Having fully dried out after the two day soaking, we awoke on Thursday morning to bright sunshine. However this was a bit misleading as there was still a chill in the air and the high peaks all around us were capped in snow. What it did do was to show off the lovely rich blue sky and the fluffy white clouds that still lingered.
Today was a walking day. We had earmarked a visit to nearby Arrowtown as a start point as there are some very good walking tracks around the village.
Like many villages around this region, Arrowtown owes its existence to the gold rush of the 1860’s. Of particular interest to many is what is left of the Chinese Village. This is a small collection of homes which were built by chinese prospectors who came to New Zealand during the Gold Rush to seek their fortune. For some reason they did not see eye to eye with the other prospectors and kept themselves away from the main part of the village. Many of the buildings constructed during the gold rush have been preserved and form part of the attraction for tourists coming to Arrowtown. Cafe’s, restaurants and bars line one street and the main street, running parallel, houses many shops from a Real Estate Agents to gift shops and a pharmacy. The place has a certain old world charm when it’s not crowded but when we visited briefly, shortly after we arrived in Queenstown, the place was packed with visitors. We had got some good information on local walks and decided to return later in the week.
Above: Views of Arrowtown – Long after the Goldrush.
The sun was out and the clouds few, but the air was crisp and clear and it was still cool when we set off. Our chosen route was up to a point known as Sawpit Gulley and after following a short flat track by the river we crossed a solid wooden bridge and started to climb through the trees. (Yes, more trees!). The steep track eventually levelled out just above the tree line and we stopped to look back and take in the stunning view looking towards Arrowtown and Lake Hayes. Snowcapped peaks stood proudly out against the rich blue sky. Unusual to see the alpine style scene in high summer.
Left: The climb begins: Right Top to Bottom: Lyn at stepping stones; Clear of the Tree Line; Looking back to the Mountains
As we resumed our climb the path narrowed and wound its way further up until we reached a flat plateau called Eichardts Flat. The reward for all this effort in climbing was amazing views of the higher peaks ahead of us, again now snow capped after the previous two days poor weather. The sun was shining, the air was warming up and the views were out of this world.
Clockwise from top left: Two views from the top; Lyn starts her way down; Panorama from Eichards Flats.
An information board at this point gave us a guide to the next part of our walk. The path appeared to drift off to the right, up to a summit called German Hill, however after that it disappeared from the map. A less obvious path straight ahead saw us drop down into Sawpit Gully which was our intended track.
Clockwise from Top left: The way down – German Hill slopes up to the right; The path starts to get tricky. Me leaving the top; Another mountain view from a little way down; Us about to leave the top
Initially an easy descent, the path became more rocky, steep and overgrown in places and at one point criss-crossed a fast flowing stream a number of times. Our last turning point was the Norman Spencer Bridge and from here we walked back towards Arrowtown, passing several tourists panning for gold in the river close by the village. In the village you can learn the art of gold panning and then you are let loose on to a short stretch of river bank to try your luck. The sign says you can strike every time. Not sure about that, I don’t think I would have the patience, or the leg muscles to crouch down over a plastic pan for a couple of hours for a few dollars worth of gold nugget! We enjoyed a coffee though whilst watching a few people getting tuition.
My new friend – Dash the Collie
Our last walking stop for the week was a small village at the north end of Lake Wakitipu called, Glenorchy. This village lies virtually at the end of the road from Queenstown. From here the road meanders on into the mountains for a few miles before deteriorating to gravel track then nothing. Glenorchy is the end of the line. When we drove in to the village and parked it had exactly that feel to it, a quiet, calm village where people can come to get their wilderness fix. The village is also the last stop for trampers before embarking on one of the world famous walking tracks which lie within the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks. Routeburn, Rees/Dart and Greenstone/Caples, all start or finish nearby. Glenorchy’s forbears were clearly Scottish, as many a street is named after a Scottish town such as Mull St and Oban Street.
A walk around the village revealed one or two quirky destinations. For example the unofficial I-Site attached to the campground in the village was a large old rustic shed. We went along to get some walks information and a note attached to the door told us it was temporarily closed whilst the helper dealt with an issue on the site. Next to it was the General Store, a large wooden structure with a 1950’s vintage Bedford Van parked outside, presumably their delivery van. Also in front of the general store was a wooden wagon which, when I peered inside appeared to be the worlds smallest bookshop! Opposite was the local primary school. This was a long, low single story building with a low fence around and a number of posters attached with what may be termed “advice for all” written on them. The school also had an active garden and greenhouse growing their own veg. What great way for kids to learn.
Clockwise from top left: View of Lake Wakitipu en route to Glenorchy; The Bedford truck; A bookshop?; Lyn at the closed I-Site; The General Store with real I-Site.
Three School signs and a historical sign
We found the official I-Site and asked advice about the walk we wanted to do, up to Invincible Mine. The walk start was about 40 mins drive from Glenorchy initially along a metalled road before turning off up a track. The bloke in the I-site said our Toyota Corolla would be fine on this track. The drive started okay, but we soon realised that this single track was going up a long long way and the surface was getting much worse, slowing our progress to a crawl. What few cars following us up, all seemed to be of the 4WD variety against our little tin box which did not bode well. We reached a ford and decided to pause and take stock of our situation. Our contract with the hire company stated that the car was not to be used on “off road” tracks and our route winding through the hills in the distance seemed to be getting narrower and rougher. After some consideration we abandoned our effort to reach Invincible Mine and carefully returned down the track to the village, saddened that such a beautiful day, in such glorious and rugged surroundings was not going to plan.
L-R: The track goes on forever; The Invincible Mine is up there somewhere; Turning Point.
A small consolation is that Glenorchy has two lagoons which have been designated as a Nature Reserve. They have built a long path around these lagoons which we decided to explore. We did not see much wildlife but at least we got a reasonable walk in and got a worms eye view of the mountain scenery in the area. And the sun shone again!
Clockwise from top left: Panorama taken on the Glenorchy walk: Three more views of the walk.
Top Left: Lyn on Glenorchy walk; Top Right: Wild Lupin; Our little guest helps himself to cake crumbs; View back towards Glenorchy.
Before we left Queenstown for our next destination, Te Anau I was checking the weather forecast. The reason being is that from Te Anau we are due to travel to Milford Sound for a short cruise of the sound. Ominously the weather symbol showed a large cloud symbol with rain falling from it. The TV weather man also hinted at some strong westerly winds. Oh dear we might be getting wet again.