Day 149: Wet

Wed 9th January 2013

View over to CromwellThe day starts bright enough as we head off to Queenstown and our first stop is Cromwell, a former gold-mining town built on the junction of two rivers at the head of Lake Dunstan. We stop at the lookout across the river from town to take in the “dramatic gorges” to quote the guide book. The sign explains that above the town the result of a landslide can still be seen, and it can. Cromwell has a historical centre but we decide we have seen enough of this from the lookout, so keep heading on.

Floating down the river - no thanksEach day as we drive there are many distinctive brown signs to various tourist attractions and it is often a hard call whether to stop or not, in order to get to our destination at a reasonable time. It was an easy decision to stop at one of them signposted Roaring Meg as it is right by the road and it was immediately apparent that the views are worthy of a photo or two. We watch an adventurous group drift by with the current on boogie boards and I am not tempted.

Lake Hayes in the rainAs we reach Lake Hayes, our lunch spot, it is evident that the view will not match the photo in the guide book which shows snow covered mountains reflected in the water. The sky is grey and raindrops begin to fall on the windscreen as we park up ready for a walk before lunch. Undeterred, we don our raincoats and set off along the lake shore but the rain has the last laugh and we are soaked by the time we return to the van and tuck in to our soup and pate on toast to warm up. Even worse, our waterproof jackets seem to have lost some of their waterproofness. This weather continues the rest of the way to Queenstown.

Queenstown and still rainingThe campsite we have chosen in Queenstown is our most expensive yet and the most cramped, but that is the price you pay for being within 10 minutes walk of the centre of town. We have some spare time before we need to head into town so we try and get ahead by booking our helicopter ride over Mount Cook from the Franz Josef glacier where we will be in a few days time. Whilst in Queenstown, we want to do a day trip to the Milford Sound fjord, but we left it too late to book a trip there for tomorrow and so have had to juggle our itinerary to fit it in the following day. However, we have managed to book a Lord of The Rings scenic tour (visiting some of the locations used in the film) for tomorrow instead and are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather is better for the next few days for these two organised trips.

Gondolas going up into the cloudsMeanwhile the weather outside is worsening and along with the pouring rain the thunder starts rumbling. This does not bode well for Dave’s jet-powered boat ride down the Shotover river speeding past the canyon walls which is booked for 4pm. From their website we note that earlier trips have been cancelled, so he phones to check but is told to turn up at the meeting point in town “just in case”. Surprise, it is cancelled! With it raining hard still, we are not inspired to try and do anything else, not even the gondola ride up with luge trips back down the hill on a purpose built track. The clouds have come down over the mountain tops and any views will be minimal.

Instead, we retire to the campervan and chill so I am actually typing this on the day rather than two days in arrears! As Dave points out I will be grateful as we have a long day on Friday to Milford Sound which is a 13 hours round trip. It is a 5 hour drive each way, including photo stops and short walks on the way as well as the amazing scenery, apparently.We did not think we could justify flying to Milford Sound, which would be less than an hour each way as it is twice the price.

As the rain continues we are glad to eat in the van to avoid braving even the 10 minute walk into town to find a restaurant. We are actually enjoying cooking after such a long break and can factor in fruit and vegetables which are often missing from restaurant menus. With the jet boat trip, we had expected to be wet today – and we were, just not the way that we had planned.

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