Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The route to the Misty Mountains

A swinging ?

Lake Sylvan

Beech leaves on the forest floor

Part of 'the tramway'

Crossing the Dart River

Looking over Diamond Lake to Glenorchy

The view back to Queenstown

Queenstown Bay

An eel and trout at the underwater observatory

William Gilbert Rees

Old steam ship, 'Earnslaw', Queenstown Bay

Start of the walk to Frankton

Looking at Frankton

Monument to Captain Scott of the Antartic in Queenstown Gardens

Fisbee Golf


We awoke to a dismal day and was glad we had not got up early to attend an adventure outing; all of the hill tops were covered in cloud and it was not difficult to imagine how they came to use this area for the 'Misty Mountains' of the 'Lord of the Rings'. After driving around the head of Lake Wakatipu we took the tourist literature's word that to the north is the glacier-capped Mount Earnslaw, (9243 feet above sea level), and to the west stands Mount Alfred at a mere 4,507 feet above sea level. I suppose we must have them on our photographs taken yesterday.

Once round the lake and across the Dart River we had a choice to make. My favourite was the 6 mile road down the side of the lake to the Glenorchy Hotel where they had pool tables, a dart board, and big screens to watch sport or music, and beverages. (Wash your socks. Wash Yours. Mine's a pint). Sylvia's choice was to take the road north towards the start of the famous Routeburn track and do some walking where we could look across at one of the areas used for filming 'Lord of the Rings'. About 5 miles of driving very slowly along the badly corrugated gravel road, it began to rain. When we reached a sign for Lake Sylvan we decided the forest walk to the lake might be the best bet today.

The walk began about ¾ of a mile from where we parked the car. After crossing yet another NZ swing bridge, (and they do swing), we were in a very old wood with lots of moss and lichen on the trees. As we moved further in there were a lot of trees which seemed to shed their very small leaves throughout the year, leaving a multicolour carpet for us to walk on. Eventually we came to a sun lit area and were able to take a good photograph of the forest floor. When we arrived at Lake Sylvan we were disappointed to find there was just a viewing place by some lake side rocks, and all there was to see was another beautiful small lake with an impressive back drop of hills.

Rather than retrace our steps and have lunch, we decided to take the loop track, (not really my choice), and go back on a longer route which took in 'The Tramway, long ago used by gold miners to bring in their supplies. It seems they had made a thin roadway of slats of rough wood pressed into the forest floor. During the interesting walk through the old forest, often following the stream feeding from the lake, we had been mostly sheltered from the rain. By the time we left the forest the rain had ceased.

After lunch we drove back and then followed the road alongside the river flowing from Diamond Lake into Lake Wakatipu. We were aware that there were five fords to cross before reaching Paradise, (the area now reduced to a paddock with no buildings), and we would have to turn back at the first ford. Just 4 miles above Paradise is where the filming took place of 3 films whose name escapes my memory. The weather had transformed from dismal to gorgeous and we enjoyed the journey along side the river and through a wood, eventually to stop and take photographs at the first ford. We had travelled 6 of the 12 miles, so in the words of Billy Fury, (a 60's pop star who died at the age of 40 due to a heart attack), we were 'Half Way to Paradise, so near, yet so far away'. It had been a nice day.

This morning we are travelling to Queenstown, a Mecca for the tourist and a town to avoid by normal New Zealanders. It was sad to leave such a lovely place as Glenorchy but good to know we will enjoy the stunning journey along the lake side, again stopping at Bennetts Bluff where the best views of all can be seen.

Once at Queenstown we were soon installed at our camp site and off to explore the town centre. The main street seemed to be populated with shops selling some form of expensive hair raising activity. After looking at a notice listing bungy jumping, rafting, skydiving, paragliding, horse riding, river surfing + many more, I decided my hair could stay as it was. We worked our way through streets and shops to the lake side and walked around the harbour/café scene to the Dart River Jetboat pier, where they have an underwater observatory. From the windows under the pier we observed lots of female trout, an occasional male trout and Longfins, an eel that is only found in New Zealand. This eel can live up to 90 years and weigh 55 pound.

We were not short of fish to observe. The entrance cost was £2 each, (stay as long as you like), and for a further dollar in a slot, (about 38p), food was released which fell down the outside of the window, and the fish suddenly burst into activity. A Shag, (local diving bird), had worked out that the pier was not a bad place to look for a meal. The bird kept diving down and darting about; it wasn't long before the smaller fish had made themselves scarce. Getting the bird to pose for a picture was the problem; I don't think it could hear me through the glass. After leaving the observatory we took a photograph of the statue of William Gilbert Rees.

This district was first settled in 1861, when pioneer William Gilbert Rees set up a farm and homestead on the shores of what is now Queenstown Bay. His peace and tranquillity was broken when two sheep shearers discovered gold in the Shotover River in 1862. Thousands of men and colourful women converged on the Rees settlement and the quest for gold began in earnest. William was paid £10,000 compensation for the part of his farm which now includes Queenstown and he took himself off to Kawarau Falls, (about 6 miles east), so becoming the first New Zealander to leave Queenstown to avoid the influx of tourists.

Our next stop was at a Casino to use our two for one drink voucher, before shopping at a super market and then at a delicatessen situated near our camp site; then we lay a bout in our chairs for a couple of hours so as to get our value from them, before wrapping Christmas presents for posting tomorrow.

After breakfast we did the posting before walking through the park area alongside the lake. We then continued on, following the path alongside an arm of the lake all the way to Frankton. It was a cool day and we were mostly protected from the winds from the lake, and our 20 minute per mile pace kept us warm. We passed houses up above us near by the roadside and some multi building projects which will no doubt cater for an increase of tourism to the area. At the end of the 5 mile journey we found a pub which provided us with sandwiches and chips, before returning back along the path.

On return we took a different route through the park and came across signs saying 'beware of Frisbee's'. Soon we came across a few groups of people throwing Frisbee's towards various metal dishes on stands; there are 18 on the course. This was our first introduction to Frisbee Golf. After another walk along the harbour/café frontage we climbed up steps to the start of the 'Gondola Ride', and a small wildlife park with real captive Kiwi's. After our efforts in the area over the last few days we had no need to ride the gondola and we have already seen Kiwi's in the wild, so we returned to our van.

Tomorrow we will embark on a diversion to our planned route. There is a 'Christmas' motorhome rally in Central Otego which starts on Friday, (three days time), and we have arranged to attend.

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