We headed up towards Cromwell. We decided against basing ourselves at Queenstown as the more we looked at it the more it seemed to be a summer alpine town with lots of posh shops, bars for après ski and a concentrated area of tourist money holes. We found a huge campsite at Cromwell whose kitchen seemed to be largely occupied by seasonal workers from Argentina. Nice folk but they did take up a lot of room. You needed to get into the kitchen before them or wait until late to get dinner. Over the next few days we had a good wander about. Queenstown, darling of Lorna, perhaps because of its alpine après ski feel proved to be an interesting place but not really to my taste. I felt a little mugged going in to the high price shops, there to collect an easy buck from the adrenaline junkies it has as visitors. Saying that we did find an excellent pizza place. We were charged a fair price for a 3’ X 1’ pizza which was rather good!
The Queenstown area offers all the “dangerous” activities – anything from sedate canoeing to white water rafting, parachuting, caving, skiing (in season) and of course lots of bungee jumps. It even has the largest swing in the word where you sit in and enjoy a 70m free drop. It would have been lovely to do some of these but it would have burst the budget very quickly. We went and watched some folk throw themselves off the original bungee bridge at XXXXXXX. It seemed to be fun (once they had finished) and quite a few jumped, I am sure, purely to escape the abuse that was directed their way by the onlookers!
We had been told of a good, relatively short walk which took you around the Bannockburn Sluicings, once a thriving and successful gold mining area. The walk was an easy one though a bare arse area that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a spaghetti western, with regular stops to read boards with explanations of what you were seeing. We found a couple of caves going back into the cliffs and wished we had brought a torch or two. They were accessible at least to 20m which is as far as we dared finding our way with a camera flash. It was evident from the info boards that the people that really made a killing in this above ground sluicing were not the miners. The water rate amounted to about 80% of the total costs of a miner. You needed to be very lucky to get rich as a miner. Those controlling the water, the very same people who owned hardware store selling the spades and food, made the fortune!
We moved another short jump N to the town of Wanaka. Set on the edge of a lake it is a pleasant little town ringed by hills large enough to be snow capped. With the wet weather we had been enjoying, there had been a unseasonable build up of snow down to about 1100m. It did make the place look spectacular but it was chill at night.
It wasn’t too busy but it had with all the right kind of cafes, bars, shops and water sport facilities. We arrived just in time for a Red Bull Challenge event. Set over a weekend it pretty much boiled down to a couple of biathlon events, done in teams of two. Off road cycling and canoeing were the sports with a bit of abseiling thrown in. At the finish line, the girls met a Wanaka local and current World Champion Paddle Boarder, Annabel Anderson, (who was as fit as a butchers dog and hard as nails) who was great. She signed her autograph for Hannah with the comment “Girls can do ANYTHING!” I concur.
We had a great time winding Eleanor up on her birthday. Comments like “big long walk…..” “it’ll be fun….” “bit steep at times…..” produced a pensive, thoughtful face. Her joy when we arrived at the excellent Wanake Puzzle House made us all smile! The house is split in to two parts. Outside yuo can wander an enormous maze which can take hours to complete. The inside walk through is all about optical allusions and is quite excellent. I’ve included a few photos to give you a feel.
We finished Eleanor’s birthday with a BBQ and cake with reused birthday signs and balloons providing decoration. It was a fun night at the well appointed Kiwi Campsite, a big step up from the Top 10 ones we had been using.
The sun came out and we took the chance to climb Mt Rocky, a short drive N from Wanaka, a recommendation of the campsite for a walk suitable for kids. It was great fun, a steady but not difficult climb and the views from the top were spectacular. It made for a great day out and we happily recommend it. We all enjoyed a snooze at the top and Habitat enjoyed his first selfie. We used the western route back down which was a lot steeper and enjoyed meeting a Quail and a large brood of chicks that didn’t seem that bothered about us being close.
After all the rain of Milford, it was great to enjoy some dry and at times, even sunny weather for a few days. We all needed a bit of respite after the drownings we had had and both Cromwell and Wanaka provided us with some wonderful memories. Next time (or if the girls were a little bigger) it would be fun to explore some of the more severe slopes around this area. I might leave this beauty to my brother David though..…….