Tuesday, 8 November 2011

NZ travelogue: Day Three

When I was planning the itinerary of our vacation in New Zealand's South Island at the beginning of this year, I was torn between wanting to stay two nights at Wanaka or spend one night in Queenstown.

Eventually, I figured that it would be more in our interest to just make a day trip to Queenstown. The night life in Queenstown was something we could do without; it wasn't anything essential on our itinerary. Besides, I had wanted to visit the Puzzling World in Wanaka and it would be impossible to cram that into our limited time on the same day. 

So I decided that we could depart for Queenstown early in the morning and return to the Archway Motel in Wanaka as late as possible. Driving at night, according to the proprietor at the motel, would not pose any problem as people do it all the time.

Unfortunately, "early" to my wife would still mean leaving Wanaka at nine o'clock in the morning. I would have preferred to begin our journey at eight o'clock or even earlier but getting ourselves ready took longer than expected. Nevertheless, we were soon on our way and I turned towards the Crown Range Road which is supposed to be the highest sealed road in New Zealand.

This was the alternative route to Queenstown. Usually at the end of May which is the accepted transition from autumn to winter, there would already be warnings to expect frost on the road. But New Zealand had been experiencing some unusually barmier weather than normal this year and I was told that frost wouldn't be a serious problem even on this road.

This stretch of the journey turned out to be one of the most enjoyable rides of our vacation. Especially, as we neared the end of the Crown Range Road and we could stop the car at the Crown Terrace lookout point before the hairpin bends and look down at Arrow Junction and the Gibbston Highway below us, the view was spectacularly beautiful.

A very clear rainbow greeted us as we drove along the Frankton Road into Queenstown, one end dipping into the Lake Wakatipu. Wouldn't it be nice if we could reach the end of the rainbow and confirm whether the pot-o-gold really exists. But of course, a rainbow is only light playing tricks with us. It's nothing tangible at all and a rainbow's position will shift when looked at from different directions.

Our eventual destination was the Steamer Wharf by the lake side where I had earlier booked us for a Real Journeys cruise on board the lake's last surviving coal-fired steamship, the vintage 99-years-old TSS Earnslaw. We were to dock later at the Walter Peak High Country Farm for lunch and a guided farm tour. Interesting spread of food at the buffet lunch but what I really enjoyed was the succulent pork ribs. Utterly delicious.

We left Queenstown at about 7.30pm and drove back to Wanaka in the dark. We didn't go through the Crown Range Road again, but chose the road that would take us through Cromwell except that there was nothing to see, of course, but pitch darkness on both sides of the road which was illuminated only by the reflectors at the roadside and the dividing lines in the middle of the road. I didn't realise it then but this would not be the only time that we were forced to travel under the cover of darkness. Nothing I would recommend to others except the forgetable experience.

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