The next day we drove on to Queenstown, another beautiful drive, with amazing views over lakes and mountains. We parked at the Top 10 Holiday Park in Queenstown which, wonder-of-wonders, had WiFi internet access available across the whole site for a not unreasonable fee (NZ$15 for 24 hours).

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

We had a wander round Queenstown which is quite a large and busy town; it reminded me quite a lot of Whistler in Canada, and has that same ski-resort feel, but is as active outside the skiing season as it is during. Lots of shops selling outdoor gear and we took advantage of some end of season sales to pick up some more warm clothing.

On Tuesday we went on one of the famous Jet Boats onto Lake Wakatipu and into the Karawau and Shotover rivers. The jet boats can be easily spun 360 degrees, and the driver took advantage of that several times, showering the passsengers with spray. The boats can also float in just 10cm of water so can whiz along close to rocks in very shallow parts of the river. Quite exciting but not really as good as we’d expected, expecially for the price, NZ$79, about 30 quid each.

We still had lots to do on Wednesday and started it with a visit to the Bord and Wildlife Park where we saw several kiwis. The kiwi is nocturnal so is kept in darkened huts with low red light so that visitors can see them. They really are as cute as they look, walking with a peculiar gait and probing the ground with their long bills. We also saw some keas in the park, these are large grey/green alpine parrots with a reputation for stealing things and ripping bits off cars. A few days later we encountered some wild keas but they left us along. The park also houses a variety of rare local birds such as the Morepork Owl, various teals, ducks, and the wood pigeon; they have a huge, friendly specimen there.

Next to the Park is the entrance to the Skyline gondola/cablecar system. We went up to the top where there’s a particularly naff resturant/souvenir shop complex as well as a concrete ‘luge’ run. We didn’t spend long up there, admiring the views over the town but then heading back down.

On the way out of Queenstown is Deer Park Heights, an area used for several scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy films. We drove up there (NZ$20 per car entry) and parked by the Korean prison at the top, built for the 1986 Disney film, “The Rescue”. It’s very strange to drive up a gravel track in New Zealand and come face to face with a Korean prison!

From the car park there we walked to the mountain tarn used to show the Rohirrim fleeing Edoras in the films, and admired the excellent views pf The Remarkable Mountains towering over the lake and town. If we’d known the views were going to be so good, we wouldn’t have bothered with the earlier cable-car ride.

Mountain tarn, Deer Park Heights

Deer Park Heights is also home to a varity of exotic animals; we encountered lots of goats, a Tibetan yak (which was incredibly calm and intelligent-looking) and some American Bison (one of which sneezed all over me). We stopped at another LotR location and watched the goats running up and down the rocks close to where the Path of the Dead exited.

As time was getting on we decided to spend the night close to Arrowtown, only 5 miles from Queenstown, but a world away in feeling. The town is an old gold-rush town and still has alot of the original buildings and does a great deal of business in being quaint. We had excellent pizza at the Pesto Pizza Restaurant before turning in for the night.

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