Thursday, February 10, 2011

The NZ Lowdown 4: Destination Queenstown

Lord Of The Rings Country

We left Franz Josef Village early next morning, around 7am, on our way to Queenstown for a couple of days. We had a leisurely 5 or so hours drive, stopping off a fair bit for coffee, snacks & photo opportunities (of which there were very many). Interestingly our weather changed dramatically as we headed inland from the west coast - from characteristically wet with low clouds in the Glacier region, gradually morphing into sunny with blue skies as we progressed toward Queenstown. 

But regardless of the location or conditions outside, the scenery was unrelentingly beautiful en-route.

En-route to Queenstown
Still en-route to Queenstown

We arrived in Queenstown around lunchtime & checked into our hotel after grabbing a quick bite to eat. Our hotel turned out to be in a great location - and we had a wonderful lake view from our window. Then we were soon on our way again - we'd booked with Nomad Safaris on an afternoon trip called  "Safari of the Scenes" - a 4-wheel drive, off-road, guided tour of some of the local regions where scenes from Lord of the Rings was filmed. 

There were 6 of us in the Jeep in addition to our guide - a young Brazilian fella called Ugo. He'd lived in NZ for about 5 years & seemed to just love it there, and certainly loved his job. He showed us some of the most amazing scenery, and the afternoon flew by before we knew it.

Lord Of The Rings country

More Lord Of The Rings country

In the middle of the afternoon Ugo took us down by the river. Well actually, he took us into the river! At least where the water level was quite low, anyway. He Jeep'ed around on the water for a while which was quite entertaining. Then we stopped off at one location so we could all try our hand at gold-panning. It would've been wonderful to find our fortune there, but alas, it was not to be! I did find a smidgeon of gold though - just a speck basically, but Ugo kindly packed it in a little container for me to take home!

A little gold-panning!

The following morning we started out early & began our day on Lake Wakatipu. We cruised across to Walter Peak on TSS Earnslaw - an Edwardian vintage steamship. Quite a historical ship & really interesting to see - we watched the coal for the journey being loaded onto the ship beforehand too! 

Lake Wakatipu

Watching the fun on Lake Wakatipu
Yet more beautiful scenery around the lake

Across the other side, Walter Peak Station (named after a local mountain) was beautiful to see - a 25,758 hectare working, high country sheep farm on the southern shore of the lake. It has 1500 sheep & 1000 cattle, & the farm's homestead is used to host tourists like us that cruise the lake on the steamship. It's a mere 8 mile trip across the lake on the steamship, but bizarrely if you want to drive out there, its twisted route takes you for 77 miles!

Walter Peak Station

After lunch there, we wandered off to check out the animals & we got to feed the sheep, as well as watch the working dogs in action (something I always love to see) and then some sheep shearing and well as wool-spinning!

Making friends with the locals

Then it was time to head back across the lake to Queenstown. As soon as we landed & had hit the trough ourselves, we headed up to the Skyline Gondola. The views from the summit there, on Bob's Peak, were just stunning - made all the more beautiful thanks to the gorgeous weather we were having. 

Lake Wakatipu viewed from the gondola summit

More fun over Lake Wakatipu
A long way from anywhere!

While we were at the summit, M decided he wanted to try his hand on their luge tracks. I wasn't prepared for this since I was wearing a skirt, so that kind of ruled me out of the game! But I certainly enjoyed just hanging out at the top for 40 minutes or so, enjoying the gorgeous, sunny day that we were having, & taking some photos (and having some peace & quiet from M for a while, hehe, but don't tell him I said that!).

Trying out the luge at the gondola summit!

By the end of the day we were exhausted, we'd been out & on the move all day again, and although we were thoroughly loving it all, we're not as young as we used to be, so were definitely feeling weary. Thankfully though, we did at least have enough energy to find the local wine shop before making our way back to the hotel!


Natalia said...

BEAUTIFUL weather!

Mowenackie said...

What gorgeous pictures! Sounds like quite a day!

A New England Life said...

My goodness, I can't even imagine going on such a journey! Gorgeous scenery, what a day it must have been. You definitely won't find that type of view in New England!

Angela said...

Your pictures are gorgeous! Needless to say, I'm a little bit jealous :)

julie said...

What an amazing trip! I would love to see Lord of the Rings country. that shot you took with the cloud over the mountain is just stunning!

Katerina said...

These are absolutely amazing photos!!!

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