Central Otago - Wineries and Walking

Published: April 15th 2016
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R : After Queenstown, it was into the Central Otago region. It's autumn time here now so the trees are turning a wonderful mixture of oranges and reds and it's really cooling down. We headed into Gibbston Valley first, which is home to the first of the regions wine producing valleys. The first winery was closed for a wedding, but had great views over the autumnal valley. We stopped for a picture and headed on to Gibbston wines where we began our wines of the day. Luckily Dave was driving and he doesn't really drink wine, so he was mainly occupied taking photos and eating cheese. The region is known for its Pinot Noir and its different from those you find in the Malborough region. At Gibbston Valley wines we had a four wine taster, and some cheese tasting. Although 85% of the grapes in this valley are Pinot Noir, there was also some Sauv (pronounced Sav in NZ) and dry Rieslings for Cate and Shannon who were less fussed by the Reds. After tasting some cheese and hot sauces, it was on.

Next stop was Peregrine wines. Again, mainly Pinot Noirs but also Riesling and Pinot Gris and also a very drinkable Rosé. We had to wait a bit here so took a little tour of the barrel room. We got about 8 tasters here for free which was pretty generous. Also we became the stars of a film that seemed to be being made - who knows what for, but we saw them in the next winery too. Next up was Mount Rosa, who did charge for the tasters but we're pretty generous too. Meanwhile Dave went and climbed a hill and got repealed by the winery's Yorkshire terrier when he came back down. By now we were getting a bit less interested in the finer points of the wines, being about 18 tasters in... So we headed further on past Cromwell, where we stopped at Woolingtree wineries for more tastings and lunch. As usual, the wineries all had nice locations and we stopped on a pretty veranda and put the world to rights a bit, before realising it was already about 4pm so we had to get going...

We arrived at Aoraki / Mount Cook village at about 6:30 after a brief stop in the comically named, but otherwise extremely dull, Twizel. We didn't have much time to go out so we cooked up some of the weirdest stir fry I could have imagined - the meat we had purchased said chicken on the packet, but I'm pretty sure it was sausage flavoured sawdust. In between us a large tour group were baking a multilayered cake! Around them were a swarm of Asian tourists cooking up noodle sensations. Amazing what you can do in a hostel kitchen.

The next day Dave and I headed out to do a day walk up to Müller hut, a short but extremely steep climb up to the ridge over the town with great glacial views. It started out easily but soon turned to the stair master from hell, climbing 1000m in height for only 5km of distance. Luckily, the sun was out and it was a good day for walking. Disappointed, once again with the lack of penguin bars, or their off-message brand of penguin humour, we resorted to TimTams which are far less funny, but probably better chocolate. Or at least that's what we tell the kiwis. We reached Sealy tarns, a small set of lakes, after not too long, and started up to realise that this is where the fun really starts. After the stairs of below, it was now more of a bouldering route up to the ridge. Again, quite hard going, but nothing we couldn't handle with a few stops. The stops provided ample time to view amount Cook, NZ's highest at 3724m, Hooker lake and pass and Mount Tasman as well as several glaciers. Sadly for this blog, you will have to imagine some as Dave had the camera and I only have 2 of his pictures. As we reached the ridge we were hit by icy glacial winds which made it pretty uncomfortable but carried on up towards Müller hut. This is one of Sir Edmund Hillary's first walks - another kiwi - so if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for us. After reaching the top of the ridge and on seeing the hut, we turned around to descend - a brutal walk for the calves as we were now descending the stair master. At the bottom, we celebrated the day with a pint of Speights beer before we recombined with Cate and Shannon for the evening in a slightly bizarre restaurant.
YHA Mount CookYHA Mount CookYHA Mount Cook

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C: While Roger and Dave were mountaineering, Shannon and I went to explore a glacial lake at the foot of the Tasman glacier. It was quite interesting becasue chunks of the glacier had broken off forming icebergs across the lake. They appeared to be floating but seemed fairly stuck down to us. We then walked to some pools that had been named the Blue Lakes due to their original vibrant colour. Unfortunately the presence of algae meant that they were now really more like green ponds but still interesting to see.

In the afternoon we visited the Sir Edmund Hillary museum and planetarium. Apparently Mount Cook is such a tough climb that New Zealander Hillary used it and the surrounding mountains as practice before his Everest expedition. The museum was informative both about the Everest conquest and mountaineering around Mount Cook and we also watched a great 360 degree planetarium film about black holes. The museum is in the historic Hermitage Hotel, a chic base for mountaineers for over 100 years and the only real hotel in the village. Mount Cook village is really tiny and we were lucky to get accomodation in the really excellent YHA and find dinner that night in one of only four eateries in the place!

R: We headed for Christchurch, leaving the same way we had come in. First you have to drive the edge of Lake Pukaki, which had a brilliant light blue colour due to the glacial products in it. After some sightseeing stops, we headed on to Lake Tekapo which has a little chapel with a view over the mountains through the main window, instead of the normal stained glass. There's also a statue to honour sheepdogs there. Being so important in New Zealand and its fields and fields of cows! (We still think cows outnumber the sheep here several times over!).

Next stop was the slightly underwhelming Geraldine, where there was cheese tasting and lunch, and an amateur production of the Vicar of Dibley... (Think of the name). And after that, it was straight on into Christchurch, which is a really fascinating place.

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15th April 2016

i remember the muller hut
we stayed overnight in that hut. a storm came and rattled the windows. the next day we ran down the mountain in driving rain and everything we had got soaked. we also got soaked in milford sound - I suspect most people do and the guide book photos are taken on teh one sunny day that occurs every three years. Are you back soon rog? sorry to bring it up!
15th April 2016

Haha. Yep, there was a storm coming in as we went down. We chatted with quite a few people who had booked müller hut for the night and were wishing they didn't. It was pretty wet the next morning for their walk down. Glad we stayed in town! Yes... Only 2 and a bit weeks left. Boo. And don't worry... Plenty of people are mentioning it...

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