|We did not get off as early as usual today, but we were on the road by 7:50 a.m.. There was a bit of rain last night so everything smelled nice and fresh. The mountains we could see from our back window looked great with a light dusting of snow at the top.
The plan was to head for Queenstown and see some of the sites there and move on a bit further before calling it a day. We almost did that! You'll find out more later in the story.
Fire danger is indicated as extreme and the barren landscape certainly confirms that any little spark could cause a major fire. The sheep are less white than most, and it is really difficult to pick them out from the tufts of grass. Along this route they resort to humour to bring home the safe driving message - we see a sign that says "Finishing Post" and there is a sign of a cross!!
The landscape in most of the areas we drove through was very dry and barren except where people had set up huge irrigation machines. They have built very large spillways and reservoirs to hold the spring runoff. Beneath these are canals that seem to go on for miles. Some of the towns have interesting names that provides pronunciation challenges. Other, like Twizel, The Town of Trees are just interesting in their own right.
We got a bit of a chuckle along one stretch of highway. There, along the roadside fence, were dozens of pairs of underwear, draped over the fence. All shapes, sizes, colours and stylyes - for BOTH sexes!!
There is also a town called Ohau, not to be confused with Oahu, Hawaii. And another called Omarama - The Place of Flight.
We stopped along the way to take a few pictures, to supplement the hundred or so that Mary took through the van windows as we were driving and to top up the diesel tank. Diesel averages $1.25 while regular unleaded averages about $1.50 here.
There is a New Zealand version of Inukshuks along the highways. Simple piles of stones with little form but they are everywhere along the road to Lindis Pass. There were also more lupins in bloom along the edges of the road. Traffic was pretty good but there are a lot of 18-wheeler sheep trucks passing in the other direction. Perhaps lamb would be good for supper tonight??
It is REALLY parched in Tarras. They have a really interesting way of irrigating. It seems they just flood the field for a while. There were huge puddles in many fields. Oh ... and they have weasels here! One just ran across the road in front of us! He had better watch out for the hungry birds! We have seen lots of either hawks or peregrines ... not sure which since we are not up on bird identification. Some were not smart emough to leave their meal and ended up somewhat squished beside their prey (not by us!!)
There are some really huge lakes and great scenery. Next we come across the Kawarau Gorge. There is a gold mine site her and many of the old buildings are still there. To get to the site you have to cross a narrow, airy bridge! There are also lookouts at other places which give Mary a break from the snaking steep roads. The gorge is on Mary's side of the vehicle (never fails) and here really isn't much between her and the chasm.
Now on the sunny side of the mountain, we go through Gibbston, Valley of Vines - grape vines that is! Lots of vibrant yellows, golds and reds on the vines that stretch for miles. Many of the vines are still covered on nets to protect the grapes that have not yet been harvested. Strangely enough, we passed on the opportunity to go bungee jumping in this area. It is autumn here and the leaves are starting to fall. Another thing we see lots of are venison steaks ... still on the hoof!
We didn't stop to sample wines since only one of us can sample and she feels she needs to have all of her faculties on order to keep Jeff in line on the road.
Queenstown! Renowned as the country's adventure capital! What can we say! A very, very busy alpine city packed to the gills with tourists! We stop for a minute in a park but decide to look for the information centre since Jeff wanted to see about the possibility of a tour to Milford Sound. Never did find it so we pulled in the Shotover Jetboat site to 1) get off the busy road for a minute, 2) grab a bite to eat, 3) watch the boats and 4) go for a ride... and if you believe that last one you need to take a refresher course on knowledge of Mary and her do's and don'ts.
Back on the road, again, we head for Wanaka. We see the sign to Wanaka (54km) via the Crown Range Road, which, according to the map and the lady at the rental place is the way to go. DO NOT TAKE THIS ROAD!!!!!!! We started up the road and within 100 yards it turned into one lane only (on the side of a mountain) It was so steep and narrow that Mary didn't take pictures because she was to busy trying to breathe. She did not, however, yell at Jeff or gasp out loud! As a reward (and because of sheer cowardice on his part), after less than a kilometer, Jeff took the opportunity to have some roadside workmen spot us as we turned the vehicle around and went right back down that mountain. The 94km road to Wanaka was MUCH better and has the plus side of keeping us married!!! Along this road we also had the chance to see complete orchards under nets. Acres and acres! This is also the site of the 45th Parallel vineyard.
As we passed the town of Luggate, we spied the sign on the local hotel! It advertised Bar, Bistro and Bed!!
Arriving in Wanaka, we make our way through town to the Aspiring Campervan Park. After a quick tour, we park in site #19, tucked into the hill with a view down to the town, Lake Wanaka and many mountains. The camp is great with free showers, spas, sauna, reasonable privacy, laundry all for the grand price of $36.
After cleaning up and pouring drinks, we sit back relax (and type).
Tomorrow, we head for the west coast and the land of the glaciers!