Gondola ride up to Bob's Peak, sailing across Lake Wakatipu and then onward to Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo
12.04.2013 - 15.04.2013 17 °C
Queenstown is proud of its "Global Adventure Capital" billing but I did manage to find a couple of less adrenaline fuelled things to do while I was there. For starters there is the 2,395 feet (730 metre) long and 1,590 feet (460 metre) high Gondola ride up to Bob's Peak with terrific views of Queenstown, Lake Watatipu and the surrounding mountains. Needless to say this being New Zealand (and Queenstown especially) you can also skydive and bungy jump (and a lot more besides) but I decided not surprisingly for those who know me to give these a miss!
Lake Watatipu at 52 miles (84 kilometres) is the second longest in New Zealand with Queenstown situated on the north shore of a s-bend about half way down its length. In the past the lake was the primary means of transport with 4 steamers plying for trade but today only the TSS Earnslaw (built in Dunedin in 1912 and transported in pieces overland) remains. She sails several times a day loaded with tourists on its popular 7 mile (11 kilometre) trip over to Walter Peak on the south side of the lake.
Having spent 5 nights in Queenstown it was time to make our way back north towards Christchurch overnighting in Lake Tekapo. Before we got there we passed through Twizel (a "temporary" town built for construction workers in 1968 with diggers on display on the way in - a bit bland!) but then stopped at Lake Pukaki on what turned out to be a perfect weather (and it apparently doesn't happen often) to see Mount Cook. The conditions were so good I tried to sign up for a "Grand Traverse" Flight in a small plane from one coast of South Island to the other over Mount Cook (Maori name is "Aoraki") but unfortunately by the time we reached the airstrip a quite serious weather front had arrived and the flight was called off.
We then carried on to Lake Tekapo where we were to stay overnight which like Lake Pukaki also has a milky turquoise colour created by the glacial rock sediment that feeds into both lakes. Here there was the small stone Church of the Good Shepherd built in 1935 which has an awesome view of the lake behind its alter which makes it a very popular (and therefore exceptionally expensive!) venue for weddings. Lake Tekapo is also well known for stargazing from the observatories on top of adjacent Mount John but by then I was feeling too tired and cold for the climb up to the summit.
The final leg of our trip back to Christchurch was across the endless Plains of Canterbury, the largest expanse of flat lands in New Zealand. Not too much to report here apart from the clever irrigation machinery on wheels that seemed to be ready to walk across nearly every field. Our final stop was at the factory shop at the "Cookie Time" Cookie Factory on the outskirts of Christchurch to try some of their chocolate chip biscuits which seem to have become almost cultural icon in New Zealand since it was opened in 1983.