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Baby It’s Cold Outside

As we said in the last article it is quite a bit colder here than where we’ve been spending our days as of late. But, if you are going to be in the cold weather you might as well embrace it and get out to see the spectacular winter scenery. Over the first few days of our trip here to Queenstown we took some beautiful drives and saw some absolutely dazzling places.

The first morning we awoke to some truly stunning scenery at our perfect little Air BnB. The clouds were low in the valley over Lake Wakatipu as the sun was coming up. There was still ice and frost on the grass from the days of snow they had before we arrived. My feet nearly froze to the large stone outside as I ran out barefoot to snap a few photos. Yes, it was pretty chilly but it was also truly impressive. We all enjoyed the picturesque views from the dining room window as we ate breakfast and planned our days ahead.

One day we took a drive up to Coronet Peak. It’s one of the ski areas here. The 17 km drive from town is quite scenic as the roads twist and turn through the mountains.  We reached the bottom of the mountain to find signs there indicating whether or not you could drive up to the ski lodge and if you needed chains. All looked good for us to make it all the way to the top without the need to stop in one of the designated parking areas. Of course there were definitely some icy spots along the way where the sun had not reached the road. I’m no sissy when it comes to this stuff but I will admit that I held my breath a few times as I felt the tires slide on the ice while I looked over the side of the mountain. Dan obviously drove it like he’d done it his entire life so there really wasn’t much to be afraid of in all reality. 

We reached the top and were rewarded with some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the valley below. The air was crisp and clear as a bell so you could literally see for miles. The slopes were not open yet for the season. They would not be opening for a few more days so we virtually had the area all to ourselves. Lutz & Gabi were planning to go skiing one day so they checked out the lodge and slopes while we took some incredible photos of the area. We aren’t much for the freezing cold but it was a bit fun to play in some snow and act like kids for a bit.

After enjoying the views we headed back toward town where we were hoping to find a bite to eat. We stopped at the Shotover River along the way for a little side adventure. There is a restaurant there but since ski season isn’t officially open they weren’t either. Shotover is a 75 km long river that runs from the southern end of the Southern Alps through to Queenstown. Being fed from the Alps and their glaciers, this water here is a beautiful color of pale turquoise. This is a fast moving river with lots of rapids and is used for whitewater rafting, jet boat tours and more. Since we arrived in town just before the “season” opened we had the opportunity to see it without the crowds. It’s simply spectacular!

After our little side adventure we headed into town to eat. We ended up at my favorite Irish pub, Póg Mahone’s. It’s such a quaint little place with a stone fireplace and lots of dark wood. When we were here last year the bartender told us that the entire bar had been shipped here from Ireland. It’s truly beautiful. And, they have the absolute best Beef & Guinness Pie I’ve ever had so I, of course, had that while the rest of the crew had ribs. We enjoyed our afternoon in the warm pub as we imbibed in some frosty beers and feasted upon their brilliant meals. All the while we chatted about the events of the day as we began planning for the next. There truly is nothing like great adventures with awesome friends…even if it is a bit chilly outside.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

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Moving About The Country

New Zealand is at Covid Level One and we can now move about the country freely. With the whole Covid thing keeping foreign tourists from visiting the Kiwis are doing everything they can to encourage domestic tourism which means low prices and huge discounts on everything from airfare to accommodations. So we, along with our dear friends Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn, decided to take advantage of this time and make a ten day trip to Queenstown on the South Island.

As usual I was put in charge of the planning so I took to the laptop to research flights, things to do and, of course, a place to stay. We found very reasonable flights out of Auckland and I located an amazing Air BnB in Queenstown. We chose a delightful home located just 2 km from the city centre. It is up on a hill and has the most phenomenal views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range from every room. It is super clean and absolutely perfect for the four of us.

Flying into Queenstown means flying over the Southern Alps. The day of our arrival was sunny and very clear so the views of the Alps were spectacular. The snow capped peaks and rugged rocky cliffs … simply awe inspiring! We even got a glimpse of several glaciers along the way. Until we came to New Zealand I never really knew what diverse geography they have from beaches to mountains to glaciers to farmland and beautiful forests. It’s really very spectacular. If I could recommend one country for people not to miss in their lifetime, it would be New Zealand.

