Queenstown, New Zealand (7th Mar 2008)
Fox Glacier to Queenstown
Driver: KaraDistance Travelled: 400.6 Km / 249.0 Miles
Accumulative Distance: 995.9 Km / 619.0 Miles
We both woke up feeling absolutely awful, still full of cold and sore throats to boot, but we knew we had a very long drive to do today so we had to get up and get on the road and just deal with it as were looking at covering about 350 kilometres. Back on the road and we still had some great scenery including the mountains and rolling valleys that had been carved over the centuries by Franz Josef and Fox Glacier; however shortly after setting off we were surrounded by dense forests which set the scene for the rest of the day as it was nearly all forest we drove through which was right up to the sides of the road and it only broke briefly for rivers, creeks and waterfalls.Probably due to heavy dense forest and the fact that were travelling through remote area, we, for the third day, were without the radio so we had to think of something that would keep us entertained.We were going to play count the campervans but since they were the only other things on the road and in the thousands, we gave that idea a miss instead opting to play count the road kill.Although bit morbid there wasn't much else to do and because of forests not much else to see.In our first hour of counting we managed rack up 15 sets of mangled bodies and intestines, however after an hour things soon got boring and a little bit upsetting for Kara so we had to make do with conversation...
We only made one short stop on our way to the state highway that would take us via Wanaka and into Queenstown; it was at the side of the road and the sign proclaimed "Roaring Billy Falls" 500 m on the right so we thought we would give a try.As with all the places we have stopped at the info sign at the start of trail gave an approximate walking for the return journey and since this one was only 20 minutes return we didn't mind getting out of the van and having a go. The short walk was through some lighter forest and was covered with information plaques about the local wildlife and plants one of which are told as water road kill we have been counting was, the larger the two things we had seen where possums and the smaller ones were stoats.After only about 5 minutes we reached a clearing in the trees from which we could see "Roaring Billy" and although it quite big and dropped into a river it was no more impressive than some of the others we had seen this simply fell from the mountainsides. It was however still worth getting out of the van for even if just to stretch our legs and had a quick break from the drive.Nothing much else happened until we reached Haast where we were confronted with a sign saying last petrol for 120 kilometres so we pulled in to fill up even though we still had half a tank of petrol remaining this was until Mark saw how much they were trying to charge for it at which point he span the van around and headed straight back on to the road.Usual over here in New Zealand the petrol has been costing $1.74 per litre but this particular place was trying to charge at $1.95 per litre which we decided was far too much, what a costly mistake this proved to be...
After driving around 100 kilometres of 120 kilometres our low fuel light turned on, in hindsight we should have seen this coming and now as we pulled into the next town that was offering petrol the price had soared to $2.20 per litre and now it wasn't the case of filling up or not filling up we had to, and to add insult to injury the minimum delivery was $25.00.To clerk behind the counter didn't even have the decency to wear a mask as she was robbing our money from us even Dick Turpin could manage that much. Gutted about $35.20 we had just spent we set off again heading for Wanaka which is where we were due to get on the Crown Point Road.Shortly after dinner we arrived into Wanaka where much to our delight the petrol bandits have gone and it was back down to the normal price this must have got Mark a bit too excited as he managed to not just fill the van up, he also managed to put in so much it was overflowing down the side of the van.
As we headed in to Wanaka it was quite obvious to see that this was not a normal day in what must normally be a small, quiet town and as we got closer to where we needed to be we'll found much to our disappointment that due to the "Royal Agricultural Fair" that was going on in town we wouldn't be able to get on to the Crown Point Road today.The Crown Point Road is what links Wanaka to Queenstown going the slightly longer way on New Zealand's highest road which is meant to be one of the nicest drives in the country hence why we were a bit upset that we wouldn't get go this way and instead would have to stick to the state highway.
The entire drive to Queenstown down the state highway was a bit weird and at some points it seemed like a cartoon where the background kept repeating itself and in this instance we were heading down a long straight road surrounded by fields of grapes with the occasional vineyard popping up every so often, everything just seemed the same for miles and miles.
We saw our first sign for Queenstown when we were around 20 kilometres away and it was for the infamous AJ Hackett bungee jumping company whose sign told us that one of their sites was just ahead so we decide to pull over and check it out to see if it was worth the money. The one we stopped at was the world's first commercial bungy site and strangely the whole area was full the old age pensioners. Making our way through the centre we got to the back of where the action happens along with all the granny's we stood and watched as a couple of people jumped head first towards the water over 50 metres below and although it looked quite fun, they were asking a small fortune for the privilege, something we both agreed we could maybe do without at least until we get to the north island were we'll have a better idea about our money situation.
When we finally, after 400 kilometres, arrived into Queenstown we couldn't believe our eyes after all the hype and stories we had heard were expecting a big, flashy, cosmopolitan city.What we found was a tiny Swiss style skiing village with a population of no more than a couple of 1000 people all based around one main street that had tourist booking offices, bars and cafes all neatly packed into a road that stretched for no more than 400 metres.It took us a few minutes to our heads straight as this was totally the opposite to what we had expected it to be.When we finally got parked up we headed to the main road to find out what there was to do and see here apart from the so called "adrenaline sports" and the answer is not much... so we end up spending most of the afternoon the Internet café charging up the camera and checking our email.
Having not eaten all day we did a spot of quick shopping, jumped back in the van and went on the hunt for a campsite. Since the town was so small parking anywhere in town itself was not really an option as we would stand out like a sore thumb and as it happened we already had a rough idea of where we should try and go thanks to Emily. The next big town along was Glenorchy and we knew that going this way we would be able to find somewhere to park up for night.After only about five or ten minutes we found a beauty of a spot right next to the Lake Wakatipu. We pulled up at the lake just before sunset and the views across to the mountains were spectacular and what made things even better was the fact that it was free to stay here (maybe)!The whole place was fantastic.As we set the van up for bed we thought we would give the radio another shot and managed to get the local station that broadcast the usual pop and rock.One thing we did however happened to notice after about 5 minutes of listening was in New Zealand they must not be too big and censorship as a broadcaster was wearing left, right and centre with his favourite word seeming to be " ******er".Our longest day so far was nearly over but not before one last crazy idea of Kara's; she had decided that since the water was good enough to drink it would surely be good enough to wash her greasy mop with.So off mark went thigh deep into the lake with numerous containers to fill which would be needed for our task.We hadn't really thought things through too much, as already Mark was shivering from hypothermia from being in the lake and Kara was also freezing cold and the water hadn't even touched her head yet. Mark took control the situation and made sure that all the shampoo and conditioner was rubbed in properly and then rinsed out.Although at the end of things we were both freezing and wet Kara thought it had all been well worth it to get her hair clean and now all we wanted to do was get in to the back of the van and into our bed.