Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mount Difficulty

In the morning we drove down to Clyde and Alexandra. Clyde is where the river is dammed to make lake Dunstan, by which Cromwell sits (having been mostly relocated out of the way of the lake).

At Alexandra, we walked along the shore of the river Clutha, New Zealand's second-longest river. On the way back, we stopped at the Cromwell lookout, which (unsurprisingly) looks out over Cromwell and lake Dunstan.

How's the serenity?
We then carried on to Mt Difficulty to taste some wines, and also have lunch, which we'd booked some time ago.

We arrived on a lovely sunny day. Mt Difficulty is in the Bannockburn wine-growing area of the Central Otago region, and is one of the better-established vineyards in the area. Well known for its "Roaring Meg" label, I tried all styles of wines before settling down with the pinot noirs, which are the speciality of the region. We lunched off a cold platter of mixed cheeses, meats and pickled vegetables, washed down with more of their wine, all very civilised and leisurely.

In the evening we chilled out under an almost-full moon.

Life is hard.

TSS Earnslaw

The TSS Earnslaw, "The Lady Of The Lake" is a twin-screw steamship that was built 100 years ago and is still running on lake Wakatipu. Previously used to transport freight as well as passengers, it is now used only as a tourist attraction, running between the dock at Queenstown and Walters Peak homestead, a high country sheep farm.

We'd booked our trip and dinner, and arrived at the dockside a little before 6, to board. Whilst steaming along the lake, we took some pictures,

Nicola finishes one beer and reaches for the next.

...including seeing down into the engine room, which is opened up so you can watch men shovelling coal into the furnaces, and the engineers about their engineering. Communication between the bridge and engine room is still via an engine order telegraph which can be seen on the left of the picture:

We arrived at the homestead for dinner, which was followed by a demonstration of sheep shearing by Bob, who told us about the history of the farm whilst shearing a sheep:

Around 9pm our ride returned:

We hopped on board for our trip back to Queenstown, and the drive back to Cromwell.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Boxing Day morning dawned slightly less warm than the previous day. We set off for Wanaka fairly promptly in the morning, and after parking conveniently next to the i-site, we found only two of the town's complement of cafés was open, and both were full. After walking around a bit to confirm this, we returned to the first one we'd found and saw what must have been the mid-morning rush had lessened somewhat, and we were able to sit down inside and enjoy a coffee and an Afghan.

We perused the map obtained from the i-site and set off on a walk towards Waterfall Creek. This followed the lake shore around through Roy's Bay.

We walked round the track to find, as I had surmised, that the waterfalls would actually be found substantially further upstream. 

Waterfall Creek - where's the waterfall?

There was a slipway for boats, and a few people picnicking in the area. After admiring the scenery and trying unsuccessfully to photograph greenfinches: 

There's a greenfinch in here somewhere (actually there's three)

We turned around and retraced our footsteps back to town. on the way, a pair of biplanes flew over in formation:

When we got back to town we headed for The Trout pub for a spot of lunch, before going to Stuart Lansborough's Puzzling World to meet Nicola's uncle Bruce, who lives in nearby Luggate. We'd arranged to meet here, and had a coffee in the café before exploring the puzzles - which consist of optical illusions, holograms, and other things that mess with your head, like the perspective room, the tilted house and the wall of following faces. 

Afterwards Bruce took us up to the War Memorial, from where we were able to see all of Wanaka and various other points of interest including Mount Aspiring, Roy's Mount and part of the Cardrona Pass, which we were to drive through to get back to Queenstown in the evening.

Mount Aspiring


Christmas day dawned hot and bright. We made a leisurely start to the day, then headed into Queenstown for lunch. After finding a convenient parking spot, we wandered around a the town a bit, noting where the TSS Earnslaw is moored (this would be important on Boxing Day) and seeing folk down on the beach dressed as santa:

We then headed for our Christmas lunch at Tatler, where traditional turkey and Christmas pudding was on offer. In the 31º heat we decided against that - fortunately there were more climate-friendly options on the menu.

We took a walk through the Botanical Gardens in Queenstown, where there were all kinds of birds sunbathing:

...before heading back to our accommodation, and escaping the heat. In the evening we sat outside, drinking wine in the evening sunshine.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


We drove along State Highway 6 almost back to Queenstown, before turning off to arrive in the picturesque Arrowtown. Arrowtown was a town built on gold, discovered in 1862, but since then has remained and is now a popular holiday spot. The town has retained a lot of the old buildings, suitably restored, and is full of shops selling stuff that people don't need, and cafés and restaurants.

We selected Café Mondo more or less at random, and had a perfectly acceptable lamb burger and pear & blue cheese salad. I washed mine down with a couple of cold Moas, which meant that Nicola had command of the car keys for the rest of the afternoon.

Sculpture in the café courtyard
There are a number of walks in and around Arrowtown and we may take the opportunity to do one of these later in the week. As it was, we started one, looking for a LOTR site, which may or may not have been here:

We'll have to check the locations book when we get home to find out what was filmed here.