We landed at Queenstown Airport around 1530 hours. The sun is already beginning to set behind the massive mountains that surround this quaint lakeside town. As we exit the airport and head to find our car in the car park we are greeted with a blast of icy cold air. Oh yes, it’s much, much colder here than in Whangerie. The temp this afternoon is around 4°C (39° F). Now if you are from cold climates you probably don’t think much of this but for a ragtag group of sailors used to living in the tropics this was quite shocking to our systems…so much so that it literally took our breath away.

We located our car and headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items for breakfast and some dinners. After all, we have a fully equipped kitchen at the house we are renting so why go out to eat for every single meal? Of course we also hit the liquor store to provision up with some beer, vodka, rum and wine. It’s very obvious that keeping warm is going to be essential and you should always start by warming the insides first. With our provisioning complete we head out to find our home for the next ten days.

We have all been to Queenstown in the past so we are somewhat familiar with our surroundings. Our temporary abode is just a short ten minute drive from the store along the beautiful lake. As we exit the main road we wind our way up up the mountain and soon find the house. We were warned that the driveway is a bit narrow and narrow it is with the house on one side and a fece on the other and mere inches of clearance between them and the SUV we are driving. Of course Dan negotiates it with ease and soon we are unloading our things and checking out our home base.

WOW! This place is exactly as described in their Air BnB ad and corresponding photos but until you actually stand inside and look out of the plate glass windows to take in the view of the lake and mountains you really can’t appreciate it. There was still ice not the grass outside and with the sunset the frosty white mountain peaks were glowing above the lake. It was absolutely awe inspiring!

We put our groceries away and picked our bedrooms and met back downstairs for a traditional “anchor down” beer. While Gabi and I checked out the kitchen opening cabinets to see what appliances and dishes are available, Dan and Lutz were checking the wood supply and wood burning stove. We know we will be getting a lot of use out of that in the coming week.

Soon John and Karen the owners of the house show up to help get us acclimated. John goes over the operation of the stove and Karen talks to Gabi and I about restaurants, hikes and things we shouldn’t miss while we are here. They are an amazing couple and very kind. She’s from Germany and he’s a Kiwi. We truly enjoyed our visit with them.

Does the “W” remind you
of anything???

After they left we decide since it is our first night in town and it is getting late we will head out to get a bite to eat rather than cook at home. On Karen’s recommendation we make our way to The Cow. Contrary to what you might think from its name, this is not a steak restaurant, rather a pizza and spaghetti place. It’s the oldest continually run restaurant in Queenstown and has had the exact same menu since 1977 when it first opened. Located on Cow Street the building was originally stone stables where they housed milk cows that would wander the lane back in the old days. And, interestingly enough, it’s not named because of the street. It’s name after Queen Victoria. Apparently one of the more crude nicknames for her was ” the Cow”. Apparently she made a statement likening breastfeeding to being a cow and instructed her daughter never to practice it. Knowing the history of the name you can see the subtle reference to Queen Victoria’s comment in their logo.

Photo is property of The Cow and is used with their express permission.

Inside this place reminds you of an old Swiss chalet with it’s stone walls, heavy wooden beams, roughhewn wood tables and dim lighting and candles. It’s small inside with maybe ten or twelve tables and has a large stone fireplace in the middle just across from the bar where people who are waiting to be seated gather to warm up and sip their mulled wine, beer or cocktail. The atmosphere was simply wonderful and quite frankly the pizza was exceptional! There wasn’t piece left between the two large pizzas we ordered.

Since it had been a fairly long day we headed back to the house to sit by a warm fire and relax after dinner. The house was beautiful, the company divine and all was absolutely perfect in the world!

Until next time…

Jilly & Dan

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Gondolas, Sky Bars and Steamships!

Once you’ve explored the lakefront village and walked the streets checking out the shops, it’s time to take to the sky to see more of this charming town. Today we headed out to the Skyline Gondola to gives a bird’s eye view of Queenstown from the top of Bob’s Peak. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day and it’s even a bit warm outside. Now THIS is an awesome day!

Queenstown is very busy right now. It’s summertime here and the tourists are everywhere. We have a hard time even finding a parking spot at the gondola so the guys drop Mary and I off and they keep searching. There’s an old cemetery right near the entrance to the ride. Both of us love old cemeteries so we decide to take a walk through it while we waited. There are really, really old graves here. Some go back to the 1600s and reading thee tombstones will give you a glimpse into the history of Queenstown.

