The Big Trip (Southern Leg) Day 2: Central Otago and the Lakes

We had a slow start the next morning (thank goodness!), while we organised vehicles. Mum had offered Father-Outlaw her car for the day, rather than having to take the campervan everywhere, but first we had to wait for it to be returned by someone who’d borrowed it the day before or something (it was all very complicated, and I never quite figured out exactly why they had it). That gave us time to dig our old family tent out from the back of the garage and see if I could remember putting it up.

The memory-enhancing power of smell is amazing: it’s probably more than 20 years since I last put that tent up, and before we took it out I had only a vague memory of how it went together. But when I opened the bag, the smell of the canvas took me straight back to family holidays by the river, and I quickly remembered which bit went where. Or at least I would have, if all the bits were actually there… there was a distinct shortage of tent-pegs and guy ropes in the bag. The guy ropes weren’t such a problem, because it’s a free-standing tent and only needs ropes in high winds, but tent pegs to secure the groundsheet are kind of essential (because the tension in the groundsheet is what keeps all the poles correctly tensioned, which is what keeps it standing up without ropes). This is when having a father with a sports shop comes in handy: I raced down into town and paid a quick visit to Dad in the shop to beg a few pegs (it also helps having a very understanding father who isn’t insulted by the fact I was only visiting to ask for something!).

By the time I got back and had a practice run at putting up and taking down the tent, Mum’s car had arrived back, so we (the Outlaws, MrPloppy and I) set off for Wanaka.

The Outlaws at Lake Wanaka

We had lunch in Wanaka (and I released Elizabeth and Philip: The Untold Story in the cafe), and then we headed over the Crown Range to Arrowtown. Mother-Outlaw hates heights, so she kept her hands over her eyes the whole way down the Arrowtown side of the mountain (the Crown Range road is the highest road in New Zealand, and on the Arrowtown side of the range zig-zags a long way down a very very steep mountain), but the rest of us enjoyed the fantastic view (and I enjoyed the fact that it was a sealed road – last time I went over the Crown Range, many many years ago, it was just a gravel road, which was incredibly scary!!!)

The view from the rest area at the highest point of the road. Queenstown and Lake Wakitipu are just visible in the distance.

The beginning of the road down the mountain – where the road goes out of sight around the corner is where it starts getting interestingly steep.

The autumn colours in Arrowtown can be stunning, but unfortunately we were there about a week too early – a lot of the trees were turning, and the colours were pretty, but not as spectacular as I know they can be. Still, we had a nice wander through the town (which is an old gold-mining town, and which has been preserved pretty much as it was in the 1880s, except that all the shops are full of tourist stuff now – click on the link for the book I released below to see a photo), and bought a few goodies from the old-fashioned sweet shop. I released Celebrations at the base of a lamp-post, and when we came back along the street we saw it being picked up. No journal entry yet, but I live in hope.

It had been a pretty grey day, and by the time we got to Queenstown it had started to rain, so we only had a quick look at the lake and then went and found a cafe for afternoon tea before heading back to Alexandra. Yet again, it was strange seeing the country through strangers’ eyes. I’ve spent so much time in Queenstown that I don’t notice the spectacular scenery any more – I just get irritated by the crowds of “loopies” (the insulting local slang for tourists) and by the blatant commercialisation of the town. But the Outlaws were oohing and ahhing over the lake, and the mountains (even though the tops of the Remarkables were lost in the clouds), and even liked looking in the souvineer shops. I think every New Zealander should be forced to spend some time every few years travelling around with visitors to get a new appreciation of just what a fantastic country we have the priviledge of living in.

Back to Alexandra that night, to make the most of another night in a real bed before the camping part of our holiday.

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