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  • Writer's pictureClaire

23/03/24 Te Anau to Arrowtown

Well, that was a bloody strange night!! About 2330hrs the van started rocking of  its own accord. I thought that Si was fidgeting or trying to get comfortable, so looked over and he was like a statue, and fast asleep so it wasn’t him. My next thought was that a gang of youths had decided it would be amusing to rock Ismene from side to side. Strike that one too, no youths outside. The curtains were swinging backwards and forwards too and I grabbed into a grab handle. My brain leapt to the conclusion of “it’s an earthquake” before promptly dismissing that as being utterly ridiculous. The shaking stopped and I must have gone back to sleep. In waking this morning,  there was a message from Morgi asking if we’d felt anything through the night, It was only a bloody earthquake! A minor one level 5.0 up in the Milford Sound where we had been yesterday. I can’t believe Si slept through it!  No harm done, no damage to anything, just a little earthquake. I did think about the guys who were making repairs to the avalanche tunnel in the sound, and wondered what flashed through their minds when they felt it!  

After that bit of excitement, we got on the road and promptly experienced what New Zealand is known as … The land of the low lying cloud. It was quite ghostly in parts, we drove into it and it was like driving into a wall where we couldn’t see a hand in front of our faces, within seconds we were out of it. The sight of it hovering over the fields was a sight to behold, where our low cloud covers the whole country, this seems to have just fallen out of the sky, a bit like when you are taking a load of washing to the machine, drop a sock in the way, shut the door put the machine on, turn around and there it is , the dropped sock. That’s exactly what the clouds were like! 

Our first stop off was Kingston, a small village at the Southern end of the lightning bolt shaped Lake Wakatipu which is New Zealand’s longest lake.  There was a small Cafe at the junction into Kingston and we went for a warming drink, as the temp was still a bit cool. It was one of those places that sells weird and wonderful things, not just to eat but gifts and nick knacks. Other than the epic view of the lake, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in Kingston! 

From Kingston we followed the lake more or less all the way to Queenstown. Lake Wakatipu is over 80 kilometres long and covers 291 square km. It is so deep that it actually dips below sea level,  the surface of the lake sits 310m above sea level, but at its deepest point it is 380 metres deep. Lake Wakatipu was formed by glaciers more than 15,000 years ago, and it is the main source of freshwater for Queenstown, and it is fed by five rivers and has only one outlet. It is crystal clear and has been classified as 99% pure so you can dip your glass in it and it will taste better than the bottled stuff, and definitely better than the tap water, with its nasty additives.. 

We didn’t really think much of Queenstown, it just didn’t float our boats.  We had a walk down the lake side, and took some photos, with the mountains in the distance standing protectively over everything, and watched a couple of jet boats go out. They were throwing their passengers around like rag dolls as they bounced over the lake, their screams fading as it sped up the lake and away from us. At the entrance to Steamer Wharf there was a statue of a kiwi, standing over four feet (ish, you know me and measurements!) so we popped the boys on it and took the obligatory photo. The Wharf was rammed, as there was a craft market on, music playing and people queuing to get into everywhere. The pubs and bars were bursting at the seams and every piece of available grass was covered with bodies. It is very commercialised, and expensive. The views were ok but I  think when the snow is down it would be spectacular.  There are hundreds of fabulous chalets and mountain homes around the place, and the whole place just screams money. The Remarkables were impressive overlooking the lake and the town and obviously they were quite remarkable, but other than that, my opinion remains unchanged since my last visit that was during the wet winter. It comes to something when not even the sunshine could make a difference! Queenstown is the adrenaline and party lovers place to be. Bungee jumps, skiing, sky dives, parachuting, you name it, they have it. There are some massive river filled gorges with the clearest turquoise waters rushing over the rocks, but since we had no desire to jump head first off a platform with a bit of elastic tied around our ankles we continued on to our final destination for today,  Arrowtown. 

Arrowtown is another Old Gold Mining town that sprung up in the 1860’s after the discovery of gold in the Arrow River. It’s one of the prettiest places on earth, there are 60 odd original gold rush buildings with tree lined avenues, hosting shops of all descriptions, and eating establishments. The whole place feels like something out of a western, we were half expecting a bar door to swing open and two brawling cowboys come tumbling out onto the street!  It’s one of those sleepy little places, where nothing is rushed, everything is laid back and serene. At the creek, near the site of Arrowtown’s first gold find, is an early Chinese settlement. Signs explain the lives of Chinese miners during and after the gold rush (the last resident died in 1932), while restored huts and the only remaining Chinese store in the southern goldfields. The Chinese were subjected to significant racism and often had little choice but to rework old tailings rather than seek new claims. There is the option to hire pans and pan for gold in the creek, but the chances of finding anything are practically nil around the town. Maybe going further afield would yield something of value, but given the number of visitors I highly doubt it!!  The mountains surrounding Arrowtown are some of the most colourful we’ve seen, and are a beautiful backdrop for the towns Autumn festival which they hold in April. If we’d have been a week or so later getting there, the mountains would have been vibrant with shades pale yellow, right through to deepest red and every hue in between. Even now, when the leaves are just turning it’s a pretty special little place. Our site was within walking distance of the town should we have needed anything, and as we checked in, there was a rugby match on. We parked up and Si strolled over to watch it, leaving me sat in a chair sunning myself. It was one of the busier sites we’ve stayed at, but the facilities were very good,clean hot showers and a large kitchen area. We had tea sat outside in the sun and spent the evening reading and drinking beer. Si had been and purchased matches to light the mosquito coils in an attempt to deter the pesky sandflies, and came back with a roll of sellotape for me. I was super chuffed, I could now fix my map, which had started to rip in several places on the fold. The excitement I got from that roll of sellotape was real!!! 

Much Love


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