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Lakes, Mountains and Hobbits, 1st December

semi-overcast 24 °C
View OZ & NZ Nov 2012 on GinSmugglers's travel map.

It's about time we showed you our travel map (you should also be able to pan & zoom it!)

Before we left home, I’d looked on the websites of all the hotels we had booked to check if they had wi-fi. The majority of them said ‘free wi-fi’ but in reality we discovered that the ‘free’ wi-fi turned out to be available intermittently, if at all, in some small corner of the bar. If you want internet connection in your room, ‘that’s $20 ma’am’! On South Island, only Glenfern Villas, in remote Franz Josef gave us really free access, bless them!

After so long in the beautiful snowy back-end of nowhere, the cosmopolitan mecca that is Queenstown came as something of a culture shock. The town is built on a bay of Lake Wakatipu with the mountains of the Southern Alps beyond reflecting in the water. It has become a weekend getaway spot for New Zealanders and is a centre for mountain hikes and white water rafting and LOTR tours.

Diane on Queenstown jetty

As we walked down the hill into the centre, we passed bars with people spilling out onto pavements, cafes and restaurants with tables overlooking the lake, all full! We hadn’t seen so many people anywhere since we left Hong Kong.

Monkeh riding the Queenstown cable-car (aka ‘gondola’)

Unfortunately, Saturday dawned grey and drizzly but, as it was our only day to explore the area, off we went. First we took the long cable-car to the top of Bob’s Knob, the hill overlooking the town. The views were misty but quite spectacular nonetheless. On a fine calm day, you can ride a chairlift further up the hill and then plummet back down on a luge, but, mercifully, it was closed due to the wind, so I didn’t feel morally obliged to risk life and limb and so we simply came back down on the cable-car again.

Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the lake steamer, TSS Earnslaw (if you zoom in enough)

Next we drove the few miles out to Arrowtown. An odd little place that looks like a wild-west film set. It’s a relic of the gold-rush days but has been prettified to the n’th degree with quaint shop frontages and flowers everywhere, so is a real tourist hotspot. Unfortunately it was really raining by now so our raincoats were used for the first and only time on this trip. We had lunch and waited for the weather to improve... which it did.

Diane in her stylish raincoat, in quaint Arrowtown

Back at the hotel, it was time for our Lord Of The Rings tour and we were collected by Alana in her sturdy minivan, which we didn’t have to share with any other customers. Much of the outdoor footage in the films was shot in the area around Queenstown, principally in Glenorchy and Paradise, so we drove along stopping at lots of different locations where we got out to take pictures and to pretend to be Hobbits, although I was elevated to the status of Boromir for one shot!

Diane acts out the scene where Boromir looks out over Nen Hithoel (the lake in the River Anduin)

... and how it looked in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ film

Even without the film connection it’s a most beautiful area to visit. Alana kept us entertained with stories of Maori culture as well as tales of the films and behind the scenes happenings. I particularly wanted to see Lothlorien and I wasn’t disappointed, we even got to touch the first, original Ent (tree that walks).Then we sheltered from the drizzle under the trees of the forest to eat our complimentary and quite substantial afternoon tea.

Monkeh in ‘Lothlorien’ (Paradise woods)

The original Ent tree (reputedly), because its bumps look a bit like facial features - if you squint!

Posted by GinSmugglers 01:30 Archived in New Zealand

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