Friday, 9 March 2012

Te Anau to Lake Wanaka via Queenstown

We didn't sleep very well after our Milford Sound trip. Somehow we managed to pick up an unwanted hitch-hiker along the way – a mouse! He kept popping his head up from under the handbrake but never ventured any further. We went to the camp office to ask for assistance but they were shut! So we did what we would do in the UK – Googled it! As we didn't have a cat, a mousetrap nor any poison we opted for the other option – a home-made trap! A bucket with peanut butter, on its side, tied around the handle up to the rear view mirror with a washing line and we were holding on to the other end! Surprisingly it failed! But the mouse was never seen again. It obviously preferred smooth peanut butter!

Week 2 started with a drive from Te Anau to Lake Manapouri in the sunshine! At last we had some sun again. The lake was very pleasant. Until a larger sized lady in her thirties jumped out of her converted people carrier, down to the beach, stripped to her birthday suit and started to wash herself. Full marks must be given for personal hygiene, but if you're going to get naked in public please be attractive!

The drive to Queenstown was fairly dull through flat farm land but at least the roads were straight and flat. Then we hit Lake Wakatipu!

The road was awesome; the highway runs alongside the lake for about 15kms giving great views of Queenstown and Frankton (Queenstown's much quieter neighbour).

Our first full day in Queenstown started with a 'gentle' walk. We picked the 'Queenstown Hill Time Walk' – as it sounded nice and easy. Wrong! Before the walk even starts you have to walk up a few residential streets and after a couple of candidates to steal Baldwin Street's crown we were knackered and at the start!

It seems as if someone came up with the idea to map a walk up a mountain and the person charged with mapping the route was a bit simple. Rather than finding a few switchbacks and a nice gentle winding route, he just drew a line from the bottom to the top literally straight up the side.
After an hour of sweaty swearing walking, we had our first view of Queenstown below us.

After another 30 minutes we were closer to the top

30 minutes after that we were at the top and the views were almost worth the pain! Some nice fellow had created a nice uncomfortable basket out of steel to lie in too!

Coming down was quick – as you didn't have much choice but semi jog all the way down! And just as we reached the bottom we were greeted with a nice 'shower' of rain. This lasted all day.

The next day was bright, almost warm and not learning our lesson from the day before chose the next walk in the book – 'One Mile Creek'. The walk to the start was at least flat through town and out along the lake shore. Some of the trees here were enormous and the mushrooms were interesting too.

We started the walk by the creek but within 5 minutes the creek was gone and we were climbing up the side of a mountain again. So one mile creek walk is not one mile long nor by a creek. And it only has one viewpoint! Good job the view was nice.

The sun came out and after lunch we boarded a bus and headed to the Shotover River – just 10 mins from the town. Here, we pulled on some waterproofs and a life jacket and sat up front in the shotover jet boat. These things are mental - 70 kph in a few inches of water with drivers who like to turn at the very last second just a few mm from a sheer sided canyon wall, then spinning 360 degrees at full speed. 40 minutes doesn't sound very long – it was plenty but great fun!


At about 8pm it started to rain. By 8am it was still raining and all jetboats, helicopter flights, parachute jumps and planes were grounded. A nice couple of Aussies gave us some free passes for the gondola up the mountain to the luge and bungy sites. At 3pm it was still raining but not as hard so we chanced it and went up. By 3:15 we were on our way back down as everything was shut for the day and visibility was down to about 3m! By 5pm it was still raining so we conceded defeat and drank wine!

The one thing that everyone we spoke to recommended before we came away was a small fast food restaurant in Queenstown – Fergburger. The best burgers in the world? In a small town in New Zealand? Better than those we had in New York, Boston or a Big Mac?

We joined the hundred or so people in the queue and ordered two 'double fergs with cheese'. 20 minutes later the queue was just as long as we tucked into the best burgers in the world. Amazing. Fact.

At 10pm when we walked through town as it had eventually stopped raining, the queue for Fergberger was still just as big as it was earlier in the day! Fergus must be a rich man.

We left Queenstown and drove towards our next destination – Lake Wanaka. We chose the scenic route which took us over the Shotover River, where the jet boats were once again accepting passengers. We parked up to watch from above and noticed that the river was so much higher and faster compared to when we were on the boat – it looked more suited to rafting! It seems that rafting was what some of the jet boat passengers had requested as one of the boats misjudged a wave and beached itself on the river bank! It took 20 minutes and a rescue team to come and push it back to safety – although the driver hit a log, stalled it and the boat started to drift downstream towards the rocks before the driver recovered it and sped off!

Arrowtown was a gold mining town in the late 19th century where up to 800kg of gold a week was recovered from the river. Today Arrowtown looks just the same as it did over 100 years ago, just with 'world famous' bakeries, 'world famous' shops and 'world famous' cafes occupying the miners' houses instead.

From Arrowtown, Wanaka is only an hour away. Over the top of the Crown Range. Our van loved it (as much as we love Sandflys), but the view down the valley all the way to Queenstown was awesome.

 So awesome it made us jump for joy!

As the sun was still shining (the first time it has shone all day so far on our NZ trip!) we got to Wanaka and headed straight for the Diamond Lakes, a nice hike to stretch the legs.

The sun kept shining until 5pm, when the clouds came back and the temperature dropped back to low 'teens. It didn't stop a great view of Aoeraki Mt Cook and Rob Roy Glacier though!