Makarora to Queenstown – wilderness to luxury.

_MG_8968No snow behind us but the ground (and vehicle) was sure covered in a firm frost at Makarora! This tiny settlement is the starting and stopping place for many mountain tramps so we also termed it our “Wilderness Experience” (or in Jim’s case: “Macaroni”). Fortunately, the heating was adequate in our chalet so after a cooked breakfast we set our sights on Wanaka for a short stopover.

Travelling with companions has its benefits, especially when these companions are prepared to have some fun on your behalf… I previously mentioned Jim’s desire to “collect” smiley faces on the flashing speed signs but forgot about his search for elusive trains.  For some reason Jim loves to see “choo-choo trains” as we travel (a residue from his childhood??) and follows railway lines wherever possible in his search. He is fascinated by the Otira Tunnel in Arthurs Pass and went to some lengths to explain the construction of this to Steve while we were in the DOC centre in Arthurs Pass. As we drove on we would hear the comment, “There’s the railway line…” quite frequently.  Naturally, as we travelled, whenever a railway line came into sight… “Oh, Jim… look…. there’s a railway line…” The “choo-choo trains” were not to be seen much to the man’s disappointment as many lines are now part of the “Rail-trail” – a biking network that follows old railway lines.

Shore of Lake Wanaka

But, back to Wanaka… Rosemary and Steve went in search of a bank or wi-fi access, Jim found a street preacher to challenge (another “hobby” of his) and I enjoyed a walk with a coffee along the lake shore in the sunshine, noticing, once again, how low the water level was.

Back in the vehicle and we headed toward the Crown Range, the highest main road in NZ and one of two routes to Queenstown. In winter the road is often covered in snow and ice so driving can be treacherous (but we had snow chains, just in case!).

From the top of the Crown Range looking toward Lake Wakitipu.

Today the weather was fine so we just enjoyed more awesome views along a windy but well-sealed road. With a slight diversion, once over the Crown Range, and we arrived in Arrowtown.

This is such a delightful and picturesque little town, so well-photographed in the autumn when the leaves are turning all shades of autumn colours. It is steeped in history of gold-mining. Many miners were Chinese immigrants and as a reminder of these immigrants there is a Chinese settlement preserved adjacent to the shops.  As one wanders around the huts one wonders how the miners coped – we were there in the early afternoon and there was still frost on the ground which wouldn’t have lifted all day! Dirt floors, wooden walls, no insulation, open fireplaces – these men must have been tough – or just gold-crazy!!

Rosemary tries a hut in the Chinese settlement, Arrowtown for size… yes, that’s frost on the ground!

A stop for a late lunch at the scenic Stopover Gorge where we timed it so well we saw the Stopover Jet take off amidst flurries and swirls of water. Maybe we’ll join them another time when the weather is more temperate!

Time to find our motel in Queenstown… oh, luxury… separate bedrooms and bathroom, well-equipped kitchen, free unlimited wi-fi and all with a peek of the lake… no, we don’t need to go out again today!

The view from our motel, Queenstown.