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Published: December 14th 2008
New Zealand lamb
"No, no, not the mint sauce!"
Hobbit Land; Queenstown and Central Otago District
Saturday 13th December 2008
Those Hobbits knew a good thing when they saw it! “Middle Earth”, mostly filmed around Queenstown and the Lake Wakatipu district is something special. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe all of the beautiful scenery in New Zealand, so I’ll just sum it up, in “Lord of the Rings” style by saying “Precious”!
We left Makarora early yesterday morning in mist and rain, however, as soon as we got to Lake Wanaka the sun came out and the sky was blue; it has stayed this way for two days so we are especially fortunate with the weather (at the moment). Everything is presented on a grand scale here, the rain forests are huge, the mountain peaks are towering, the green rivers long and fast and the lakes are wide; the rainbows are the largest we have ever seen (see the photos). The “Lord of the Rings” filming has not, we are so pleased to report, resulted in tacky tourism. In fact, the only way we knew where some specific scenes were shot was by looking on the Hema Road Atlas, given to us when we rented the
camper, where small icons mark the spot and label the location, for e.g. near Wanaka the Harris Mountains are “Rugged country south of Rivendale” and by the Lake Hayes bungy bridge are the “Pillars of the Kings, River Anduin” on the Kawarau River.
Queenstown is a vibrant town set beside Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by mountains. It is the home of Bungy and people looking for adventure flock here to hurl themselves from bridges over rapid rivers or from platforms above rocky ravines, In Queenstown you can bungy, luge down the hillside, paraglide, sky jump, ride the rapids to get the adrenalin pumping, or you can just chill on the lakeside or ride up on the gondola high above the town and just drink in the splendour. We did the latter. The gondola is $22 and a must for everyone. How you come down depends on your nerve! From the top of the gondola (Ben Lomond) the whole of Queenstown is spread out before you. Across the lake are “The Remarkables” a vast mountain range and the beautiful Kelvin Peninsula, otherwise known as “Middle Earth”. If you are planning a trip to the South Island, put Queenstown on the list.
Travel tip: be prepared to pay double in Queenstown for hostel beds and camp sites. It really shouldn’t be this way but it is. Nevertheless it is worth the extra cash. Today we drove down to Dunedin (where we are tonight) and have paid just a few dollars more for two nights here (in the city) than we paid for one night in Queenstown. There is so much to see here in Dunedin that we may well stay three nights to do justice to this city. We haven’t seen much of it yet but can tell already that it is going to be as rewarding as Auckland and Wellington were. Kiwi cities are very fine indeed.
The journey to Dunedin, whereas not as spectacular as Westland and its glaciers or Central Otago and Queenstown district, was still a very beautiful drive. At times the landscape resembled Scottish uplands and at other times it was just like driving through rolling Wiltshire hillsides. The difference was the sheep. Of course, there are sheep all over New Zealand, but here in the south-east they number in millions. Lambing season ended in November so there is a lot of New Zealand lamb about (and
Harris Mountains, Lake Wanaka
aka Rugged land south of Rivendale
no mint growing anywhere).
We are camped in the city, just a few kilometres from the centre and the cathedral, yet by a little stream called Leith Water (Scottish names everywhere) in leafy surroundings. This is one of the nicest sites we’ve been on because it is for campers as well as backpackers staying in cabins so it has a really nice lounge area with a cosy fireplace, pool and table tennis, so it is more sociable than some campsites we’ve been on. Recommendation: Leith Valley Touring Park, Dunedin. Tomorrow we’ll explore this city which is known as the Edinburgh of the Southern Hemisphere, the main street is even called Princes Street (minus Edinburgh Castle)!
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