Morning came and the strong winds went.
A lovely breakfast later and we were off on the next leg of the journey and a short-ish drive south down to Queenstown.
The drive along Lake Pukaki was blessed with clearer skies and shimmering water, and again, we were amazed at the colours reflected off the lake. We had some time to look at it as we were stuck behind a “sheep traffic jam” for a while.
At the foot of the lake, we headed off towards Twizel (No, not “Twizel” as most people would say it, but “T –why-zel”?? Why??), and our first obligatory coffee break. Twhyzel, on arrival, looks like a town one would expect to see in Alaska. No idea why that picture embedded itself in our minds, but we both felt the same so it must be true! (Funny, as neither of us have been to Alaska. What does that say?) It was almost as if the ice had held on to the buildings and places and refused to let go. We found a wonderful coffee shop called “The Musterer’s Hut” on the outskirts of the town, which easily rivalled The Pour House in Hahei Bay, done out in retro “70’s meets schooldays” chic. Coffee and vegetarian muffins were to die for. A well recommended stop right at the entrance of Twhyzel and immediately off SH 8.
RV topped up with diesel and we were off again down to Lake Wanaka, some 70kms further south. The hills open up on the route down, as mountains ease to the east and fade away to the west. This allows the clouds to come over from the west for the first time and by the time we got to the turn off, SH 8A to Lake Wanaka, it was raining. (Actually, for those who are interested, there is a short cut to Wanaka off SH8. Just after Tarras, there is a small road to the right called “Jolly Road”, which cuts off about 30kms and re-joins SH 8A closer to Wanaka)
We stopped briefly at “Puzzle World”, which is a well-known tourist destination, but due to the weather conditions, we didn’t try the maze. We can’t really comment about the place. Some people like it, we were not overly impressed. Horses for courses.
Lunch was beckoning, so off we went into the town itself. Wanaka is a small town snuggled onto the foreshore of the lake, which at first, we thought was not overly large, but by the end of the holiday, we saw it from the other side and were able to grasp its sheer enormity. 42Km long, which is not to be sneezed at.
Whilst we had no preconceived ideas about the place, finding a certain place at a certain time allowed us to have one of the nicest encounters with a human being we have experienced. We stopped off at a lovely corner cafe called “Kai Whaka pai”, meaning “Food made good”. Lots of people were spilling out onto the tables placed outside (Which generally is a good sign). We arrived and aimed for a table that people seemed to be keeping away from. On it, sat an older, grizzled, bearded, unkempt looking man, an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth and a casual “otherworldly” look to him… We sat down and introduced ourselves to him.
“Hello, do you mind if we sit here?” (Being British and therefore, polite to a T.. or “P”)
“Not at all. I hope you don’t mind me smoking?”
So started an unlikely conversation with a man we connected with completely.
Darryl was, in a word, a “Kindred Spirit”. He was a jade sculptor and over the years had amassed huge quantities of jade, had his own helicopter (as one does!) and had been given a personal invitation to do a few large pieces for Christchurch, for which he was rewarded most handsomely. He then had an epiphany of sorts and decided to give all his money, possessions and worldly wealth away and moved to a quiet house in the wilderness to carry on working with smaller pieces of jade to sell to the local market. His works for Christchurch, gave him more than NZ$ 1 million, but he preferred to give it all away to a local charity, as, in his words, he had enough and others didn’t.
He spoke about his beliefs, both political and spiritual, which were very interesting and I am sure we spent over an hour just chatting to him about life, the universe and everything. A special moment. A special man. You may find him there if you are lucky. Most refreshing.
Speaking of which, he did mention that the lake was partly fed by a spring of crystal pure water, which not many people knew about. We stopped off at the spring after saying our goodbyes, and also to say goodbye to the lake for the time being. We had hoped to meet him a few days later on our return leg back through Wanaka at the weekend craft market, but alas, the market didn’t happen so we never did again. Maybe next time. If you see him, say “Hi”.
Queenstown was calling. I had heard about a fantastic approach route called, “The Crown Range Road”, so we headed off towards it with anticipation. The approach to the Crown Range Road is via Cardrona Pass, which in itself, is a lovely route and well worth travelling along, if nothing else other than to see the most quirky thing we have ever seen.
On arriving at the start of the Crown Range Road, at Cardrona Pass, we saw a line, disappearing off into the distance, of hundreds and hundreds of bras all fixed to a fence! The “Cardrona Bra Fence” even has an article written about it on Wikipedia for crying out loud! At one stage, we believe, there were almost 1,500 bras festooned along the fence and the local council were up in arms about this “flagrant and crass attempt to display art in a new fashion!” Read up about it on the many web sites dedicated to “ladies fashion” in the area.
If anyone knows the real reason why this has occurred, almost by osmosis, we would be most interested to hear. It is almost as if Route 66 came to NZ and a memorabilia lane was created. I am sure that more and more people will continue to contribute to this strange sight on Cardrona Pass.
The route down into Queenstown from Wanaka, is via the Crown Range Road and, without doubt, was probably one of the nicest routes we travelled on during our stay. It cuts through the Cardrona Mountain Range, then dives steeply down, via hairpin bends, towards Queenstown itself. Suddenly, this windy road opens up and you are hit by this vista overlooking Queenstown airport and through to Lake Wakatipu and the mountains beyond. (Yes! Yet more mountains). And all the Lupins were starting to come out. Their colours and fragrance were heavenly.
By the way, you are NOT allowed to pick them from the side of the road and have them in your RV. Absolutely NOT. It is forbidden!!!
Green fields and tiny trees, dots for cows and sheep and little “toy-town” houses dot the foreground. It is a place where you simply have to stop and take it all in and capture the moment if possible, through photography.
Once down the mountain pass, you drive along Lake Wakatipu to get to Queenstown, and what a beautiful town it is. As many towns in New Zealand seem to be, Queenstown also nestles between mountain and lake. Tourist shops and “exhilarating event” shops battle cheek-by-jowl with coffee shops and the harbour. We fell in love with the place immediately. Even the Top 10 motorhome park reflected the area’s quirkiness with ethnic sculptures and over large pictures dotted all around the camp. We spent quite some time browsing through as shop called “Yaks and Yetis”, which is well worth a visit, selling loads of curios and eastern sculptures and figurines.
The Harbour was quaint and small with lovely craft kiosks and coffee shops surrounding it. The church was unusual in that it was made of solid stone as opposed to the normal timber we had seen elsewhere. Also, the coffee shops around it had interesting names, such as “Vudu Café” and “Halo Coffee Shop”, which we found most amusing.
That night we strolled through the town, unafraid, relaxed. Finding a small health food shop, we finished up with a lovely meal, then it was a walk back to the RV, a catch up of how “The Hobbit” was doing on our DVD player, then off to bed and dreams.