Three Fun Days

 Let’s take Queenstown time in thirds, shall we?

DAY 1.  Was a day spent with long time online friends I only met once while on a hike in North Carolina 7-8 years ago. It was during that hike in Dupont State Forest Mary and Ken told me about Trusted Housesitters and how they retired early to travel the world as housesitters and we’ve been online pals ever since. Please meet Mary and Ken on this our second in person meeting.

Mary and Ken were helpful in both getting me set up on TrustedHousesitters 4-5 hears ago as well as offering tips which helped me plan my time here in New Zealand.  You see, they were “stuck” in NZ during the entirety of the Pandemic and were able to travel quite a bit within the Country during that time.  At some point, we realized we would overlap in Queenstown because they were flying in for a week to reset their Australian Visa and I was driving in as part of my South Island Circuit, so we made a plan to spend the overlapping day together.

We decided to head out along Lake Wakatipu to the settlement of Glenorchy at its northern end along with a walk on the Routeburn Track. The drive out is beautiful as is the entire area.  Take a look.

The beautiful and clear waters of Lake Wakatipu taken not far outside Queenstown.

A bit further up the lake we can see the snow capped peaks beyond Glenorchy. Photo by Mary.

After a stop at the Glenorchy General Store, we headed further northwest to the start of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.  It was a gorgeous day for a walk as you can see and I think we ended up going quite a ways before turning back.  I took the photos below along the track. It was just more gorgeousness around every turn.

After our hike we were all famished because our time on the trail unexpectedly extended well past the lunch hour, so we stopped at the Glenorchy Hotel Pub for a well deserved meal on their outside terrace.  It was a full and fabulous day and lest you think I may never see these friends again, I say to you…think again because it turns out we will all be in Melbourne in early March, so have planned another meetup!  So until then my online friends, until then.  Thank you for a great day.

DAY 2.  Began on the rainy and cloudy side so I decided to take the TSS Earnslaw cruise out to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a tour, which I really enjoyed even though the whole thing has been carefully created for tourists.  I didn’t mind at all because it was so cool and I met the nicest people all day long! 

Please say hello to “the TSS Earnslaw, one of the world’s oldest and largest remaining coal-fired steamships and has graced Lake Wakatipu since 1912.  She is the last of a long line of coal-burning steamers used on the lake to ferry people and goods to inaccessible areas on the shores from as early as 1863.  Fun fact:  TSS stands for Twin Screw Steamer.  She was commissioned by the New Zealand Railway to service the communities around the lake as mentioned above.  

For the data geeks out there, she is 160 ft long, 24 ft wide, draws 7ft, and can cruise at 13 knots.  Her boiler pressure is 160lbs/sq. in. and she weighs 340 tons.

Here she is coming into the Queenstown wharf.

It is about a 45 minute cruise out to Walter Peak Farm which gave plenty of time to explore.  The Earnslaw which really is a working museum and is set up so folks can see the engines and coal burners etc.  Drinks and snacks were available in the Salon accompanied by piano player.  It was a lovely ride, misty and very windy on the way out, sunny and calm on the way back.

Looking down from above, you can see two of the four coal doors.  There seemed to be one man responsible for each engine, thus two doors.  Us tourists were on catwalks above the engines and coal burners (not sure what they are called), but could see everything clearly.

All Ahead Full.  Coal is shoveled into the 4 doors at a rate of one tonne per hour at full speed.

This is what we saw upon arrival though I actually took this photo upon departure since the sun was shining.

As mentioned, this whole “Farm” was built just for tourists, so it’s not a working farm but a fun taste of what some aspects of a High Country Farm might have been like.  We got to meet a variety of cows including Scottish Highland Cows (the first ones to NZ came from Balmoral and were a gift from Queen Elizabeth) along with a variety of sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, and ducks. I’ll spare you the photos though they were all very cute, but I will share photos of Kim, the $10,000.00 short haired Border Collie working sheep dog.

Kim is a sweetie and seemed quite sleepy and a bit lethargic and doddery while walking around with us, but boy did she transform before our eyes when it was time to herd the sheep.  Gosh, it was exciting to watch, just like an Alaskan sled dog coming to life when it’s time to run.  She is considered a Heading dog because she works silently and calmly so not to scare the sheep.  She uses her eyes to glare at the sheep in order to move them calmly as opposed to a Huntaway dog who is loud and who chases and nips at the sheep.  It was quite something to see.  I did take a video, but it was ages long with not a lot going on during much of it due to her style of herding and I have yet to learn how to edit video, so I’ll not include it here.

