In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 7 – Christchurch – Queenstown
The 6.00 a.m. wake up call began what would be a long day. We left Christchurch before 7.00 and drove through the Canterbury Plains. Host to every form of agriculture you can name, the Plains had pig, cow and sheep farming, vineyards, irrigation etc. The myriad of trees was planted so close together they formed makeshift hedgerows, while manipulating the landscape controlled all the rivers we passed. The Plains provide 60% of New Zealand’s agricultural produce. They were seemingly endless with few buildings in sight for long periods.
The landscape changed as we moved into Mackenzie Country. The lowland of the Canterbury Plains was replaced by sharp rises in the land. This long stretch of hills is named after an outlaw, John Mackenzie, who stole sheep and became something of a folk hero. His sheepdog was said to be so clever that it could round up the sheep and lock them in their enclosure while Mackenzie was down the local pub enjoying a few drinks. We even passed the spot where Mackenzie is supposed to have finally been captured.
Passing through Mackenzie Country we stopped off at Lake Tekapo for the obligatory snapshots. The water in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers is almost turquoise in colour, the influence of the glaciers. On the horizon we could make out the Southern Alps and, most notably, Mt. Cook. Each of the peaks was tinted with snow and the clouds hung lower than the mountain tops and seemed to be descending down the sides. Our next stop was at Lake Pukaki for more photos. New Zealand’s scenery was getting better.
After Mackenzie Country we took the Lindis Pass which runs through a series of mountains and onto Queenstown. The Pass has numerous memorable features. The first was a series of rocks piled up by the roadside. Dave disappointed us by explaining the stone piles were of no significance whatsoever. The story goes that one traveller made the first pile and subsequent travellers latched onto the idea and it’s become a tradition for all backpackers and visitors to the Pass.
Along the Lindis Pass we also saw Kawarau Suspension Bridge that was host to the first commercial bungee jump in 1988 and is still used today. Beyond that were two sites named after prostitutes that operated in the area during the Gold Rush that swept through the Pass. Their names – Roaring Meg and Gentle Annie – presumably say a lot about their business acumen.
Before reaching the end of the Lindis Pass, we stopped off at a remote stall selling fresh fruit. You could get bags with at least 20 apples in, fruit flavoured ice cream, dried fruit or a mixture of fruits at modest prices. It was truly a fruit lover’s paradise.
On the outskirts of Queenstown was a giant hill where Willow was partly filmed in the 80s. Just beyond was Lake Wakatipu whose origin is in mythology. The lake is said to contain the beating heart of a giant slain after stealing the wife of a warrior. The still living heart causes the movement on the water.
We reached Queenstown late in the afternoon. The group stayed in the A-line hotel with A-shaped roofs and rooms overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown sits on the shore of the lake and rises into the surrounding hills and mountains. Across the lake were the snow-covered peaks of the mountain range known as the Remarkables.
Due to our late arrival I only had an hour or so to see the town before dark. After a quick wander around the shops I headed for Lake Wakatipu and strolled along the shoreline until sunset. It was only a brief tour of Queenstown and will unfortunately be all I have time to see. I rounded off the evening watching a film – The Last Kiss – with Zach Braff. Certainly no Garden State or Scrubs but still worth a look.
Tomorrow is a full-day excursion to Fjordland National Park and on to Milford Sound – considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. Let’s hope so as the wake-up call tomorrow is 5.45 a.m.
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