Australia & New Zealand – Days 26 & 27

Play Time

Now quite a long way South on the island we were approaching New Zealand’s peak tourist town: Queenstown. However, the drive remained dramatic and first we dropped into Wānaka on Lake Wānaka. The town is an important leisure area not least during the ski season. It looked quite upmarket. For us it was a lunch stop in the bright sunshine.

A famous sight at Wānaka of a tree in the lake. Mystifying I know…

Soon we were in busy Queenstown. The three storey bag haul was inevitable and when completed we trouped into town to check it out. There were now Chinese tourists again (and a maybe lots of other nationalities, I know, Katrina) but the sight of upmarket luxury brand shops reappeared such as Luis Vuitton. For those of more simpler interests ie. me, we found an Irish pub and I enjoyed a Guinness.

Bedroom with a view

The focus of Queenstown is on adrenaline rush activities. Some of our party variously signed up to bungee jump, sky dive or indulge in a gut wrenching swing that threw you out from a high platform in a free fall experience. Their videos posted on the group WhatsApp reconfirmed their bravery and my conviction never to do something so stupid. We instead enjoyed Queenstown for its other delights, namely beauty and tranquility. We hired a couple of bikes. ‘Business Class’ maintained her ‘comfort’ stance and took an electric bike. I took something you had to pedal.

On purpose built gravel paths we rode beside the lake.

Nice path

It was sublime, however, we struggled to find a coffee stop until Anna noted we were near a golf club. So we ascended a steep hill to partake of a coffee and bun in an idyllic setting with views across the water. This activated the usual pantomime sketch. It involves someone attempting to type into a till Anna’s drink order. ‘A decaf cappuccino with oat milk’. All venues could stretch to such a requirement but several repeats and clarifications usually ensued. The lady at the golf club was also slightly hard of hearing.

On the next table were some kiwis up from Invercargill, about as far south as you can go on the island. We talked about their lives and how tolerable their life was with the next stop being Antarctic. As one of the party was sporting a mullet clearly there are worrying mental health issues down there.

Always loved a nice lawn

Back in Queenstown, much to Anna’s discomfort we took the gondola to top of the hill that overlooked the town. Even though the minimum age to partake of the luge was six Anna sat out the opportunity to plummet down two courses on a wheeled sledge.

Bearing up!

The plan is to never brake and being heavier than the majority of the teenagers on the track I did descend quickly but I must admit to suffering the ignominy of a 13 year old passing me on my second go.

Eat yer heart out Verstappen

Such was the popularity that the queues were long and you had to share the lifts (that took you from the gondola to the luge.) I sat beside a pale faced young couple and enquired if ‘this was their first ride?’ Then followed the kind of pregnant pause that lasted so long that you thought about calling a midwife when they reluctantly volunteered that it was their fifth ride! They were Swedish; not a loquacious nation.

‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.’ Shakespeare, Henry V. (There again you all knew that didn’t you.)

Back in town we dined royally at an upmarket restaurant. I have to say our guide is a burger, fish and chips or pizza kind of girl (or ‘woman’ if my eldest daughter is reading this.) It is a shortcoming in her steady stream of information, advice and hopeless folksy tales about the Māoris. (Often a lake or mountain is introduced to us with the Māori folklore of its origin. An illustration would be that some hole was carved by immense mythical Māori who dragged a giant stick gouging the earth to leave such a feature that water poured in and it is now a lake.)

In some towns the choice of food is limited but after a while you do yearn for something else better cooked and not starting life from a freezer. One irritating dodge is the NZ addition of a tax to your bill on public holidays. In Queenstown it was Easter. This tax is to cover the higher wages of hospitality staff for working on these days. At this restaurant it was 20% and then you’re invited to add a gratuity! Kerrrching! Like the rest of the world NZ is experiencing staff shortages. This is one way to try and retain them (at the customer’s expense.)

Had to sport Marigolds later in order to pay for it

The following day was the first misstep of the tour’s itinerary. We were bused to catch a ferry and then take another bus to catch a ship to cruise around some fjords. We’d now seen so much scenery and previously enjoyed cruising that to spend another day doing this was not a crowd pleaser.

Up above Doubtful Sound

The day had it’s challenges. We had the second bus (not ours) breakdown and that delayed the cruise starting. The ship we were allocated also had a mechanical issue and we were put on another vessel! This was slower and was unable to go to the fjord’s sea mouth in the time available. Frankly, the surprising highlight as we slowly slid beside cliffs looking at the vegetation was a 10 minute drift in silence where we were told to stop talking, put away our phones and enjoy the surroundings with their peace and quiet. Delightful.

Apparently it’s the moss that all the vegetation grows on/in. There is no depth of soil.

Doubtful Sound was identified and named by Captain Cook on his first visit in 1770, however, he never entered the fjord. A ‘sound’ is carved by a river and a ‘fjord’ is carved by a glacier. He got this identification wrong, apparently. On his second voyage to New Zealand, in 1773, he had to rest up just along the coast for five weeks at Dusky Sound whilst his ship, HMS Resolution, was repaired. He’d returned from sailing through the Antarctic and also the crew were exhausted.

From here we retraced our steps of bus, ferry and bus back to Queenstown for fish and chips (with a surcharge.)

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