Thursday, March 26, 2009
Too much booze to bungy.
Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown area
Well we finally escaped from the Fiordland, though just across the hills really. We ran into a patch of really nice weather so what did we do? That's right, we wasted it by driving around and getting a little boozy with our new Welsh friends.
We spent one night at a Queenstown holiday park (like a KOA campground) and wandered around the downtown area. Queenstown is well known as the adventure capital of New Zealand and is where bungy jumping was born. Bungy jumping is alive and well, along with many other adventure sports. It reminded us of Disneyland, and was overwhelming.
"Disneyland Ride" aka jetboating on Shotover River
Grant really wanted to go to a microbrewery, but wouldn't believe me that there were none. We did find a branch of a Christchurch brewery, so settled for familiar brews. It was a local holiday, so most businesses were closed, and so was a weird mixture of a town teeming with rowdy tourists with nowhere to go.
A side note on New Zealand labor regulations. On public holidays, all businesses must close, or pay their employees time and a half plus additional compensation. This is mandatory, not customary or an extra perk for unions. Therefore, they either do close, or they tack on a 15% surcharge to your bill to make up for the high cost of labor.
We also took care of a few chores in the big town, including getting Robin a new camera since hers had died at the beginning of the trip, and broke again soon after we "fixed" it in Dunedin. Her old camera was awesome, but at four or five years old, was a little behind the new point and shoot Robin got. We then escaped to the small gold-mining town of Arrowtown where we enjoyed the nice weather and new brewery.
Lunch at Arrowtown Brewery
The Arrow Brewing Company is a fledgling microbrewery that does a couple of really nice beers as well as some gourmet pub food. We really enjoyed all of their beers and they made Robin a really nice vegetarian pizza. It was nice to have a bit of a Seattle microbrewery experience on our little vacation. New Zealand is set to have an explosion of microbreweries like the Pacific Northwest did in the 80's-90's. With great local hops and grains, and creative people, the fledgling craft-breweries are off to a great start. Many, including the Arrow brewery, concentrate on local sustainable ingredients as well as great brew and food.
After our brewery lunch, we settled into a campground to work on our sunburns and play with Robin's new toy. Soon after we parked, a Welsh couple we met in Te Anau pulled in and we invited them over for drinks. After a few rounds of beers, our new friends contributed some NZ champagne and we all agreed it would be a fine idea to go out and find some more to drink along with some food.
Some R&R in Arrowtown
After a few more bottles of wine and a nightcap of beer, we somehow wandered back to our little home of a van. The next morning, we all agreed that the second bottle of wine with dinner was a bit unnecessary. All we could manage was to drive to a lake to nap, have some brekkie, and mellow out.
Later that afternoon, we found the right mixture of hair-of-the-dog, coffee, sleep, and food to make the drive along Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy, where much of Lord of the Rings was filmed. Actually, all around the Queenstown area is the Rings country, though we didn't go to any specific sites.
Lake Wakatipu, drive to Glenorchy
We hiked along the other side of the Routeburn track, which provided for nice views of a river gorge and little valley.
We got to see one of the Huts, which provide bunks and cooking facilities. They are nice, but not like what I hear Switzerland provides, i.e. cooked dinner and beer/wine for purchase. Including our hike to Key Summit, we hiked about 1/3 of the Routeburn track.
Dart River, road to East end of Routeburn Track
After our hike, we tried to make some headway on the drive to Wanaka from Glenorchy and only made it just out of Queenstown. We had great plans for a scenic drive from Arrowtown to Wanaka, but heavy rain woke us up in the middle of the night fearing that the awning might rip apart from too much water weight. The twisty, steep road to Wanaka was very pretty, but the rainy weather didn't allow for the alleged spectacular views. Ah well, at least there's another new brewery to try in Wanaka, and hopefully some good hiking weather for the Mt Aspiring National Park.
From the Bureau of Silly Walks