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Published: July 12th 2018
The sun came up (eventually), England got knocked out of the World Cup and it's crystal clear blue skies with no wind - is this the perfect day? Close! And I was initially disappointed that we weren't going to experience such cracking weather on the slopes, until we booked our lake cruise.
We awoke with no plans - except to check-out by 10 am. Some of us were up for kick-off at 6 but the majority didn't surface until just before 9. But being seasoned travellers we were packed and ready to check-out by about 9.30! What a team!
With zero wind chill, today still felt the coldest of all our days here. We packed up, rugged up and knicked off. We parked just out of town (Brisbane St coincidentally) to avoid parking fees/fines and walked through the Queenstown Botanical Gardens towards the harbour. On our way we passed a frozen puddle on a building site. Tossing rocks at a frozen puddle is surprisingly fulfilling when they crack the shiny crust and cause a splash. Yes, it's that cold!
The first available lake cruise tickets aren't until 12 and we have time to wander the town centre. They
tried to upsell us with a $30 BBQ lunch upgrade but this ain't our first rodeo. Nice try backpacker! We opt for an early lunch from Fergburger. Except it is so popular that there is a 10 metre queue even at 11 am! The success of Fergburger has seen expansion into Fergbaker and even Mrs Ferg Cafes. These burgers are world famous, it's a QT must do and the menu sounds amazing - but the clock is ticking and we're not "burger" hungry. We settle for Fergbaker. And when I say "settle", it's grossly unfair. These pies are equally as amazing as the famous burgers sound. I order the Lamb Shanks Pie (of course) and Jules chooses the Venison Portobello Pie. Excuse me...Venison Portobello? And they are great! Even the kid's sausage rolls look and smell gourmet. We bask in the winter sun enjoying our baked goods under the watchful eye of a quarrel of sparrows.
With half an hour until cast off, an idle mind is the devil's playground and by devil, I mean souvenir shops. We browse a couple of shops and contribute to the local economy and future landfill. No, Milla has been loving the native
fauna and will cuddle the fluffy little Kiwi and Sheep to death. But if Deak's Silver Fern necklace charm makes it to semester 2, I'll be very surprised.
Lake Wakatipu looks like a millpond as we set off across the lake to Walter Peak. It's maximum 2 degrees today and atop the Fjordland ferry it feels like minus 2. But the view is as good as it gets in Queenstown. These mountains are remarkable. Captain Barry explains the origins of the name and it makes more sense than the weak marketing gimmick I took it for. Some European bloke that mapped the south island identified that the distinctive ridge of The Remarkables mountain range ran due north. Remarkable indeed!
As the Fjordland cruises below these steep 2 kilometer high cliffs you can't help marveling at how these slopes were ever considered suitable for grazing. The Mackenzie family established this farm at the bottom of Walter Peak in 1880! What were they thinking?
An active farm with 20,000 sheep and 6,000 cattle, the show is informative and authentic. A sheep is crutched and a sheep dog rounds up a flock of sheep on the hill in front of
us. We feed some other sheep, deer, cows and alpaca. Milla is in her elemnet and loves all of the animals and Simone our farmer/shearer guide. Deaks is keen on the alpaca's calmer feeding style and is secretly jealous of the alpaca's hairdo.
As if there wasn't enough cute animals we are introduced to a puppy border collie Meg before we adjourn for possibly the best scones I've ever tasted. The afternoon tea was unexpected and the quality and amount was unheard of. We had an early lunch at Fergbaker and the four of us smashed the complimentary brownies, carrot cake and both types of scones (cheese and traditional). Warm scones, New Zealand butter and cream, an open fire and it's all complimentary - does it get any better?
Our time at the farm absolutely flies by and before we know it we are queuing for the Fjordland return journey. Milla is pretty impressed with Simone the sheila shearer and since they are wearing matching flanos we can't resist a sneaky photo.
Aboard the Fjordland for the return journey is serene and reflective. Watching the setting sun reflect off the remarkables and Walter Peak is peaceful and
calming. Apparently Milla and Deaks are processing the afternoon tea sugar load and aren't as serene as me. Another kid who went hard at afternoon tea is having an absolute meltdown on the boat. We watched the 5 year old Afghani kid help himself to the complimentary Fruit Cup cordial and add 5-6 teaspoons of white sugar to his tumbler of Cottees. I summise that he's Afghani because his mum wears a hijab and when he's sobbing uncontrollably on the boat, he reminds me of the kid in The Kite Runner. This kid is losing it for almost the entire 30 minute boat ride but does it in a strangely undisruptive way.
We duck into Patagonia chocolates for a quick shop (I promised apparently) and a local art gallery before we're in the Rav4 and on our way out of Queenstown. It's two and a half hours to Twizel. The setting sun sheds a different light on the passing scenery - pink and orange hues and white as white snow reflects the sun on the eastern horizon. Two and a half hours, no devices and the kids are virtually silent in the back - amazing! Well they are talking
jibberish to each other but they are not fighting or whinging. Bloody good kids!
We pass through Lindis Pass and the outside temp drops to -1. There is snow on the raodside and the kids want to stop. Jules and I are busting to pee and warn that if we stop and feel snow we'll have no choice but to pee by the road and neither of us wants a peecicle. While amused at the thought the are also briefly that we would deny them the touch of snow. We quietly remind them that they have just had 3 days of pristine snow and this is simply roadside sludge and slurry.
Twizel can't come soon enough for my tired eyes and numbing bum. We attempt to check-in to the wrong hotel before disembarking at the Lakes Hotel. A delightful dinner at a soulless pub before we retire. Alice and Heidi facetime Milla, I watch the last 20 minutes of the State of Origin on Sky Sports, Deaks plays that Zinedine Zidane song on repeat and Jules watches the Sex and the City movie. Our hotel room has wi-fi and 3 TVs!
Twizel is in the international black sky reserve - like a national park for stargazing - and we've been blessed with a cloud free night and a virtually new moon. It's sub zero outside but I think it's late enough for the stars to be popping.
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