Wilmont Pass, New Zealand
Apologies’ but it seems Travelpod can not locate Doubtful Sound on its map so I have entered Wilmont Pass some 50 km inland but you get the idea.
Day 9 – Doubtful Sound/ Wilmont Pass/ Manapouri to Queenstown
On arriving at the Manapouri wharf we pick up our car from the overnight car park, set the Navman and head to Queenstown. It’s another sunny day and the temp is sneaking up to 8 degrees as we roll into Mossburn the deer capital of NZ,. We stop for lunch at Bracken Hall a terrific kiwi gift shop, serving homemade scones, venison pies and a huge range of quality gifts. Debi settles for a venison pie and I choose a chicken pie, they were delicious.
We cross rolling tussock land and as we approach Lake Wakatipu we pass through Kingston the home to the classic steam train, the Kingston Flyer. Following the lake north we edge along the Remarkable Mountain Range and are soon entering the adventure capital, Queenstown. Trying to locate our hotel my Navman sends me on another wild goose chase putting me into a continual loop through the city square, so I follow my nose and find it one block straight ahead.
We check in for two nights and our walk-in rate is $70 per night cheaper than the best rate advertised on the Internet (good score). The room is ‘sweet-as’ and we have another great lakeside view. We find the ‘isite’ and book two of Queenstown’s must do’s’, no not a bungee jump but a Shotover Jetboat ride and a trip to the Skyline Restaurant and Maori Cultural Show via the Gondola. It was here that we discovered that the Haast Pass, the only road from Central Otago to the West Coast was closed and may not reopen till Friday. Another change of plans which we will contemplate over the following days!
Just across the road from our hotel was the Queenstown Casino and it had a strong force field drawing Debi inside. We stayed for half an hour then hit the shops and there was certainly no shortage of them. While exploring we looked for a restaurant for dinner and there was no shortage of then either (hey this is Queenstown).
Back in our room we sat on the balcony overlooking the lake and demolished some of our duty free grog (yes we still have plenty left) then headed out for a nice dinner. I was after the famous Fergburger but we settled on Vietnamese looking for something light. Just next door was the -5 Degree Ice Bar but it was full of Japanese tourists queuing up well outside the door…………no thanks, so we kept walking and returned to our hotel for an early night.
Day 10 – Free day in Queenstown
Up early this morning to catch a bus to the Shotover River, it is yet another sunny day but the temp is a cool 3 degrees. Before boarding the girl at the ticket counter advises us to rug up as it is even colder on the river and convinces me to by a beanie. Debi already bought a headband the day before and she also had a scarf and gloves so she was right.
At the river we are given spray jackets and a life-jacket before jumping into the jet boat. No cameras allowed so you won’t see any of the action. Underway we do a couple of quick spins before heading under the Shotover Bridge and up the narrow rock lined gorge. The trip was well worth it and was certainly very cold and very fast as we seemed to miss the rocks by millimetres and did death defying 360 degree turns where you would not think it possible. Some 20 minutes later we were disembarking having just done one of the most exhilarating rides ever.
Next port of call was Arrowtown an old gold mining settlement twenty minutes north of Queenstown. We wandered through the museum and the historic main street stopping for morning tea at the bakery, famous for its pies. After visiting the Chinese settlement we lobbed into a Hotel to try their Seafood Chowder, it didn’t’t disappoint, however Debi didn’t think it measured up to the one we had in Timaru.
After browsing a few more shops we headed back to Queenstown and strolled along the wharf where we found a nice little restaurant that had outside couches under gas heaters with nice cosy wool rugs to keep us warm. We ordered a couple of Australian Reds as we are still to find a nice NZ red, and discussed our alternatives should the Haast Pass, not let us pass!!
After that very pleasant interlude we headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for our Gondola ride up the mountain. We hoofed it up the steps to the bottom of the ride and boarded for a very steep climb. The view over Queenstown was amazing. On arriving we were ushered to the Cultural Show where I was elected Chief and had to be harassed by the token warrior before we were allowed to enter. Inside, I found the show entertaining and Debi enjoyed it more so and even learned to do a Poi Dance.
Next was dinner and what a mistake that was. The Skyline Restaurant probably seated 500 and 450 of the guests were Japanese tourists. If you have ever seen what Japanese do to a smorgasbord it is not pretty. Hint, never go to this restaurant if you are in Queenstown, there are plenty of much better establishments in town.