New Zealand 2011 - Queenstown, some unexpected snow & on to Rivendale (by the shores of Lake Wanaka)

Tuesday, Apr 05, 2011 at 14:00


Monday 4th April, 2011
Boundary Creek Scenic Reserve,
Lake Wanaka (Highway 6)

It was a leisurely morning and we awoke to find the surrounding mountains dusted wth snow, the sunny morning making the whole scene spectacular. We knew it had been cold during the night and had heard the odd shower of rain pattering on the roof but to awake to all that snow was an unexpected and slightly unseasonable treat. After breakfast I took care of some general house keeping such as emptying the grey-water, toilet cassette and topping up with fresh water.Clearing the Big 4 park, we headed to the Skyline gondola and took the trip up at $25 each. A lovely time was had strolling around the skyline facility, a cup of coffee and a zillion photos of the Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu and various things of interest like the helicopter that came in to land on the pad above the restaurant. We even got to see the SS Earnslaw plying her way south through the grey waters of the lake.

Queenstown no longer revolves around the snow season. 15 years ago, the place was a ghost town during the off season. These days it’s a Mecca for the adventure hungry. The city centre has transformed since my last visit with action aplenty, the entire shopping centre dedicated to action pursuits, bungy, parasailing, zip lining, canyoning, mountain biking, extreme crochet, canoeing, quad biking, skydiving the list was bloody endless! Then it was the surf shops and finally the ubiquitous souvenir shops and art galleries and a splendid array of eateries. Everything is staffed by the backpacking fraternity. The town appears totally dependent upon this seething party class/sub culture hidden in the cheap hostels and back street bars.

It was shopping for us. In line with our policy of trying to bring something back from every overseas destination, we hit a few galleries with intent to purchase. Unfortunately there was a reluctance to barter even with hard, cold currency in hand. Oh well, we kept our money and invested in a spot of lunch, a $10 Thai noodle special before heading back to the camper and hitting the I65 to Arrowtown.

Settled in 1861, at the height of the Otago gold rush, Arrowtown grew out of the rush of miners seeking the precious metal in the surrounding rivers. Alluvial gold in some streams was pulled out at 5 ounces to the shovelful when first discovered. Situated on the banks of the Arrow River, the settlement grew quickly as pioneers constructed cottages, shops, hotels and churches. They also planted the avenues of deciduous European trees that are responsible for the glorious autumn display. The Sycamores and Oaks of the main avenue were planted in 1867. Another highlight is the Chinese settlement at the edge of the river. Built by Chinese miners from 1868, this area has been carefully restored providing a glimpse into the past. To the both of us it was obvious that life was hard, winters were cruel and gold was often elusive. The miners have long gone, but they have left a rich history indeed.

After a good stroll about the town and its attractions and the purchase of some fresh bread from the local bakery, it was back on the road and pushing upwards along the Crown Range Road. This zig-zag climb tops out at 1100 metres and is New Zealand’s highest pass. It provided spectacular views across the Queenstown valley and Lake Wakatipu. Wedged in between Mount Scott and Mount Allen, the road then twists along a narrow gully underneath Crown peak finally reaching the Valley floor just short of Cadrona Village and its historic pub. This picturesque valley that leads all the way to Wanaka. The hills at the southern end of Wanaka in the vicinity of Triple Cone ski fields were used in the Lord of The Rings trilogy to represent the Elvan capital of Rivendell.

On arriving at Wanaka, we took a walk along the foreshore of the lake speaking with some Afrikaans about our van before heading off on Highway 6, skirting the western shore of Lake Hawea. The two lakes Hawea and Wanaka, almost join with an arm of Lake Hawea extending west under Mount Isthmus. All that seperates the two bodies of water is a thin ribbon of land. Luckily for the road builders the break through is a couple of million years away yet. Highway 6 shoots across this narrow band of land to meet the eastern shore of Lake Wanaka on its way to Ka Tiritiri o te Moana (The Southern Alps). We spied quite a few rough camping spots along the shores of Hawea. Nothing flash, just a track down to the lake shore here and there but places quickly taken advantage of by passing campers.

For us it was a short hop along Lake Wanaka on a road that hugs the lake shore spectacularly. We are camped at Boundary Creek scenic reserve, a camping facility maintained by the National Parks Department. It has rudimentary facilities and spectacular views across the lake for the princely sum of $6 per person per night! This little promontory was sheltered by huge pines and the lakes rocky shore was covered in driftwood. It was bloody great to be away from the crowds and we spent an enjoyable evening exploring the shore and the many rough driftwood shelters before retiring to the van for a meal of pasta and a glass of fine New Zealand red. What a paradise this place is.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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