This is her when she sees her handler finishing up the sheep shearing demo because she knows what she gets to do very soon…herd the sheep!  Two completely different dogs.  We were told a good sheep dog can do the work of four working humans and it is fairly normal for a working dog to cost $10,000.  The record was just recently set however, when a working sheep dog was sold for $60,000.00.  Can you believe it?  We were also told it can make good business sense to pay so much for a dog since one dog will work for roughly 10 years at the same cost as one human worker working one year and remember, one good dog can do the work of four humans.

It was a fun day.  They also served us a lovely sit down tea with scones and tarts and all the fixins’ as part of the tour.  It’s a very well oiled machine. Pick up tourists and cart them out to the “Farm”, give ’em a show and then cart them back, rinse and repeat from 9am-7pm, 7 days a week year round. Did I mention they own The Earnslaw too?  A well oiled machine, indeed.

This property is adjacent to the real Walter Peak Sheep Station which is home to 20,000 sheep.  I was curious about how that relates in size to the largest sheep stations around and learned the largest station in NZ has 40,000 head of sheep while the largest sheep shearing station in Australia can process 64,000 sheep in 10 weeks and encompasses more than 1 million hectares. Crikey!

While I feel I’m running overlong with this post, I will persevere and move on to day three, which should be just a few photos of more  Queenstown gorgeousness taken while hiking.

DAY 3 found me taking a very steep Gondola ride up to the start of the Ben Lomond track. You can see the view as I’m nearing the top.  As I told my sister I had to look, not look due to feeling things were a bit precarious.

That’s Queenstown on the shore of Lake Wakatipu spread out below with the Remarkable Mountains in the distance.  The Remarkables.  Isn’t that a fantastic name for a mountain range?

Ben Lomond is a 9,716 ft mountain which provides lots of alpine hiking and mountain biking opportunities.  My plan was to Gondola it up to the trailhead, hike up to the saddle, and perhaps to the summit, but my breakfast didn’t seem to be agreeing with me on the day, so it was all I could do to get myself up to the saddle while feeling as green as the greenstone around me, but wait til you see what I saw.  I was completely filled to the brim.  Pssst.  I took the banner photo from the saddle looking out over Queenstown and The Remarkables and I took the photo below also from the saddle, but looking in the other direction.

Even the porta potties are pretty.  I’ve never seen the like, but its cool how well it blends in to its surroundings.  The metal housing around the tanks is designed so it can be picked up by helicopter for disposal.  Pretty cool.  They had the same setup sans photo wrap along the Routeburn Track.  

Just a side note:  New Zealand has more public toilets available than any other Country I’ve visited.  They are everywhere and are generally quite pleasant.

And finally, a scene from the walk back down.  Two wild goats (their baby is present but hidden) along with two mountain bikers high above town.  Queenstown is the adventure capital of NZ and the mountain biking here can be hardcore.

As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Queenstown.  I get what all the hype is about for sure.

As I type, I am sitting in an AirBnB in Invercargill, home to Burt Munro and The World’s Fastest Indian, a wonderful true story about how a 68 year old man from Invercargill set and still holds a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 1967 (I think) on a highly modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle. It’s a wonderful story which was made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins.  Upon arrival today, I went straight to the hardware store/museum where all things Burt Munro are housed.  

I’ll be exploring around a bit of the south coast tomorrow and then it’s off via passenger ferry across the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island which dangles off the south coast of the south island, so stay tuned.

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Comments:

  • Heather

    January 22, 2023

    So glad you got to share some time with your online friends. Ironically, I was thinking yesterday that I wanted to ask you more about Trusted Housesitters. It looks like the weather graced you for these days of exploring!

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    • Margie

      January 23, 2023

      I’d love to catch up and chat about THS.

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  • Zac

    January 23, 2023

    We absolutely need to get back to NZ and spend more time in the South Island!

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    • Zac

      January 23, 2023

      I mean, those bathrooms> It’s like very detail was considered to make it both functional, accessable, and beautiful w/out having a big impact on the environment around it. 🙂

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      • Margie

        January 23, 2023

        Right!?! They even used a photo from that same location to wrap it. Very cool indeed.

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    • Margie

      January 23, 2023

      The South Island certainly does enjoy dramatic beauty, that’s for sure.

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  • Wendy

    January 27, 2023

    Remarkable!

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    • Margie

      January 27, 2023

      Yes! Remarkable, indeed. 😆👍🏽💗

      reply...

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