Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sunshine, snow and Southern Man

The day began with the novelty of having to sit in the car waiting for the windscreen to defog and unfreeze - it's been a while since I've had to do that. But what followed had me smiling with pleasure start to finish. I drove through Invercargill during the rush hour - ie the equivalent of Auckland at, say, 3am - and out onto the open road along Route 6 towards Queenstown. 
Yes, yes, of course it's State Highway 6 - but when I got to Lumsden I was so charmed by the Route 6 Café there with its genuine US diner booths and the shiny red 1955 Dodge Kingsway taking pride of place inside - not to mention the standard of its eggs benny - that I can't call it SH6 any more.
Lumsden is a cute little place, proud of its history (sadly not proud - or populous - enough to have its museum manned) and rewards a bit of a wander. It's school holidays and let-loose kids were enjoying the old railway engine by the former station, and the stocks outside the town jail. "Off with his head!" said the boy with the cricket bat. 
Venture Southland sent me to Kingston, at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu to see a man about an app - and though it's surrounded by snow-capped mountains and has killer views up the lake, they really can't blame me for taking the opportunity to nip over the boundary into Otago to visit Queenstown in its winter incarnation - a first for me despite having been there about eight times. 

I whipped up the Skyline gondola, sharing it with a girl from Sydney who had just done the paraglide down from Bob's Peak. She was going back up to reunite with her boyfriend, who claimed that it was too expensive for them both to do it - but she saw through him. "He doesn't like heights. I'll be surprised if he's even out on the terrace." I went there: this is the view -
And then I drove back down the lake as the afternoon wore on, and discovered at about 4pm that I had been wrong in thinking that the Southland sun is so low this time of year that the photographer's Golden Hour lasted all day - because the real Golden Hour began, tinting the snow and back-lighting the sheep, and it was gorgeous.
The day finished at Mossburn, a little town surrounded by farming country that most people in a rush to get to Milford Sound just flit through. Not me. I'm staying across the road from the sturdy brick Railway Hotel - no trains any more, but plenty of Red Band gumboots outside the door, and equivalent Southern Men in the bar. Each had a big bottle of Speights in front of him, and they talked about shearing and weather and hunting, liberally sprinkling the f-word as they chatted. Yet not so very macho: one of them had several unselfconscious goes at grabbing a soft toy with The Claw.

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