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Our Travels in New Zealand Part 2

Author: Mal Part (More Trip Reviews by Mal Part)
Date of Trip: March 2007

He also tells us about the introduced mammal species – possums were introduced from Australia, and the stoat and weasel came from the UK. These mammals (and other non-indigenous species) have decimated native mammals and birds. Because all the large birds have gone (either eaten to extinction by the Maori or killed off by introduced mammals), there’s no bird big enough to eat the large seeds and nuts of some native NZ trees. So, the seeds are no longer spread about, and some of these trees are now becoming endangered too.

Finally DT tells us about another non-indigenous species. With a humour as dry as a desert, he says, “These come in all shapes and sizes; (pause for effect) they arrive in Boeing 747s and tour around in coaches”.

Back at the motel, I open the birthday cards that have faithfully followed me to NZ and drink a glass or two of champagne. When I think I’m done opening cards, Chris tells me there’s one more – I take it off her puzzled because I can’t think of anyone else who’d give me a card. As I open it, a pile of plastic 60s fall out, along with several NZ Dollar bills!!! It’s from JoJo and Mel, and Mikey and Paul – my “birthday money”. They sent it with a wish that I treat myself while I’m in New Zealand. What a great idea – I’ll have to put my thinking cap on in the coming days.

At DT’s recommendation, we eat at the Olive Tree Restaurant that night, where I have a Thai curry and Chris has pan-fried chicken with mushrooms, and we order the best wine on the menu; Mt Difficulty, Roaring Meg, Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fairly late we return, and there’s a stiff breeze blowing off of the lake …. The lake’s water is 100C in winter and 110C in summer, so the air temperature is about 110C … brrrrrr!

==================================== Note: Over the past few days we noted down a few new car number plates; here’s a few of the best: NZ P1E (on a pie van), BILBOS (on a LOTR tour bus) and RED Mk2 (on a red Mk 2 Jaguar).

Day 24 – A Lazy Day

We have a truly lazy day and spend some of the time catching up with things. Since it’s nice and sunny, we get some washing done in the motel’s laundry and peg it out; I send a stream of emails to people back home thanking them for their cards and presents; I also send one to Rai at AA Car Rentals….. When I took delivery of the car, he pointed out a stone chip on the windscreen. Over time, this has developed into a crack, and a crack that continues to spread. So far it had extended to the top of the screen and is inching across it, getting ever closer to my field of view. I asked if there’s anything he’d have me do?

In the afternoon, jobs done, we go for a 3-mile walk around one side of the lake but it’s hot and the walk is not that interesting and we do not preserve with it.

In the evening, we get dressed up and it’s off to dinner and the cinema! Te Anau has a nice little cinema – 52 seats, and 10 times/day they show a 30-minute feature about the local region; all shot from a helicopter. The cameraman worked on the LOTR and the helicopter pilot is a local man who’s worked around Milford/Doubtful Sound/Te Anau for over 20 years. It’s a spectacular film, with some amazing shots and, since it covers a whole 12 months, we get to see the landscape in many different costumes. We’re home late – almost 11pm – so straight to bed.

Day 25 – Wrong Way

We have the short drive to Wanaka today. Our plan called for Queenstown as our next over-night stop, but all the advice we’ve been given says, “stay at Wanaka, see Queenstown on the way or as a day trip”, so that’s what we’ve decided to do.

Chris is driving, and on the way out of town she sees a hitch-hiker with a board saying “Queenstown”. I see two hitchhikers, but before I can say anything, Chris has stopped to pick them up. They have two large rucksacks so it’s a bit of a struggle since the boot’s already full with our stuff. But, they shoehorn themselves into the back seat and we’re on our way again.

They are Israelis – they have booked a slot on the Queenstown – Milford Sound trail and need to get to the start of the track in Queenstown. They have parked their car in Te Anau, so when they finished their walk to Milford, they will hitchhike back to Te Anau to pick it up. The tramp takes 3-days!

We need a toilet break, so we pull into a lay-by in a small town called Gibbston. There’s a signpost at the side of the toilets telling how far it is to Dunedin, Picton, and so on, and a plaque telling us that “Gibbston is the most inland location in NZ”. So, the 106 inhabitants of Gibbston have the longest journey to the seaside of all Kiwis…. ummm?

We are soon in Queenstown; we drop off our hitchhikers and then spend a couple of hours walking around the town and getting some breakfast. It’s Sunday and it’s market day – the town square is filled with craft and other stalls. It’s all a bit ‘arty’, a bit ‘hippy’ or a bit expensive for us. After a look around the quayside (which is very picturesque), we continue our journey to Wanaka.

But, before hitting the main highway, I indulge myself with a side trip to Arrowtown; it’s a very authentic gold mining town that has been preserved much as it was in the 19th Century. There’s a quaint main street, with colourful single storey shops, and the whole town is bedecked with hanging baskets and flowers. BUT, the main reason for coming here is that it was the site of a famous scene from the LOTR…. Arwen is fleeing from the Nazgul (the Dark Riders) with an injured Frodo, and crosses a river – this is the river at Arrowtown. The Nazgul fear water and Arwen challenges them with, “If you want him, you must come and take him”. The Nazgul (fearing Sauron more) are tempted into the water. Arwen then conjures up the power of the elves to cause the river to flash-flood and wash the Nazgul away. Magic. Anyway, the scene was shot just outside the town – we walk out and find the very place; it’s very distinctive. After this indulgence, we again head off for Wanaka.

There are two possible routes – the SH-6 or the Crown Range Road. I’d forgotten that the Crown Range Road was one of the “10 Best Drives in NZ”, and directed Chris onto the SH-6 my mistake. But, this is still a pretty and dramatic route, and follows the Kawarau River and Dunstan Lake for much of the way. This is also a vine growing area, so we stop off at the Peregrine Winery for a tasting and some wine purchases on our way.

When we arrive at our lodgings, our first impressions are not good … the office is pokey and the units look old and run down. When the proprietor leads us around the back of these chalets, I was beginning to wonder what we’d let ourselves in for. But, we were surprised when we saw a newly built, two-storey block. At ground level there were two units (we had one), with three on top. The block also had a community kitchen and lounge area – both newly fitted out and very well appointed, with fridges, microwave, 5-burner range and oven, a cupboard full of crockery and cutlery, and dining tables and chairs. The community lounge has easy chairs, a TV and DVD player, a radio, and there are games, magazines and puzzles. The place was to prove a very happy choice for the coming three nights since our room also had lake views.

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