Our journey south and west from Cromwell was pretty uneventful; it’s a sad fact that we’re now so completely accustomed to the fantastic scenery that we take it for granted – worse than that, we actually expect it and have the temerity to complain to each other when the views are anything less than jaw-dropping.
First stop was Arrowtown where, after the daily routine of coffee and cake, we wandered through the picturesque high street and then took a turn around what remains (or has been recreated) of the dwellings of some of the 10,000 Chinese workers who arrived in the 1860s to work the new gold fields. With the prospect of picking up roughly ten times what they could hope to earn in their homeland most stayed for a few years before moving on or returning home. By all accounts those who stayed didn’t have much of a life and were given a pretty tough time by the European settlers who needed their labour but were fairly intolerant when it came to ‘foreigners’.
Queenstown is buzzing. Much bigger than we expected and packed to the rafters with horribly healthy looking ‘kids’ between the ages of 18 and 38 it’s easy to see why it’s regarded as a mecca for those who worship the great outdoors and appreciate a good party. After a wander through the beautiful botanic gardens, taking in the stunning backdrop of the Remarkables, we moved swiftly on ………… it must be an age thing.
Bit of a quiet day today. After breakfast and before getting underway we spent half an hour availing ourselves of the free Wi-Fi service kindly provided by the good citizens of Lawrence. They’re no fools …….by providing free Internet access to all comers they’ve guaranteed that every coach and data-starved tourist will pause for a few minutes in the town to check their e-mails and perhaps buy a bite of breakfast or lunch whilst they’re about it. Their cunning plan seemed to be working well whilst we were there.
Our route north took us through Alexandra which, according to our Rough Guide, sprang up during the 1862 gold rush and flourished for about four years before turning itself into a quiet, prosperous service town for the fruit growers of Central Otago – and believe me, there are a lot of them, with every imaginable variety of fruit being grown on the hundreds of estates that fill the valley floors. Whether by luck or good judgement we managed to miss all of the ‘tourist attractions’ to which the town lays claim, but we did enjoy our (now routine) mid-morning coffee and muffin whilst sitting in the sun and watching the world go by. It’s a nice place.
Today has been Waitangi Day which commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 between the UK and the ‘United Tribes of New Zealand’. In theory the treaty was supposed to protect the right of the Maori peoples, though there seems to be more than a hint of suspicion that it was just as much about keeping the French out of New Zealand – something for which we should all be grateful!
Our stopover tonight is at Cromwell, which sits on the banks of Lake Dunstan and has the distinction of being about as far from the sea as you can get in New Zealand. A bit like Banbury I suppose…….
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a general account of life in the Ewbank household…..