Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The Cardrona Hotel

Inside the Cardrona Hotel

A view from the top of the Crown Range Summit - Spot...

Restored miners cottages at Arrowtown

Main street at Arrowtown

Historic Chinese Settlement at Arrowtown

This was the Ford of Bruinen, in a certain film

A river crossing on the Arrow River

A view from the entrance to Sawpit Gully

Descending from Sawpit Gully

' The Gladdon Fields ' - another film location

The Shotover Jet Boat at Arthurs Point

The Queenstown shore of Lake Wakatipu

The view north from Bennetts Bluff

A view across Glenorchy Lagoon

The head of Lake Wakatipu from Glenorchy

Sylvia's Comments

Reluctantly we had to leave Glendhu, it had been a lovely place to stay but there are more equally lovely places to see here in NZ. We made the short journey back to Wanaka and stopped off to shop, post some Christmas presents and use the internet. Then it was on the road again to our next destination of Arrowtown. There are two routes to Arrowtown, continue on SH6 through Cromwell or take the more scenic route, SH89, the Crown Range Road. It is the shorter route but it is actually a narrow, twisting and turning mountain road that the books say needs tackling with care. The book also suggests giving it a miss after dark. The Crown Range road is said to be one of the South Island's most scenic drives, with picturesque views of lush valleys, foothills and countless snowy peaks. We have been on some scenic roads already so this must be something. It is also NZ's highest sealed road at a height of 1,076 metres above sea level, having been sealed in 2000. Tourists first used it as a travel route in 1877 crossing in horse drawn carts, today the tourists cross in motorhomes.

The road from Wanaka passes through the Pisa Conservation Area, consisting of forest and grassy areas, crossing and re-crossing the Cardona River. The small hamlet of Cardona is home to the historic Cardona Hotel, one of NZ's oldest hotels, that first opened its doors in 1863 and has been lovingly restored. My Lord of the Ring's location book say's "whilst it was not used in the films, when you enter the bar, the Prancing Pony at Bree immediately comes to mind" We called in for lunch and were disappointed not to find any Hobbits also eating there. Close by the hotels two roads branch off to the right and left up to the Cardona and Waiorau Ski areas. The ski season officially ended in October so we will have to give that activity a miss.

Once back on the road we found ourselves climbing steadily until we came around the last bend to discover we had reached the summit. From here we had extensive views over towards Queenstown and The Remarkables, the hill range known as Dimrill Dale in Lord of the Rings. This corner of NZ was used for many of the locations in the film, some scenes were shot in Wanaka and above Glendhu Bay, whilst many were shot around the Queenstown area. We stopped at the viewing spot to admire the view and then headed down the hill. This is where the steep, twisty zig zag bends are, we reached a shelf of rich farmland where we were able to have a breather before tackling the next downward spiral of six hairpin bends before reaching the valley floor. On our drive up the hill we had passed three cyclists slowly making the climb, whilst at the viewing point we saw them speeding down the other side never to be seen again.

Once on level ground we followed the main road a little way before turning up towards Arrowtown, An old historic gold town. We found our site, parked the van and set off to walk the short distance into the town to collect post we had arranged to be sent to the local post office. Arrowtown sprang up in the 1860's following the discovery of gold in the Arrow River. Today the town attracts visitors to see the lovely restored original buildings, and the fine sycamores and oaks trees along the main street. Over 60 buildings are listed with the Historic Places Trust. In autumn (April and May) the area becomes a blaze of gold and reds from the deciduous trees in the main street and surrounding areas by the river.

We collected our post (magazines and our accommodation book from the motorhome club) and walked along the main street. It certainly was one of the prettiest streets we had walked down, the restoration work had been tastefully done. At the end of the main street, sign posts directed us down to the old Chinese Settlement. This is one of the best preserved Chinese settlements in NZ. A pathway leads you around the village and into some of the restored buildings, interpretative signs give you some idea of the lives of these gold miners, who came here to seek their fortune. Like the Chinese gold miners in Australia, these miners also suffered much racial abuse and had little choice but to work the old tailings when the European miners thought them exhausted. Surprisingly to the Europeans they were able to find gold. The path led us on to the cemetery where once again grave stones told of the hardships people suffered through early deaths.

Friday morning we walked into town and collected a map of local trails in the area, many walks are long distance ones over a number of days but we have managed to find a walk of 2/3 hours up through Sawpit Gully. Initially the walk goes out by the Arrow River, which is also the start of a longer walk up to an old ghost town of Macetown. As we climbed up the hill side we were looking down on the 4 WD road to Macetown; well to call it a road is a bit much as there are 25 river crossings to be made on the journey up. From what we could see these were not just straight across like a ford, in some cases the road went down the river for a hundred yards or so before climbing out again. We thought it not a good idea to try it in a motorhome. Eventually our path turned off and once more we were climbing a steep path, this one differed a little in that it was very narrow in places and had some sheer drops down into the gully. The walking track leaflet said that there were some great views all the way along this track. I will just have to take their word as I only had eyes for the track. At one point we were faced by the final humiliation when we were overtaken by a jogger.

It took us the full 3 hours to get around the track and on the way down we began to understand why the lady in the tourist office said to walk it anti-clockwise. Coming down was worse than going up. Once back in the town Jeff treated himself to a 'Gourmet Pie'(chicken, tarragon and white wine) and I just downed a bottle of water. On our return to the van we walked along the river side which was used as a location in a certain film. Tonight we decided to treat ourselves and went to Dorothy Brown's, a funky cinema, bookshop and bar. A newly released film over here is called 'Were Here to Help', a true story of a Christchurch business man who took on the Inland Revenue and won. This is really a cinema with a difference, it hold 42 people in the most comfortable arm chairs, each with a table to place your glass of wine on. Half way through there is an intermission for patrons to replenish their glass and buy a cheese platter to nibble on, very civilised. Going to the Odeon in Dundee will never be the same. The film was funny as well.

Saturday morning saw us on the road again. This time we were heading to Glenorchy, another area where a certain film had some location shots. Our road took us through some more lovely scenery and up over more hills passing the road up to Coronet ski area, a road marked unsuitable for motorhomes. It then dropped down and we crossed the bridge over the Shotover River. This is where the jet boat that is on all NZ promotional adverts goes from. We parked up on the hill above the gorge and watched a couple of boats come through and then walked down to the area they set off from for a coffee. In terms of value for money this jet boat only goes 4 miles through two gorges for quite a hefty cost. We have done 2 jet boat rides that were much cheaper and went further. This is the one for the thrill seekers and I am not very keen to be driven at rocks so we gave it a miss having a coffee and a home baked apple, maple syrup and sultana scone instead.

Once through Queenstown our drive up to Glenorchy was just stunning. It ran along side Lake Wakatipu all the way, sometimes we were along side it looking at the waves lapping on the shore and at other times we were high above it getting a panoramic view of the lake, its islands and the snow capped peaks beyond. It made me wonder how the road over the Crown range could be classed as the most scenic, this drive beat it hands down for me. Once at Glenorchy we found our camp site booked in and then went for a look around. That did not take long, as it is a tiny hamlet set in the most dazzling surroundings lying at the head of Lake Wakatipu. It is home to a number of adventure activities, one of which we toyed with doing. It consisted of a jet boat up the Dart River then you had to blow up your own kayak and paddle back down the river, before undertaking a 45 minute bush walk and a bus ride through more location areas back to Glenorchy. What stopped us? Well neither of us thought we had enough wind to blow our boat up. Instead we contented ourselves with a walk around the town and watched wildlife on the local lagoon.

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