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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Queenstown
April 14th 2009
Published: May 1st 2009
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Heading south

On Easter Saturday, after a suitable mountain breakfast of chocolate porridge with peaches. we set off heading South towards Queenstown. In the restaurant, the previous night we had been amused by some tourists asking the waitperson for directions from Tekapo to Queenstown. There is ONE road and it goes down and across a bit. There's a detour to Mount Cook, you ignore the turn off to Oamaru at Oamarama, ignore the turn off to Wanaka at Tarras and make sure you take the road to Alexandra at Cromwell. That's it! No directions required. Just keep following the road. You have to go through the Lindis Pass or you don't get through the mountains...

So, after driving past Twizel, stopping to stroke some Merino sheep in Omarama, passing through Tarras, the Lindis Pass and following Lake Dunstan, we found ourselves looking for lunch in Cromwell. Lake Dunstan is a reservoir, created on the Clyde river in 1992 and thankfully, prior to the flooding a group of concerned Cromwell residents moved some of their old town to higher ground. As a result, 'Old Cromwell Town' is a great place to stop for lunch.

After satisfying our pie cravings at the old "Seed & Grain cafe", we stopped in at an orchard and bought a tonne of organic fruit and veg (fruit and veg being what Cromwell does) to keep us going through our week in Arrowtown.

After leaving Cromwell, we entered the Kawarau Gorge and followed the river through the Gibbston Wine Valley. We stopped at the world-famous bungy jump bridge site and realised that we had arrived exactly four years to the day that we last had been there - when Em had taken the plunge, but Tim had decided that it was not thrilling enough to bother with. Neither of us jumped this time, because we needed to resolve our one regret that we had from our previous visit...If you stand on the bungy bridge and look the other way up the gorge you see the filming location for the "Pillars of the Kings" aka the "Argonath" from LOTR. Priddy awesome!


Arriving in Arrowtown

We arrived in Arrowtown, our stopping place for the next four days and after picking up supplies in Frankton we found a stone pub for a drink ('The Tap' has OLD SPECKLED HEN, except the barrels were empty!) and then cooked fajitas back in the backpackers.

The next morning, Easter Sunday, Em got up early and went out on a trek around town looking for a church with a mid-morning service. There are three churches but all of them seemed to have decided the best time to have a service was at the crack of dawn. Instead we packed our bags for a day's walking in the mountains. Arrowtown is an amazing old gold-rush era mining town, full of wooden cottages and surrounded by mountains which you can access from trails right from the town centre. We picked up a map and quickly planned a route encompassing four separate walks - basically following the Arrow River Trail to the Sawpit Gully Trail which takes you up and around the long way round German Hill (780m) and then following the Bush Creek Trail back into town to finish off with a short route exploring the old Chinese miners' settlement. The sun shone all day and we truly confirmed our belief that Arrowtown is paradise. We cooked local Salmon and enjoyed a bottle of locally produced Otago Pinot Gris for dinner to round off a perfect day - and not an Easter Egg in sight! Also, quite signifcantly, Easter Sunday was the anniversary of our leaving the UK.


On the trail of the Fellowship (when Donkeys attack)

On Easter Monday, we drove out to 'Deer Park Heights' on the road to Queenstown which allows you to drive up really high through a deer (and Llama, Goat, Bison, Aberdeen Angus and Donkey) park for tremendous views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and arguably the most stunning mountain range in the world, the aptly named 'Remarkables'. The other reason for visiting was that many scenes from all three LOTR films had been shot there and we followed a trail spotting many the site of a Warg fight or Rohan Camp. There's also the film set from a 1986 Disney film, right at the top. The Korean Prison was built for The Rescue, which the information sheet helpfully pointed out starred "Renko" of Hill Street Blues fame! This meant nothing to us. We just just happy to walk in Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli's footsteps - see the pictures.

We laughed at the "Beware! Stay in vehicle!" sign (when faced with a herd of donkeys - see photo) and then prompty had the smiles wiped off our faces when they surrounded the car and a particularly large and fearsome ass headbutted our wing mirror...how it stayed on we'll never know.

Late afternoon, we had a quick walk around Queenstown and then drove back to Arrowtown. We saw Welcome To The Sticks ( hate to say it, but an hillarious French film) at 'Dorothy Browns' (a renowed boutique cinema), had a quick drink in the candlelit cellar-like 'Blue Door' (easily the best bar we've found in NZ) and then ate at a proper Kiwi pub, which in true Kiwi tradition, emptied at 8.30pm and left us finishing our food whilst the bar staff started sweeping up. It's a kiwi thing. We haven't got used to it yet!


Our fortunes made

The next day, the anniversary of our arriving in NZ, we picked up some gold pans and headed down to the gold panning river to pan for gold. We quickly found several extremely large gold nuggets, crying the customary "Bonanza!" each time we stuck lucky and when we had enough to buy a 50 hectare sheep station and colonnial homestead in the area we decided to settle down and stay there forever...

...actually, we found some sparkly rocks, with approximately enough gold in them to cast a reasonable tooth filling for a medium sized shrew.

We celebrated by buying some pies and then went for a drive up 'Coronet Peak' and a walk along the 'Matakauri boardwalk', near Queenstown.


Additional photos below
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Where Legolas rescues Harmas and kills a Warg
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When the Rohan women and children leave the men to head for Helm's Deep whilst the men head off to fight the Wargs.
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Jet recreates a famous Warg scene


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