A couple of weeks ago we decided to visit the Adventure Capital of the World - Queenstown. We set off on a very wet and windy morning for what could have been a lovely scenic drive if we could have seen anything through the mist and rain.
During the last part of the journey with the south limb of Lake Wakatipu on one side of the road and the Remarkables range towering on the other side the sun broke through and we arrived in Queenstown.
The rest of the day was spent just wandering around the town and lakeside taking in the spectacular views with snow-capped mountains and azure blue lake, eating lunch outdoors, choosing our evening restaurant and planning the next day's activities.
There's not many activities you can't do in the environs of Queenstown - parascending, tandem parapenting and skydiving, hang gliding, jet boating, white water rafting, luge, helicopter rides, glacier hiking and of course, bungy jumping, as well as skiing in the winter.
However, there are also more peaceful activities such as walking and scenic boat rides.
The evening was spent having a cocktail or two in the Minus 5 bar - completely made of ice including bar, seats and glasses (saves on the washing up!). Warm clothing and boots provided.
Following that, a fabulous meal overlooking the lake and mountains as the sun began to set.
The following day we went on a boat trip to the other side of the lake - Walter Peak High Country Farm - on the steamer TSS Earnslaw - TSS standing for Twin Screw Steamer - built in 1912.
We were shown around the farm by the owner who gave a continuous commentary which had everyone in stitches.
Did you know that it is tradition in NZ that sheep change their name and become Irish after the shearing has taken place? They are all called Shaun - you can see farmers all over the country pointing to a sheep and saying 'that one's Shaun'.
As well as a demonstration by a working sheep dog, sheep shearing, plus feeding the sheep, llamas and Highland cattle, we had coffee and cakes baked by his wife, Gill. Highly recommended. On return to Queenstown I went on a Jetboat trip up the Kawarau River - amazing travelling at extremely high speed in very shallow water and doing 360 degree turns 'on a sixpence' where you nearly get flung out of a the boat.
I'm definitely doing a longer, more adventerous trip up the Shotover or Dart rivers.
Following this it was up the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob's Peak, where you can watch some basic Bungy jumping and see the paragliders taking off. This looks like another great experience to try - the paragliding that is. I really don't fancy jumping off into a gorge with an elastic band tied round my ankles!
Also at the top is a small chair lift which takes you further up to a luge run - which was great fun and quite exciting. The glass of well chilled Pinot Gris overlooking the lake was most welcome after that. Travelling back the next day, still in sunshine, we were able to see all the scenery we had missed on the way up. We stopped at a rather run-down looking cafe in the middle of nowhere which had great coffee, cakes and a secluded garden overlooking the mountains and with sheep and Shetland ponies playing in the field opposite. This is typical of NZ - good coffee, good basic home-cooked food and friendly service in the most unexpected of places. The only thing to be wary of is the lack of petrol stations - when the opportunity arises fill up. It can be an awfully long way to the next one but there are likely to be several places to stop for bodily refuelling.More entertainment options in Invercargill:
The library - great place where you can borrow books (wait for it!) such as Heather Smith Thomas's 'Essential Guide to Calving' and Philip Hashender's 'How to Raise Pigs'. Actually, it has a good selection of books, DVDs, CDs, games, puzzles and magazines and extremely friendly, helpful staff. They even have 'pot-luck' carrier bags of 6 themed books (e.g. crime, science fiction etc) if you are in a rush, as well as leaflets with lists of books recommended by the staff, plus 'readalikes', which are lists with one famous title on top and then 10 others of the same genre stating "if you liked this, you'll probably like these as well'. Friday evening at 5pm in our office is TGIF drink time. One of the secretaries could only stay for a quick one last week, as she had to get back to help out with the sheep shearing - not a reason I heard often at St Helier!A box of fluffies?
The answer to ' how's things?". It's short for 'a box of fluffy ducks' and means life is going well, no problems and on an even keel.Jandals
- that's what they call flip-flops here. Apparently it is derived from Japanese Sandals! Cabbage Tree
- a native tree found all over the country. It was used a lot by the Maori, who planted them to show a safe passage through swampy areas. They also boiled the young roots to make a treacle like material call Kaura, used in cooking. They would also bury the placenta of a new born baby under a Cabbage Tree, to bring the child luck and good health, or bury a body under one. The young inner leaves can also be boiled and eaten and the Europeans thought it tasted like cabbage, hence the name. At the moment they are just flowering with a profusion of fragrant (definitely not cabbage-scented!) white flowers.
Life here in Southland really is a a box of fluffies (see below). Christmas is just round the corner, the sun is shining more and the temperature is generally much warmer - although yesterday at the Santa Parade it was 25 degrees when we left and 3 hours later on our return it was 12! Layers are definitely the thing to wear here. More of Christmas in the next blog.