Day 11: Road to Queenstown

Words by Andy | Photos by Chris

Day 11: Road to Queenstown

An unexpectedly longer day on the road today, deciding to forfeit our night in Makarora and head straight to Queenstown due to a wee gout flare up that has impacted by ability to walk. Lots of fluids and some anti inflammatories leave me hopeful we’ll be able to stick to our plans while we’re here, with an extra day’s buffer as a rest day tomorrow. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t appreciate the beautiful scenery along the way today, though, as we headed south from Fox Glacier.

The forest is like a dense jungle as you travel further south, ferns and trees packed so tightly it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to walk through with any ease. At other points, lichen hangs from the rocky roadside like golden beards, and shrubbery lines the roadway, its foliage like coral as it sits in front of the taller scrub behind it.

Driving is a little bit slower here as well, particularly where the single lane bridges are concerned, but every now and then you spot a lookout that holds it’s own surprises. In this case it was a beach on the Tasman Sea coastline.

The South Island is as rugged in its beauty as the North Island is intriguing with its hillocky terrain and geothermal sites. No geothermal activity to be seen on the South Island, but taking its place are spectacular mountain ranges, lakes and clear blue streams. We were definitely blessed with a clear day yesterday in Fox Glacier, and equally as blessed with the wintery conditions today, as we watched low lying clouds dance through the mountain ranges. As with any of the scenery you absorb here, it pays to slow down and take in everything in front of you. Looking into the distance, it’s not unusual to spot waterfalls in the face of the mountains, their rivulets far too high to get to, their matter-of-fact cascading elegance easy to miss if you move too quickly.

Lake Wānaka and its neighbour, Lake Hawea site like broad harbours encircled by the mountain ranges. Waves lap their shores and the water looks cold and choppy in the breezy conditions, set against the arid gold and brown mountain landscape at the altitude we had now reached.

We also found the wind we missed in Wellington. It’s in Wānaka, and whipped Chris lunch away and onto the park’s grassy floor.

There’s a noticeable drop in temperature and we’re both glad we saved our winter woollies for this leg of the trip. Descending into Queenstown is a colourful affair, with the spectacle of deciduous trees changing colour as Autumn takes hold. Poplars are all around, giving the region a bit of a familiar feel. We could just have easily been driving into Canberra at one point with the hilly surrounds, grazing fields and coloured leaves falling like glitter to the ground. Some of the surrounding peaks are starting to gather snow, but not enough for snow fights at this point. Gammy foot or not, neither of us are hiking to those heights!

We’re all checked in, Chris even went out and bought me a pair of sandals to make walking a bit easier while I elevated the offending foot. Time for dinner, and a well deserved rest for today’s driver.

Tomorrow we'll have a wee rest. Maybe.

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