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  • Day16

    Feb 6 - Heading to Queenstown

    February 6, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Nine of us were up early and ready to go at 7:30 a.m. Our hoped-for adventure of a helicopter ride over and a landing on the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers got scuttled by heavy, low cloud. Too bad - it would have been a cool experience.

    So, off we went for another adventure - the Haast River Safari. The trip there was full of more spectacular views, especially those of the Tasman Sea at Bruce Bay.

    We all climbed on the jet boat, donned our yellow life vests, and wondered what was in store. Lee, our driver, treated us to a trip along the Haast River which has forest-covered mountains on both sides, dotted with numerous waterfalls. He kept up, as we have come to expect of Kiwis, a steady banter about the river and his adventures driving on it. The trip concluded with a couple of spin outs. Lots of whoops and hollers for those!

    We continued our trip south. Linda kept us entertained with stories about adventurers who explored this part of NZ and opened it up for settlement. Every couple of minutes, there was another canyon or river. We passed the point where the two tectonic plates meet and have actually split the rock formations. New Zealand lies at the edge of both the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates. To the northeast of New Zealand, and underneath North Island, the Pacific Plate is moving towards, and being subducted below the Australian Plate. To the south of New Zealand, and underneath Fiordland, the two plates are also moving toward each other but here the Australian Plate is being subducted under the Pacific Plate.

    The landscape changed from dense forests and mountains to plains where sheep and cattle farming are done. We got into another wine area with vineyards climbing up the mountain sides. The area is also noted for its apricot and cherry harvests.

    Beautiful Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea with their emerald green waters enchanted us. Our eyes and minds are stuffed full of these glorious views.

    The landscape changed yet again - this time there was almost no vegetation on the upper slopes. We came to Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town in the Otago region. Gold was found in the Arrow River in 1862, and a township of 1,000 miners soon sprang up. It was initially named Fox's, based on William Fox's claim to have been first to find gold there, but was soon renamed Arrowtown. At the high point of the gold rush the population of Arrowtown rose to over 7,000 and it became the center of a larger municipality, which covered the new settlements of Macetown, Skippers Canyon and Bullendale (today only ghost towns). Today, the population is about 2,500 and it has many well-preserved buildings used by European and Chinese immigrants dating from the gold mining days of the town. We had a chance to explore the museum that captured the many aspects of the gold mining heyday of the town.

    From there, it was a short drive to our final destination of the day - Queenstown on beautiful Lake Wakatipu. This is where adventure seekers gravitate - here, you can enjoy kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, parasailing, paragliding, sky diving, mountain biking, tramping (aka hiking), jet boating, and bungee jumping. The world's first permanent commercial bungee site, the Kawarau Bridge Bungy at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge near Queenstown was opened by New Zealander, A J Hackett.

    Queenstown lies close to the centre of a small wine producing region, reputed to be the world's southernmost. The Two Paddocks vineyard is owned by internationally known local actor Sam Neill.

    The town is awash in tourists - there would be more if flights from China were still coming into New Zealand - they have been suspended due to the coronavirus. Fully one-quarter of all tourism business in New Zealand comes from China.

    Our hotel is modelled after ski lodges in Canada - mine has a couch and a huge TV. Still missing my bed buddy. I walked downtown and found the grocery store. I got a big salad, some fruit, milk and oooops, how did that Whittakers milk chocolate bar get in my bag??? I climbed back up Heart Attack Hill and dined Chez Hotel Room. It’s been a long day. Had a good video chat with Doug. He’s working his way through all of Auckland’s museums and getting a LOT of reading done.

    I have tomorrow to myself until 5:15 p.m. There is going to be some sleeping in to get the day started!
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