New Zealand > South Island > Exquisite Queenstown

Thursday, 7th Aug 2008

After a good night’s rest at the warm and comfy Youth Hostel in Twizel, we are ready to leave for another day’s adventure. The morning is bitterly cold and everything is frosted over. Just my type of weather. Twizel is 290km from Christchurch and today our aim is to reach famous Queenstown, a further 200km to the southwest.

Twizel is small town of 1000 people, founded in 1968 to service a major hydro scheme. But when the project was completed, the town refused to die but transformed into a tourist centre. Even our Youth Hostel dorm above was a former project site office.

We continue westwards along Route 8, and begin to appreciate the tourism value of this area. There are more wonderful sceneries, more ski fields …

… and more beautiful lakes.

On a still cold winter morning, icy Lake Ruataniwha becomes a mirror.

25km down the road, we stop at an even smaller town than Twizel, a place called Omarama, but world famous for gliding. We are having brekky.

Just sandwiches and flat white coffee for us.

And flipping through the wrinkled local paper … hey, hey, hey, a Malaysian lass talking about religion in Dunedin.

Leaving Omarama we get into some serious countryside.

We are passing another plain before crossing the next mountain range. I’m beginning to get tired of snowy mountains. This is Lindis Pass.

We then enter Lindis Valley. Notwithstanding the road, are we in Middle Earth?

This valley is another spot susceptible to heavy snow which can block the road altogether.

Later, another section of Lindis Pass at a lower altitude, hence the lack of snow.

After the rugged Lindis Valley, we arrive at peaceful Cromwell. Yes, you guess it, another tourist spot.

We are in Central Otago, and just outside Cromwell along Highway 6 to Queenstown, we spot a fruit shop. And we love fruits!

We duly park our car alongside the others.

“Keep Your Grubby Hands Off!” … yes, the first thing I see is this multilingual reminder. In Chinese, Korean and Japanese? I did spot busloads of Koreans during the drive yesterday and today (based on the signs in Korean pasted on the buses’ windscreens). Even the cashier in this fruiterer is Japanese.

Apart from fruits, we find other goodies: dried fruits, nuts, chocs, of all shapes and hues.

A few km away, we come to Kawarau Gorge, where there’s a famous old gold mine …

… just across the gorge.

This place is a centre for adventure sports such as jetboating, white-water rafting and bungy-jumping. The first ever commercial bungy-jumping site is in the neighbourhood, over this very river. Downstream, I see moored jetboats …

… and on the other side, the Kawarau River cuts its way through spectacular cliffs. Btw the water looks turquoise, just like the two glacial lakes we saw yesterday. The water comes from glacial Lake Wakatipu where Queenstown is.

Half an hour later we enter the Queenstown area, and we have our first sight of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. Man, I’m beginning to fall in love with Queenstown.

We drive straight into town, and realise that our lodge is somewhere up there on that hill.

We make our way to the Hippo Lodge, which is indeed on high ground.

The view from our room is fantastic – we can see right up the main street of Queenstown down below. And of course Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables.

We decide to leave our car at the lodge and walk to town. It’s a steep easy downhill stroll all the way, and I’m beginning to dread to return uphill walk to the lodge.

In downtown Queenstown, this modernist clock tower is a landmark. With just 10,000+ people, it is the largest town in Central Otago.

They say Queenstown is the capital of adventure sports in NZ, and hence by default, the world. I won’t argue.

The streets are full of adventure sports purveyors, you will be spoilt for choice on how to try to kill yourself creatively, for a fee of course.

It’s common to see young folks swaggering down the streets with skis and snowboards on their shoulders.

And ma’am falls in love with this shop – it sells quality knitting wools. We come all the way to the adventure sports capital of the world and we go shopping for wools?

Nearby, a notice about some flaming winter gig. Too much curry, mate?

A money-changer quotes Malaysian Ringgit. Maybe Mr VK Lingam has made Queenstown popular to Malaysians? ๐Ÿ˜€

Needless to say it is a bitterly cold day in Queenstown today, and a pub is always a great place to thaw oneself.

But the jewel of Queenstown must be Lake Wakatipu with The Remarkables as backdrop.

Wakatipu is NZ’s 3rd largest lake. At an altitude of 300m and with max depth of 400m, which means the deepest part of the lake is 100m below sea level. This glacial lake is virtually a deep 80km-long, 5km-wide trench.

A paraglider soars past Cecil Peak at 1974m.

A local denizen, not bothered by the freezing temp one single bit.

I hear a horn and to my amazement, a smokey steamer appears.

Making a u-turn right infront of me, the Earnslaw, a NZ icon, has been working since 1912.

Next to me, an unattended business because the CEO is out fishing. I want his job!

Curious Chinese kids flock around a street, or should I say, a lake artist.

My first encounter with a kiwi.

On a lakeside lawn, a stage is being set up, maybe for the flaming concert? And HUMMEN?

We leave downtown and come across this interesting contraption. A place to gather courage for your bungy as long as you do not exceed 100kg, and it’s full of kids. They do start them young!

Queenstown has a cable car, and I’m a fan of cable cars, so here we go. Note the Malaysian flag. Thanks, VK. :mrgreen:

The system is from Austria, from the same contractor which did the Langkawi Cable Car, but the ride up the mountain is harmless, no way as scary as Langkawi’s.

And soon we reach the top.

The view from the station at the top is fantastic. Queenstown at bottom left as Lake Wakatipu turns southwards.

Lake Wakatipu to the west. We are indeed lucky to have such great winter weather.

At the station, one can still take the lift to the peak.

A view of downtown Queenstown, with a bungy platform in the foreground.

Yes, there’s never a shortage of suckers tourists trying bungy-jumping, esp. in Queenstown.

We descend as the sun sets, and time to look for dinner. A halal kebab outlet, what a welcoming sight! And the lamb kebab never tastes better.

This is quite a nice part of Queenstown – restaurants and the odd casino thrown in. Surely this must be tourists’ heaven.

We finally make our way to our lodge for a well-earned rest. And if you ever spot this minibus, just tail it. I’m sure you’ll have a great time! ๐Ÿ˜€


For orientation of the above spots, please CLICK HERE.



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