Sunday, March 2, 2014

South is at the top

Despite the hideously early start (5.15am alarm but actually a 4.15am wake-up - nothing cool and laid-back about my pre-travel excitement) it's great to be on the road again. Well, in the air, flying the length of the country to gorgeous Queenstown. It's always a joy to be back amongst South Island scenery, all bare brown hills and rocky peaks, after all that lush green lumpy stuff up north. This is where I really feel at home. But surely no-one can land at Queenstown, wheeling in above the turquoise lake beside the so perfectly-named Remarkables, and not feel a thrill? Or at least relief that the roller-coaster ride is over. (Bit bumpy this morning.)

Turquoise lake? the old hands will be querying. Yes, Wakatipu's like Pukaki right now, since the big landslide up in the Dart Valley a month or so ago, which is adding rock flour to the water. It's really noticeable up at the Glenorchy end, and I'll be getting a closer look at that in a few days' time once I've cycled there. Oh yes, that's why I'm here: to spend three days pedalling around the far shore of the lake, in the tender hands of Revolution Tours, who I'm assured will be taking good care of me. Well, of course! Paradise is on the itinerary. Literally. (Watch this space.)

But today is all about Queenstown: clear, clear water, ducks and gulls, yellowing poplars and willows, schist and pebbles, green and gold. And lots of people, walking, cycling, jogging, drinking coffee and wine, watching an African skiffle band playing in the Mall while two toddlers tangoed together. And it's also, this evening, about some rain, sadly, with the TSS Earnslaw - 100 years old, year before last - doughtily steaming off across the lake to disappear into the murk. It's tempting to hole up in my lovely Alpine Suite at the St Moritz, with its Gordon Walters koru painting above the soft, warm bed, and its balcony views over lake and mountains. But the Dux de Lux* brew pub is out there with its ginger beer; and Josh Emett's Rata, which I once reviewed without having even been inside. Duty calls...
* Gone! Concentrating instead on their Christchurch operation! Tragic. But ah! Rata! Fat, juicy, just-in-season Bluff oysters, yum! Stewart Island crayfish risotto! They forgot my salad, but gave me an extra glass of Drumsara rose in compensation. And then the server recommend the apple dessert with the PEANUT BUTTER ICE CREAM. Case closed. (This May be the Drumsara speaking. But I think not.)

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