We’d had lovely journey on our first week in New Zealand, passed lovely scenery and explored towns but things were getting a bit…safe. Queenstown our next stop, is a busy small town on the north side of Lake Wakatipu, has made its name as a centre for extreme sports. The first ever commercial bungee jump was made at the nearby Kawarau bridge. If you are willing to spend some dollars, you can go skydiving, white water rafting, canyoning, rock climbing amongst many other activities. Our eye was taken by a large poster showing the Shotover Jet boat. 50 years ago an entrepreneur had the idea to take people on boat rides up the aptly named Shotover River on a then newly designed Jet boat. After some research, if you are going to separate yourself with your dollars this was the one to do. They had a photo-gallery of some of the people who had taken the ride. Apart from our own Prince William and Kate, there was George Lucas, Kenny Rodgers, Ian Mckennan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freidman and probably most of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit franchise amongst many others. With a couple of 360 degree spins for the cameras, we
took off in the Jet boat at a rate of knots straight through the canyon with seemingly only a few inches to spare either side and only over a foot of water most of the time. We both had a grin from ear to ear - or was it fear? I checked after the 25min ride to see if there were any damage on any of the boats - or maybe blood on the canyon walls, there wasn’t, the boat handling by the helm was amazing.
Passing through the town we noticed, it had a good variety of places to drink and relax. One place Fergburger had a big queue outside most times of the day and has the reputation for serving the best Burgers in town. We both joined the queue and an hour later eagerly awaited. I will say the burger was good and both enjoyed it, but couldn’t see that it was worth the waiting around that long. Having had the excitement of the Jet boat and our burger we thought we have a stroll around the boat jetties and headland park. We stopped at a reverse Aquarium where it seemed we were the
exhibits. A room built into the water allowed us to look at the wildlife beneath the water. We saw ducks, rainbow and brown trout and an eel. The trout were huge. I thought they were salmon from the size of them, and nothing like the plate sized trout in the UK we usually have in restaurants. Onto the headland we passed people playing Frisbee golf, where you aim for a chainlike net to score points.
Leaving Queenstown we aimed for nearby, Arrowtown an old goldmining town, very popular with tourists. Just down toward the river is the remains of the Chinese settlement where Chinese miners established their huts and stores in search of their fortune. It is Autumn in New Zealand and colours of the trees are spectacular. We continued on over the Crown Mountain range, and looking back over the Arrowtown the valley was a mass of colour. We passed Cardrura another goldmining town.
Wanaka, our overnight stop is south side of a lake of the same name. Being North facing the town has a great outlook as the warm sun descends. In the summer and the winter (there are a few ski
areas around here) it is probably very busy but at this time of year it’s a bit sleepy.
In one of our guides it mentioned the local Cinema, the Cinema Paradisio as a place to go. Batman v Superman was showing, not Alison’s type of film but I like a bit of escapism so off we went. I expected small and intimate and that’s what we got. The auditorium was made up of some, cinema seats but also a lot of ordinary settees and if you wished for a drive-in experience there was a open topped Morris Minor to sit and view from! No dodgy cheese nachos here you could even order a Pizza to take in for 2nd
Batman v Superman was a better film than both of us expected and even Wonder Woman made an appearance, so we got 3 for the price of two. We completed the evening with a nice Indian meal, at nearby Spice Room.
We have certainly blessed with good weather since our arrival in NZ and left the small but nice town of Wanaka to head through the Haast Pass towards the West
Coast. The scenery of the mountains and lakes is incredible. Passing the huge lakes of Wanaka and Hawea. Alison is on the case with her guidebooks and I have strict instructions to stop at several waterfalls on route. Our first stop was called Blue Pools and after a half hour walk and a couple of swing bridges, we came across a waterfall that ended with the Blue Pool. The clarity and water colour was better than any swimming pool I have ever seen. It would have been freezing cold, but if I’d been wearing swimming costume I might have been sorely tempted to take a plunge. We did call in to the other waterfalls but the walks to them interested me more. It is the most greenest, densest, forest I have ever seen, the guide book describes it as primeval. While we have been here a mother and daughter wandered off the main path and got lost for 4 days, I can understand why, you could easily get disorientated. With overnight temperatures dipping overnight they were lucky to survive.
Our overnight stop was to be Fox Glacier. We have been using a chain of campsites Top10, and
a good standard they are too. As night fell we were advised to go to the Minnehaha Trail. It is only a short winding path but as your eyes become accustomed to the dark, you can see glow worms. These are not worms as such but insect larvae that give off a bio-luminescence (thank heavens for spellchecker). It was really spooky in the dark woods.
We are in Fox glacier region to see to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. To get the best use of the daylight we first called at Lake Matheson, which if you want a great photo opportunity this lake is ideal for a reflection of both Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, especially on a still morning. Luckily it was still, and we had lovely views.
Next we headed up the track to Fox Glacier, and like our previous encounter with a glacier it has shrunk back a considerable way, rangers have had to move the path higher and further to accommodate tourists’ views. It’s quite a trek up a moon scape track, with lots of warnings not to stop or deviate from the path as there have been several deaths
from rock falls and glacier collapses. Although we did a couple of viewing points to view Franz Joseph Glacier, which is sited a few km north, we felt there wasn’t much need to go right to the glacier’s edge, as this one is even harder to see. It’s quite sad. I wonder if in a few years without the glaciers whether people will come to this side of the island?
Boy, there’s still a lot of driving to do. We press on further north.
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