Wednesday 17 February 2016

NZ Roadtrip Queenstown: rain, rabbits and financial ruin

In the spirit of the English philosophy about weather, today we paid for the sunshine we've had so far, with low cloud and even some rain. Despite that, three of us took the obligatory sail across the lake in the cute though smoke-belching TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak station for morning tea in the homestead (scones and tea) and a demonstration of sheepdog skills and shearing in the woolshed. Some things are non-negotiable. This is New Zealand, after all.
Bravely, we made a run for (literal) Paradise but only got as far as Glenorchy at the head of the lake before the weather closed in, so what with the dull sky, the hair in someone's lunch there and the failure of the view from Bob's Bluff to live up to hype, it was a bit disappointing. We went to watch people step into the void at AJ Hackett's bungy operation over the Kawarau River - judging by the size and architectural novelty of the building, there's a lot of money in "Throwing people off bridges since 1988". The Poms, to their only moderate disappointment - it costs $145 each - weren't able to try the other iconic adventure activity, the Shotover Jetboat ride. Unexpectedly, they halted operations soon after we got there because there was too much water for the jetboats, which famously (and invented here in NZ I'll have you know) need a draught of only 4 inches.
We stayed at a very nice Airbnb outside town, tucked away down a country road on the way to Arrowtown. Kristen was almost exhaustingly chatty and friendly, welcoming us into her children's bedrooms upstairs which were perfectly comfortable and looked out over the tennis court and lots of rabbits. "Don't be startled if you hear a shot," we were told. She recommended a restaurant in Arrowtown, so we foolishly didn't get to sample the famous Chef's Choice at Amisfield, which I shall live to regret (especially when I have to write about it without ever having tasted it). Instead, we went to The Stables - in a typical Arrowtown old main street building, upstairs, lots of wood and stone, friendly fellow diners, and the cheeriest waitress ever. Good food, too, so really there's no cause for complaint.
The museum is well done there - extensive, thorough, interesting, museum guilt guaranteed - and, a novelty for this bit of the blog, giving a sympathetic view of the Chinese. Today they are everyone's (= my) unfavourite tourists because of their selfish and unpleasant (and sometimes dangerous) behaviour; but back in the goldrush days, they worked hard in great discomfort, were harshly discriminated against, and led tough lives, sending most of their earnings back home. Oh for a happy medium...

Arrowtown's Dorothy Brown's cinema is a lovely place: boutique, cosy, arty, with a fireplace, a bar and a bookshop. Very civilised, and named after a local character who may - or may not - have run an opium den. We saw The Big Short: I'm blaming the wine for my not following the financial intricacies of the plot.

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