Saturday, 19 March 2016

Heading South, Part 3 - Rainy Queenstown

By the time we turned up in Queenstown we were starving and eager to eat. We met up with Mum and John again as they had flown in earlier that day and we had dinner at Brazz’s. The chicken parmigiana was filling and tasty but I was disappointed with the dry chocolate pudding. Sad face.

It was a very grey start to the day the next morning and we had to run to the shower block to avoid getting an extra soaking from the rain. Will and I walked down to the Lake Wakatipu front and sat watching the waves coming in. The water is so clear and has been graded as 99.9% pure – the second purest lake in the world! (The first purest is the Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes National Park, also in the South Island!)

We saw the steamer boat The Earnshaw picking up and dropping off cruisers.

On the edge of the lake the buildings looked like little fisherman huts 

but further inland Queenstown looks like any other town. At this time of year there are so many tourists milling about and every other shop you walk past is trying to sell the latest thrill seeking adventure and expensive activity. The weather brightened up in the afternoon so we took a gondola ride up to Bob’s peak for some spectacular views.

And we had another go at the Luge. This one had just 2 tracks (unlike Rotorua’s 3) but they were still really fun and fast! And if Will mentions anything, I let him win all 5 races! Last time I wore the blue helmet (medium) but this time it felt that little bit too big so tried a red (small) which was much better. When we were queuing I realised that nearly every other person with a red helmet was a tiny child.

I finally had managed to message Mum successfully and we met up to take the gondola back down the hill. I hadn’t realised Mum would be so scared!

All 4 of us had dinner at the Pig and Whistle and I went for a very English meal of Bangers and Mash. We had an evening stroll around the lake watching the dramatic outline of the mountains become more prominent as the sun went down with the twinkly lights dancing in the water and the last light hanging in the sky.

We had another grey start to the day but a great view from our accommodation. 

Will drove us to Arrowtown, a small historic village that European settlers flocked to for the gold rush. Some of the really old buildings still remain and if you cut out the cars and people on the street level (like I’ve tried to do in the photos) you could easily transport  yourself back in time.

We didn’t have time to explore the Chinese settlement before the Heaven’s opened up on us but we managed to squeeze in a quick walk along the Arrow river, where some were panning for gold.

To dry off we had a drink at the Tap and Fork and I really liked the look of this print by Pauline Bellamy as I thought it captured the history of the place well.

We got changed into some dry clothes back at base camp then headed back to Queenstown for dinner -  a burger from Ferg! I think the rain had put a few people off as the queue, which was normally half way down the street was no-where near that long and we didn’t have to wait too long for the food to be cooked either. 

Don't think the server heard Will properly when he said his name for the order!

Can you see all those tickets hanging under the counter?! That's how many orders before us!

We were surprised how big the menu is and how calm everyone who works there remains, even when the queue is half way down the street!

Will managed to squeeze on to a table with a few other people and we ate what was the best burger I have ever eaten. I remember all that time ago when I researched before coming to NZ and found that Fergburger was 'the' place to go when in Queenstown, I thought it might be just hype, with people more interested in the fame of the place rather than the quality of the food but it was SOOOOO tasty. The patty looked like proper meat and wasn’t perfectly round like a lot of manufactured burgers these days. The aioli and tomato relish balanced each other perfectly and the bread was soft but had substance to it. At a very reasonable $11.50 I would definitely recommend to everyone!

Whilst looking up great places to eat and drink I had also come across Patagonia, a chocolate shop on the lake front. We ordered a large hot chocolate to share and it was just as thick, rich and creamy as I’d hoped. The small biscuit was a nice touch but the crockery could have done with a bit more of a clean to be perfectly honest. The counter full of truffles and ice cream was tempting but we thought we’d save it for another trip.

Will took a time-lapse of the clouds moving across the mountains (I'll add in a link once he's edited it!) and then it was time for us to head back to our cabin as the rain was coming in thick and fast. The thunder boomed and echoed around the valley and the rain tinged and tinkled on our roof that night but we felt very cosy.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Heading South, Part 2 - Hooker Valley Track

We had a quick stop over at Lake Tekapo

then Lake Pukaki – who would be able to pass by waters with such an alluring brilliant blue colour? There were so many tourists here but we still managed to get some fairly good photos. Glaciers were once here and when they receded they ground the rock causing fine particles which makes the beautiful blue colour.

The holiday park cabin in Omarama was cute and spacious and we could see the mountains in the not so far distance. That night we had a few drinks at the local pub but I was dismayed to see a cow’s head staring down at me from the wall. I looked elsewhere and was greeted by a stag, a goat and a sheep. We were definitely in farmers’ territory.

The next morning we set off for the village at Mount Cook and passed some brilliant scenery, which really could have been the set for several movies, through what is known as the Mackenzie Basin after a Scottish immigrant James Mckenzie who purportedly stole a large amount of sheep and escaped from prison after he was arrested. I've hear differing accounts of whether a judge pardoned because he was wrongly accused or just because they couldn't contain him in prison!

There were some cool looking cloud shapes – a hand, can you see it? 

And a meteorite hurtling down to Earth.

Will had researched the Hooker Valley Glacier track and thought it looked relatively easy with no steep climbs. The book had said 3 hour return journey but that you could stop at any point and just turn back. We didn’t speak to each other about it but seemed to mutually agree that we just couldn’t turn back. Every step brought us more breathtaking views and the weather was bright and sunny. It sounds silly but I couldn't believe we were in the scenery - it looked like something I'd only seen out of a travel book or on the tv. Words can’t really describe how amazing the feeling was to be somewhere so beautiful but hopefully the photos do it some justice.

I was taking in the flora and fauna when Will turned to me and said ‘who’s this?’ before running up to a stone and looking out over the valley. It immediately clicked as Legolas and Aragon shouting out to him ‘what do your elf eyes see?’ Every part of this walk would have made a fantastic backdrop for a movie.

We reached the glacier and the lake, which was so cold it had a couple of ice-bergs still floating in it. Although there were a lot of people it didn’t feel crowded and everyone was appreciating and marvelling at the nature all around us.

The walk had made our journey to Queenstown a lot longer but we didn’t mind in the least - how could we complain?!