Tuesday, 13 December 2011

NZ travelogue: Earnslaw and Walter Peak

Many people go to Queenstown for the adventure and the adrenalin flow: bungee jumping, skiing, jet boating, white water rafting. Many people also go to Queenstown for the food. My wife and I? We went there for the laid-back lake cruise on board the TSS Earnslaw.

The Earnslaw is the last surviving steamer to ply the Lake Wakatipu. Next year will mark its 100th year in operation. During the last century, it was a very essential mode of transport on the lake, ferrying passengers from one end to the other. After ownership changed hands a few times, the ship ended up as a tourist attraction. There are short cruises on the lake all day long but twice a day, the Earnslaw will dock at the Walter Peak High Country Farm which was to the south-west of Queenstown. This farm was where we were heading for lunch and the subsequent obligatory farm tour.

Despite the cold, many people chose to take the cruise out in the open. Hence, we saw these people all wrapped up and sitting around on the deck. We walked around for a while and then decided to take shelter inside where it was warmer. The Earnslaw had its resident pianist who kept himself busy on the keyboard during the entire trip.

At the farm, here is Saw See trying her best to imitate an itek. It started out as an attempt to feed the birds - trying to lure them with an empty hand - but they all wised up quickly and waddled away. You wouldn't realise how fast the ducks can move until you see them! And if they couldn't move away quickly enough, well, they had that extra advantage to fly off.

So no luck with the ducks. But at least, getting close up to the sheep was something else to look forward to. This time, we made sure that there would be some feed to lure the animal. However, with all the other tourists having the same idea in mind, it was difficult to catch a good moment to photograph the occasion. Sorry, my dear wife, this is the best picture I could find.

I also had the same bad luck with the animals...never could find a decent photograph of me near the right end of the animals. Perhaps that's why the New Zealanders always end up as the butt of sheep jokes.

And this is the Queenstown version of the Melbourne Cup. Sheep thundering down towards us. Not once or twice but several times these woolly animals were chased around the enclosure by the poor sheepdog. Here's showing you who's boss, the sheep or the dog!

Then there was this demonstration of sheep shearing. Remarkably by the time the man had gotten through the sheep, there was a whole load of shaven wool. Unprocessed wool. Dirty, oily with wool grease. Reminded me of New Zealand's celebrity Merino sheep, Shrek (1994-2011), which gained international fame in 2004 when he avoided capture for six years. By the time Shrek was finally cornered, the wool was so thick that it was enough to make suits for 20 men.

And all too soon, it was time to leave the Walter Peak High Country Farm. I lingered around to take snapshots of the snow-covered mountains behind us. It would be the last time we were surrounded by these peaks. Goodness knows when we can come back to this part of the world again.

Inside the Earnslaw, the pianist led the tourists on another sing-song session all the way back to Queenstown. I sat around for a while and then decided to brave the cold wind outside. There was only so much sing-along that I could stomach. So I went outside.

The wind was blowing even fiercer than at midday. There was nobody else that dared to venture on the open deck except for this sua pa kow who took the opportunity to explore the rest of the ship:

And of course, finally, there is this grand panoramic view of the approaching Queenstown just before the Earnslaw docked:

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