarding a few baby lambs. S/he started to run after us as we were making our way down the hill, and I said to Scott “great, that would really make my day if I got head butted by a sheep in the arse right now,” to which his reply was “I’d give it a swift knock with my left uppercut.” I’ve never pictured Scott as a fighter (and especially with a left hand? He can’t even drive stick with a left hand!), so this put me into a state of giggles as we frolicked down the hill hand-in-hand.

You could see the cars from the top, just barely and maybe not visible here

You could see the cars from the top, just barely and maybe not visible here

When we made it down (after much moaning and groaning), we checked the GPS – we were 372 meters above sea level. That means that the Mighty Roy has a 1.2 km incline over 5 kms. That’s pure insanity…it’s like a 20% grade which no break. We made it down in 2 hours…so 5.25 overall. Not too far off the mark. But, to this moment I’m still not sure how I survived, but boy am I paying for it today. I’m so stiff that it hurts to sleep, sit, walk, you name it. That, combined with my upper body stiffness from sledging…yep. Ouch. I’m kind of a sight right now.

As we were driving away from the hill, a couple we had passed on the way down were walking on the side of the highway…so we picked them up (who could walk another 7 km after that ordeal?!). Turns out they had walked TO the trail in the morning as well, crazy kids! These two were from Findland and Ireland, and were doing almost the exact same trip as us, but in reverse and with the addition of South America for 7 months. So we had a nice visit and chat about that during the ride back to town.

Kenna enjoying a nice high-class meal at a winery, wearing the same clothes we've worn every day for the last few weeks

Kenna enjoying a nice high-class meal at a winery, wearing the same clothes we've worn every day for the last few weeks

Today, Scott and I kept it chill and made the drive to Queenstown. The Otago region is quite popular for wine, so we stopped at a few wineries on the way. One of them that we came across was quite ritzy and so we stopped for lunch. We felt a bit out of place since we are still wearing the extremely grubby only set of warm clothes we have (I do apologize that you have to keep seeing them in all of our pictures)…but it was so much fun. We ordered really fancy gnocchi and a terrine (which I still don’t know what it is, but it was good!) and enjoyed a delicious Reisling. This area is popular for having mostly white wines consisting of Reislings, Chardonnays and Pinot Gris. The only red wine they grow is a Pinot Noir, so we got a bottle of one of the Pinots, and one Reisling which we will surely enjoy. Today, NZ REALLY reminded me of Canada. The area we are in looks almost identical to the Okanagan, and the wine tasting experience was almost identical, but given by people with accents who drive on the other side of the road. It’s kind of neat, but kind of irritating too – we want something different. We were told by numerous people that the South Island is way better than the North, but everything just feels so much like home here (and the regular trips we make to the rockies and to interior BC), Scott and I are in agreement that we preferred the North. We still have about 10 days in the South though, so we’ll see if our opinions change once we head further South and the the Milford Sound region.

Upon our arrival into Queenstown, which really reminds me of Banff or Whistler, we booked our sky diving trip for tomorrow morning. The thought of this actually makes me throw up in my mouth a little, and I’m terrified, but it should be fun. Hopefully I’m not as stiff tomorrow, or it could be an interesting landing. We are now settled in our cheap campground for the night which is actually quite stunning. We are surrounded by more sheep (they are bleeting as I write this) in a gorgeous valley of mountains. It’s very basic (it really reminds me of backcountry hiking), but I’m glad we are staying here. Wish us luck for tomorrow!!

Update: we tried to skydive today…made it all the way to the check in office and were told it was a go and that the weather was ok. Drove 20 minutes out to the drop zone, waited our turn (a few people jumped ahead of us), got suited up, were walking out to the plane…and then were told that a shift in the weather had occured and it was too cloudy/windy (I blame the Montgomerie weather curse). So, we’re going to try again tomorrow….fingers crossed the weather cooperates. Check back for an update in a few days!!

2 comments to The Roaring Meg and Mighty Roy

  • Cheryl

    You guys are ANIMALS! Kenna, you’ll be a hiking pro at next year’s AGA, and the bike tour should be no problem for you guys after the constant adventures. Skydiving scares me too. You’ll have to tell me how it was. I’m not sure I could make myself jump.

    And by the way, it’s 40 below here. Kelly and I had to run for an hour on the track yesterday because it’s physically dangerous to go outside right now. So count your lucky New Zealand stars, even if it is raining. 😉

  • Marc Chiswell

    ARe you going to come back????

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