Sunday, February 14, 2016


Guess what? Summer’s arrived. Long, lazy days on the beach, watching cricket whilst drinking beer, all that sort of thing. Of course, this is mostly restricted to the weekends, except for those times when one of New Zealand’s multitudinous public holidays rolls around. A couple of weeks ago, it was Wellington Anniversary day, and we went off to watch The Black Caps hammer Pakistan at The Basin Reserve. This week just past is when New Zealand celebrates the document which underpins the nation, the Treaty of Waitangi, on Waitangi Day.

And what were we doing to celebrate? Well, we’d already flown south to Queenstown to rendezvous with Alison, who was on an extended holiday from the UK. We’d entertained her in Wellington the previous weekend, before putting her on the Interislander to explore the Queen Charlotte Track by herself.

We arrived in Queenstown by lunchtime, and after settling in to our digs at Amity Lodge (scary name much?) we went for an explore in the 30° heat. After a quick lunch at Pier 19, we went to the Minus 5° Ice Bar, ostensibly to cool off, but also to sample one of their many delicious cocktails, all based, unsurprisingly, on flavoured vodka from Absolut.

That's pretty cool
Alison arrived from Christchurch in the early evening, and we all headed back into town for dinner at Roaring Meg’s. We had ravioli and prawn salad to start, followed by salmon and steak. The chef seemed to have some difficulty understanding medium rare, and I decided not to send the second medium-cooked steak back, as I figured if he couldn’t get it right on the first two tries, he was unlikely to do so a third time. I think the waiter knew this as he scooted off and hid as soon as he served me. The salmon, though, I’m told, was excellent. The puddings were pretty good too.

We decided not to avail ourselves of the various night-time debauchery options available in Queenstown, and went up the hill to our room, and bed.

The following morning we rose early-ish, and walked into town to find some breakfast. We looked in at Patagonia but decided that we wanted something more breakfast-y. We looked at their range of gelati and frozen yoghurts, however, and marked their card for later in the day, before taking the recommendation of Alison’s guide book and going to Vudu. A fairly substantial special of the day included toast, spicy beans, eggs and chorizo, while the girls had something a little more ladylike. We then booked ourselves onto the Million Dollar Cruise, which fortunately costs $999,965 less than the price would suggest. We also took a look underwater at the Shotover Jet pier, where there is an underwater observatory. You can pay $1 to release some food into the lake, which keeps the population of brown and rainbow trout forever nearby.

A little before 11 o’clock we boarded the Million Dollar cruise boat, which took us out around the lake, whilst the captain pointed out local points of interest, some history from around the lake, and commentary on the wildlife.

Southern crested grebe
We weren’t hungry by the time the boat got back, so decided to defer lunch in favour of a walk through the around the headland that contains the Botanical Gardens, to an art gallery that the captain of the cruise had pointed out. What he had failed to point out was that it closed by 2pm on Sundays, as we arrived at 2:05. Bah! We walked back through the Botanical Gardens, interrupting various games of Frisbee golf that were being played on the course along the way. By this time we’d worked up a bit of an appetite, so we joined the continuous queue that forms outside Fergburger from about breakfast time onwards. Fergburger have cornered the market of tasty burgers in Queenstown to the point where it’s practically obligatory to try one, thus continuing to fuel the hype. That said, there wouldn’t be any hype if they weren’t serving up a superior class of burger. The Ferg double cheese did the job, alright.

Next on the agenda was the briefing for the activity we would be undertaking over the next three days - walking the Routeburn Track. This is held at the offices of the tour operator, Ultimate Hikes. they gave advice on what we could expect, the weather conditions, and what to take. We duly noted this and went downstairs to their conveniently-located shop to add to our equipment as necessary.

We went out in the evening, even though we weren't particularly hungry, then decided to get an early night before setting out at 6 o'clock the following morning.

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