Travels – part two – off to the wild West Coast

Little Red Hut on the side of the Arthurs Pass Road
Little Red Hut on the side of the Arthur’s Pass Road

Off to a great start on our travels I must say – if one finds a lovely little shelter hut on the side of a great mountain pass – well not by European standards but hey – the Arthur’s Pass Road (or Highway rather) is a good way to “ease” your way into the “Wild West Coast” of New Zealand. It’s more or less a straight forward road that crosses over the Southern Alps from the flat plains of Canterbury to the rugged and rather special West Coast of the South Island.

Arthurs Pass Highway
Arthur’s Pass Highway

The weather was somewhat changeable and so was my aforementioned tablet – as it turns out all the photos I took after this one – and before Wanaka – disappeared… oh well – you just have to take it from me that they where great:-)

So – nothing to show at Fox Glacier I am afraid – besides  the rain and low cloud made it  challenging to go outside or take photos – I have taken many there in the past however – and therefore can share one photo with you.

Lake Matheson on an earlier visit in 2012 with Mt Cook in the distance
Lake Matheson on an earlier visit in 2012 with Mt Cook in the distance

We did manage to find a dry window that morning to go to the face of the Glacier though – which has retreated again since my last visit two years ago – talking about climate change here…

On to the lovely town of Wanaka which happens to be one of my favourite towns in the country. Not just for its great location on the banks of the Lake with the same name but also for its sheer abundance of walking tracks that one has in the area, not to mention the great restaurants and ice cream there…

One of the best 4-5 hour walks one can do that is not a one way in – one way out kinda track is the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Track. It was a bit hard going for my mum though – it’s basically 700m vertical climb with hardly any flat bits in between – but boy is the view up top worth it!

Me and my parents on top of Rocky Mountain
Me and my parents on top of Rocky Mountain

If you do travel into these parts – be prepared and take your hiking boots – you may well need them:-)

View from Rocky Mountain towards Mt Aspiring
View from Rocky Mountain towards Mt Aspiring

Leaving Wanaka behind there are two roads that one can take these days – now that the road via Cardrona is fully sealed it happens to be New Zealand highest sealed road – ok again by European Standards 1121m is not high.. but hey – this is still an amazing drive. The other road is the “main road” – so we did not take that one of course.

Cardrona Highway
Cardrona Highway

Our intention was to spend as little as possible time in Queenstown – I know a lot of you will ask “Why?” – well I find Queenstown very touristy – horses for courses I say – or in German “Jedem Tierchen sein Plessierchen”. I do understand that it’s a great place to do all kinds of adrenaline filled activities – but hey – do they all need to be sooo expensive and does half the world has to be there for it? Personal opinion of course.

I do like Queenstown from a professional point of view – if I where still in tourism I would send all my customers who want to cramp in as much as they can into their holiday to Queenstown.They would have great scenery, many places to stay for all kind of budgets from the backpackers to the most expensive Lodges and of course there are thousands of activities (Bungy jumping to name just one) that they could do – all in one place. Paradise – just not for me!

reconstructed miners hut in the Chinese Village - Arrowtown
reconstructed miners hut in the Chinese Village – Arrowtown

In saying that – this was my 4th or 5th visit to Queenstown – so I am talking from reasonable experience here – and I will go back again – to do a multi day rafting trip one day – not all is bad you see.

I think I am trailing off here – back to my travels – so instead of a lot of time in Queenstown – we did spend a morning in Arrowtown instead – and loved it! As you know I love a bit of history and in New Zealand that is not easy to come by – but in Arrowtown one can physically see and feel history – albeit more recent – 1800’s and the like – nevertheless important.

The remnants and excavations of the Chinese Settlement are superb and put the Gold Rush into perspective as much as the interesting museum explains the history of the area. I simply love it there.

Tuatara
Tuatara

One superb thing we did find in Queenstown though – the Kiwi Bird life Park – just outside the Gondola. Great to see so many native birds and  Tuatara in one place. They even feed the Kiwi!

All in all – so far a great trip and it can only get better – watch this space for more.

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2 Comments

  1. Wise decision to spend limited time in Queenstown. As you discovered, Wanaka is better (I may be biased here!). The photo of the red hut (your first photo) is at the base of Porters Pass. Porters Pass is actually higher than Arthurs Pass, although both are on the same road. Having crossed the Canterbury plains, Porters Pass is often the place that you encounter snow on the East-West drive.

    enjoy your travels.

    jeritilley.wordpress.com

    1. You are correct about Porters Pass of course – did want to to go into too much details:-) But I agree – I am a little biased too when it comes to Wanaka – could easily live there… been there (and on Arthurs Pass Highway) many times – just a lovely drive really.

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