We had a wonderful time catching up with family after Christmas, but we were eager to return to warmer weather after spending the month of January back in Colorado. We realized our perception of “cold” may have gotten skewed while down under because nothing we experienced in New Zealand came close to the subzero temps and lingering mounds of snow and ice in our neighborhood. Looking forward to returning to warmer weather, we flew back to New Zealand on February 2nd to complete the second half of our adventure.
Our travel was the smoothest we’ve experienced thus far, there were hardly any lines, the flights were all on time, moving through customs once we arrive in Auckland was so quick and easy, we were astounded and almost in disbelief as we picked up our bag as one of the first on the carousel. The last leg of our flight from Auckland to Queenstown was incredible. The skies were so clear we could see nearly all the way across the South Island and as we were flying along the West coast it was so much fun to look out over the landscape from the air and pick out many of the places we’d visited during the last 6 months. Floating over jagged peaks, glaciers and high mountain lakes that got closer and closer as we descended over lake Wakatipu was simply amazing. Flying into this airport is by far my favorite of the few that I am familiar with.
Zed was safe and sound in long term parking, having been driven by friends of friends back to the airport a few days earlier. We were thrilled and somewhat surprised at how easily everything had been arranged to not only accommodate economical storage for our car but to provide transportation for people we didn’t even know.
The house we were staying in this week was perfect for a laid back week by the lake. We could enjoy the scenery of lake Wakatipu and the mountains called the Remarkables right from the couch. It was precisely what we’d hoped for when we made the reservations. We had just over a week with each other before the third couple came to visit We wanted a quiet place where we could unwind, and spend the week relaxing after a busy month in the US.
If any of you know the reputation of the community of Queenstown or have been there you’d know that this title is quite an oxymoron. Quiet and Queenstown don’t really belong in the same sentence. Queenstown is a place known for the outrageous abundance of adventure sports, a haven for adrenaline junkies, the home of the original bungee jump. Advertised with the slogan “The adventure capital of the world.” So you may not believe that we actually had a quiet time in Queenstown and well, technically we didn’t. We were staying in a suburb called Frankton so we were not actually in Queenstown. On our first full day there, the Gardiner’s from TeAnau invited us to meet them for lunch halfway between Queenstown and TeAnau. We enjoyed the drive to the café and back and it was lovely to see them again. For the rest of the week we spent our time walking or relaxing in the house. Frankton sits on the shores of the Frankton arm of lake Wakatipu. Everyday we could look out to see people enjoying the lake, kayakers, people on paddle boards, jet skis and also people flyboarding. What on earth is that you may ask. I had to google it to find out what it was called. The riders are attached to the “flyboard” which is a type of platform atop jet propulsion hose tethered to the exhaust of a motorized watercraft like a jet ski. I believe I mentioned the abundance of adrenaline sports here, so neither of us was really surprised to see one we’d never heard of before. Some of the riders would shoot up off the water 20 feet or more and they made it look so easy.
The Queenstown track follows the shore around for several miles and provides spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding mountains nearly the entire route. One afternoon, we set out for a walk along the lake with no real goal in mind other than to get out and walk. When we reached the map and got a visual of the layout of the track, I thought it looked like fun to walk down and around the Kelvin peninsula. The map didn’t list distance it listed a few time estimates for portions of the track. We walked and walked, pausing for photos occasionally, and then walked some more. It was a bright sunny day and we discovered that what people had told us was actually true, it really does get hot in New Zealand. Both of us were thrilled to be walking in shorts. It felt good to sweat. Finally, the peninsula came into view and I realized just how far away it was. Paul asked with a chuckle if I still wanted to walk to the peninsula because he said he knew I had no idea how far it was when I suggested that as the goal. So, we did not make it around the peninsula, we turned around at a lovely little park along the shore. It was another day that all the senses got to participate, the scent of eucalyptus hung in the air as we walked under the trees, some bursting in red, and then our eyes embraced the deep brilliant blue of the lake along the more exposed portions of the track, while we listened to birds and felt the sun on our face. The sun stayed out and it was a hot, three and half mile walk back. Wonderful.
On our previous visits to Queenstown we’d heard of the famous “Fergburger” but we hadn’t tried one yet so the next day we decided that’s what we’d have for lunch. We also decided to walk into town to get it to justify consuming such an enormous burger. We also knew that during peak season in Queenstown the line could get rather long so we planned to arrive outside the typical lunch time. Greeted with another gorgeous sunny day, we set off for town along the lakeside track. Almost 2 hours later we arrived at “Fergburger” to see a surprisingly long line at 2:30 in the afternoon. Wow, I can’t imagine what the crowd looks like during peak hours. The burgers were huge and they really were very good. We were not disappointed but we were glad we’d decided to walk. There were people everywhere, sunning themselves, playing in the water, out for a stroll or on their bikes. If you listened as you walked through the crowds you could hear so many different languages and accents. It was obvious there were a wide variety of countries represented. At one point a group of 3 guys started kicking a hacky sack around. They were very good and it was inspiring, I suppose if Paul and I keep playing the rest of the year, we may be able to pick up some of those fancy moves were saw. It was so fun to just observe the diversity among our species. The walk back was a bit shorter as we took a shortcut through town but the wind increased considerably and we encountered more than one dust devil on the trail.
Our hosts suggested a walk around lake Hayes during our stay. Lake Hayes is just a short drive from Frankton and is a smaller and less crowded lake. A walking track circled the perimeter and there were stunning views of the surrounding mountains all the way around. Willow trees hung over the banks in several places where the track followed close to the water. On the opposite side the track looked down on the tree tops from along a steep cliff and as we descended back down to the water level we walked across a boardwalk built over the cattail covered wetlands. Another long, spectacular walk. It was wonderful to get outside and walk.
Then time to prepare to move on. We went back to the house to pack and get ready for our departure to Wanaka anticipating the arrival of our next guests, the O’Briens.
Because we had hours after we checked out before we could check in to the new place in Wanaka, we took the drive up to Glenorchy and did a walk there before driving on to Wanaka. The scenery along this route is unbeatable, and we have seen more than our share in the last several months.
Once in Wanaka, we stopped at the supermarket to stock up for the week. Oh, boy! The crowd in the store made up for all the people we haven’t seen in all of our previous travels around the country and the plethora of different languages added to the adventure.