After a quick paddle through the river, and an exploration of the shops, we then headed back along SH6, also known as the Gibbston Highway (as it passes through the Gibbston Valley), where we stopped at the imaginatively-named Gibbston Valley Winery. We tasted some of their wines, including a notable Le Fou Riesling. They also make their own cheeses on the premises, so we went and tasted them in the shop next door as well. 

Further along the Gibbston Highway we stopped at a lookout over Roaring Meg, a tributary of the Kawarau river, which is now the site of a hydro-electric power station. As we were admiring the scenery, we noticed some people in the water: yes, it seems that the sport of "putting on a wetsuit and being swept downriver in a raging torrent" is a popular pastime in this area!

Mad kiwis


We set out to explore the sights of Cromwell in the morning. This, it turns out, is not a time-consuming activity. The notable feature is an area called Cromwell Old Town; this is a series of buildings from the old town centre, which were rescued and rebuilt on higher ground, when the town was flooded and Lake Dunstan created with the building of the Clyde Dam, built across the confluence of the rivers Clutha and Kawarau in the 1990s.

Cromwell Old Town
We stopped for a coffee in the café - indoors as it was sweltering outside - then walked back round the other side of town. And, er, that's about it. There's a small retail mall opposite our digs, and the aforementioned New World. We decided to seek out some lunch in Arrowtown.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Nicola finished work on Thursday, and I knocked off at around 3pm on Friday. We are officially on holiday! Back to work on Monday 7th January.

The weather in Wellington was a bit murky on Sunday morning, but soon brightened up into what looked like a promising day. However, around 1:00 pm the low cloud combined with a sea fog and covered the Miramar peninsula. "Sod this" I said, "let's get down to the airport and see where the first plane takes us!" So we quickly chucked a load of clothes into a bag, and tootled down to the airport (which is still within walking distance).

Actually, that's not true. We did tootle down to the airport after lunch, but as part of a carefully-laid strategy that had been planned weeks, nay months beforehand. Our flight to Queenstown departed at 2:50, and, unlike some of the weaker-willed pilots/airlines, we managed to get away as flights to Nelson and Auckland were being cancelled around us. We departed fog-bound Wellington and wound up in Queenstown an hour and a half later, passing some beautiful scenery on the way. remind me to take my camera on board when we fly back. We quickly picked up our suitcase, our pre-arranged hire car, and found our way to Cromwell where our accommodation in the Colonial Manor awaited us. Duly welcomed and unpacked, we undertook the first order of business - a trip to New World to stock up on essentials for breakfast, chups'n'dups, and beer (for the fridge - fridges feel unwanted and unloved if they don't have beer in them).

Now we're off to explore what Cromwell can offer in the way of budget dining. Budget because we have booked some rather un-budget eateries for later in the week, which I shall tell you all about at the time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Carols

Nicola has been working hard over the last couple of months whipping her Christmas Choir into shape. The choir consists of volunteers from the Treasury and other government departments, and she has put together a medley of songs, ancient and modern, for them to perform.

I went along this lunchtime with my camera, and captured some of their performance on video. The sound quality isn't brilliant, and you can hear the occasional noise from the sliding doors (as well as see passers-by go and get their lunch at the Wishbone next door!), but generally you can see and hear what's going on. Enjoy!

Deck The Halls

Joy To The World

Solemn Medley

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gangnam Style

That time of year has  come around again - the annual "Pimp Your Pod" competition. Last year we took the prize with our famous Beery Christmas beer tree. Since then, our team has divided - Nelish is now leading the Portfolio Reporting team, whilst I work for Brent in the Portfolio Analytics team. So this year, we decided to pimp our pod...

Gangnam style!

We obtained some pictures of Psy from the internet (you may have heard of it) and decorated our pod accordingly:

We faced stiff competition from the Risk Information team, who had put together a decoration based on the transition of National Bank into ANZ, which has been a big thing here in New Zealand over the past two years. For those of you who don't know, ANZ bought the National Bank from Lloyds in 2003. They have now decided to merge the two banks under one brand, the ANZ brand. This has caused wailing and gnashing of teeth, mostly by a media-induced hype of "foreign ownership" which conveniently ignores the fact that (a) all the other big New Zealand banks are owned by Australian banks, (b) that National Bank was bought 9 years ago, and (c) Lloyds Bank, the previous owner, was also a foreign bank. Hey ho.

Some other teams also put up their decorations, including the Snoopy Christmas, and the Beach Bach Party;

All the rest went with a basic "Christmas" theme which we felt was a bit boring.

We also did the Gangnam Style dance to the song, to impress the judges, dressing (as close as we could) to Psy's Gangnam Style - this involved white shirts, bow ties, and black trousers. I'm not sure if this improved or worsened our score...particularly as Brent didn't seem to know the moves, and Shane only learnt them at lunchtime. Fortunately Cliff and myself were at the front, so hopefully covered up their bad dancing.

The judges went off into a huddle, and then came out with the result of their deliberations: we came second, winning $50, and the Risk Information team came first, winning $100.

On Thursday, we will have a "final of finals" between all the winners on all floors in Risk with the Chief Risk Officer as the final adjudicator. There is an as-yet unspecified prize for this also, so we may yet win...if our team members can improve their dancing skills!