After Yesterday’s wet weather, today was fine, and a t times, even sunny. Having rented a car I was able to drive over the rather spectacular Crown Range to Wānaka with my friend Michael. We stopped in many places to take photographs or just to appreciate the local scenery.
For a distance where the road climbs up the Crown Range, there are a series of switchback turns, and at each one, there is a spectacular view back across the Shotover River valley towards Queenstown. It looks like they have had plenty of rain here as everything is very green and lush.
Our plan was to drive to Wānaka, on Lake Wānaka, about an hour’s drive from Queenstown. About halfway through the journey, we passed the historic town of Cardona. This settlement began in the 1860s as hundreds of prospectors flocked to the area chasing the miner’s dream of finding gold. Word of gold in these hills quickly travelled and within three years a prosperous settlement had developed out of nothing.
The old Cardrona Hotel sits right on the side of the road. Established in 1863, it is one of New Zealand’s oldest hotels, and is one of only two remaining buildings from the Cardrona Valley gold rush era. During this period the hotel – one of four in the township – then offered accommodation, livery services and an accommodation stop for itinerant travellers. The historic hotel facade is representative of this now vanished town and is a key part of New Zealand’s history.
We reached Wanaka in time for a late morning coffee and then went to find the famed ‘Wanaka Tree’. It is perhaps New Zealand’s most photographed tree — and for good reason. Its delicately curved trunk seemingly grows directly out of the waters of Lake Wanaka making it appear to be floating on the surface. of the water. It is made more impressive becaue of the backdrop of the breathtaking Southern Alps.
This origin of this tree is a very interesting story. Over eighty years ago, a fence was built along the shore of Lake Wanaka, and it included a post fashioned from the stout branch of a nearby willow tree. Eventually the fencepost took root in the sandy lake soil and sprouted new branches as a new tree.
Until recently, the tree was a little larger, but some local vandal cut off one of the branches and the tree is now only about half its original size.
We stayed in Wanaka for lunch and then drove back on the same route on which we came. I had noticed a few cars stoped at a place along the road so we decided to pull over and see what the attraction was. We found a fence completely covered in bras of all sizes and colours. I guess that people wanted to keep abreast of the local scenery. This massed hanging of items on fences seems to be some sort of New Zealand tradition. In other places, I have seen fences strung with shoes and boots.
We were back in Queenstown by 2.30 pm and returned our car. I’ve now checked into the hotel from which our tour is starting and met my room mate. His name is Robert and he seems to be a very personable fellow from Adelaide. I think that I may have also met a couple of Michael’s other photography guests and I’ll looking out for them over a drink or dinner later in the evening.
I finished off my afternoon with a walk through the botanical gardens. For a small town they, are very well maintained. One of the ‘stand-out’ attractions was a memorial to Robert Falcon Scott, the British Antarctic Explorer who did some of his training and preparation for his treck across Antarctica in this area.
Tomorrow, we will be bused down to the port of Bluff and our ship will sail at 8.00 pm to our first Sub Antarctic Island – The Snares. I’ll be trying to upload posts to my blog by satellite phone so this will probably be the last one with photos and images for the next two weeks.