Notice that it say’s Tom was “killed” . Sort of makes you wonder what ol’ Tom did to get killed doesn’t it? And it asks you to have mercy on Pat’s soul. Hmmm…very curious about him too. I did find out that both men were miners but couldn’t find out anymore about them.

The guys finally arrived and we went inside to purchase our gondola tickets. The tickets cost $59 NZD per person just to ride up and down on the gondola but we’re only going to be here once and it’s a perfect day to view the city from the top so we pay up and get in line. Before we know it we are quietly ascending the mountain in the gently swinging car.

The ride is just about five minutes long and when we arrive at the top we head into the large building that houses two restaurants, shops, a movie theater and some interesting artwork. There’s even a Jelly Belly store where we just had to stop and pick up some tasty treats and, of course, get our photos taken. Yes, we really are just four big kids out here.

Our first plan of action is to head out to the balcony to get a look at Queenstown from this beautiful spot. We make our way outside and WOW! Just WOW! Boy is this ever a spectacular view! It is well worth the price of admission to be sure. And even though it’s pretty crowded here, everyone seems to be pretty respectful of each other. Well, not exactly everyone but for the most part the people take in the view for a moment, snap a few pics and move on to make way for the next person.

Here at the top of Bob’s Peak they have lots of activities where they will be happy to take your money to allow you to participate. The two biggies are bungy jumping and the luge. They also rent mountain bikes where you don’t have to worry about going up the mountain, you just get to ride down it. That’s my kind of mountain riding there. And, there’s plenty of interesting hikes and places to explore as well. We, however, chose to leave the dangerous sports to others and we explored the Stratosfare Bar where we enjoyed the view with a couple of ice cold beers.

Look what we found!

After a couple of hours on the mountain we took the gondola down and decided it was time to head back into town to see what’s happening. It is super crowded with people everywhere! I guess everyone wants to enjoy the beautiful day here and you can’t really blame them.

Mary wanted to do a bit of shopping so we roamed the streets and moseyed in and out of the little stores as she sought the perfect gifts for family and friends back home.

And, of course, all that shopping made us a bit on the thirsty side so we decided to stop back at Póg Mahone’s Irish Pub to wet our whistles with a few pints.

Uncle Jack has been eyeing this large steamship that comes in and out of the dock here. He seems rather fascinated by it so he and Dan take off to see what it’s all about. They come back and tada! We have tickets to take a ride on the TSS Earnslaw. Ticket price: $70 NZD per person for a 1½ hour cruise around Lake Wakatipu.

Her maiden voyage took place in October of 1912 and due to a painstaking restoration process she looks exactly as she did over 100 years ago. The Earnslaw is the only hand fired steamship in operation in the southern hemisphere. And she’s beautiful! There are observation areas over the engine where you can watch the hands below deck shoveling coal into the massive furnaces. It was pretty awesome to see even if it was a bit hot! There are other observation areas where you can watch the men working on other parts of the ship as well as a museum of sorts that has lots of photos and interesting artifacts. The Earnslaw has even been in several movies, including a cameo appearance in Indiana Jones. I thought she looked familiar!

There’s a cafe on board where you can pick up light sandwiches, tasty sweets, sodas, wine and beer. And if you’re up for the full monty you can purchase a ticket that allows you to get off at the Walter Peak Farm, take a farm tour and enjoy a meal there as well. We chose to just do the cruise but if we went back this is something we’d definitely consider. It’s quite lovely there.

Walter Peak Farm…Note the amazing color of the water here. It was absolutely crystal clear too!

The cruise on the Earnslaw was truly wonderful. We got a chance to see Lake Wakatipu from a whole different side and we learned a lot about the history of this amazing steamship. As we departed Dan and I couldn’t help but stop to have a quick chat with Captain Laurie. He’s been operating her for quite sometime. He was even kind enough to stop for a photo with us.

From here it was on to find food. Seems we’re always looking for beer and food on this trip. We found a cute little Mexican joint called the Coyote Grill and stopped in for some very tasty dinners. It was the first Mexican food we’ve had in this country that actually tastes like real Mexican food. Most of it here is not even the slightest bit spicy and they use coriander instead of cilantro which gives everything a much sweeter taste. This place, however, was wonderful and pretty authentic and very yummy!

With our bellies full we went back to the house to pack and prepare for the next leg of our journey. Tomorrow it’s off to Christchurch!

Cheers,

Captain Dan & Jilly