Monday 5 July 2021

Two extremes

 With thanks to Destination Queenstown for this famil

Last day in Queenstown, alas, but it began splendidly, with a real show-stopper sunrise that just got better and better. Today was all about frightening ourselves fifty years too late. Way back in 1980, on our grand top-to-bottom tour of Newzild, we drove our Cortina along the Skippers Canyon road, marvelling at such features en route as the Blue Slip, which is exactly as it sounds - the unsealed road cutting across a hillside of unstable schist. We breezed through (apart from cracking the sump on a rock, that is).

Today, going with Nomad Safaris in a 4WD Land Cruiser driven by Peter who's done the trip about a hundred times, we looked at that still-unsealed narrow road with its deep ruts, the drop-offs and overhangs, the tight bends, and shook our heads at how badly it could have turned out for us back then.

With Peter, though, it was comfortable, educational and spectacular. There were movie-worthy stories (like the boys rescuing their dog at Maori Point scoring a big find of gold and heading home off-road to avoid discovery; and about the struggle to build the road itself), and lots of stops to marvel at the scenery and peer down cliffs at the river so far below. I really enjoyed the icicle encounters - huge, they were, whole swathes of them hanging beside the road.

At the end, at Skippers where there's just a reconstructed school house and a little hut remaining of the settlement (there used to be three towns along the canyon, one of them the first in the country to have mains electricity), we had drinks and bikkies in the snow. Inside the classroom, which is, and was then, unheated, we gasped at the conditions that they lived in back in those 1860s gold rush days. In the old photos on the walls, though, they were all dressed so neatly.

We had a go at gold-panning down in the river, but saw only the tiniest speck of colour (I was more successful long ago on the West Coast, straining my hard-won flakes into my handkerchief - and then, later, forgetting, and blowing my nose on it). It was a good outing, and really interesting. Last night, when I crossed the Edith Cavell bridge, I tried to remember who she was and why her name was so familiar - Peter told us today as we went over it that she was a wonderful British nurse in WWI who was executed by the Germans, but is celebrated by memorials all around the world. Including a mountain in Jasper National Park in Alberta. Which I've seen.

The only disappointment about the Nomad Safaris trip was that, because of the snow and the possible need to fit chains, we were in the Land Cruiser and not their amazing Tesla Model X that owner David drove us back to the hotel in. That windscreen! The seats! The doors! The info screen! It would be an incongruously but fabulously glamorous way to explore Skippers. Next time?


the queen said...

Every photo is amazing.

TravelSkite said...

Thanks! Pretty hard to take a duff one in Queenstown, to be honest.


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