Day 9 – Wanaka to Arrowtown

There was a frost on the ground this morning, the first one I have seen in years. . . Auckland doesn’t seem to get them any longer. It was 0 degrees, so not surprising. My little fan heater went all night keeping the chill off. At around 1.30am I opened an eye and looked out the back window and saw the moon on the lake. Such a lovely sight. Slowly the light filled the area and in the morning it was still lovely.

Today was ‘housework’ day – I made good use of the showers and hair washing but had to tramp back over a lot of wet frozen ground to get my $1 for the showers! After that I packed up and unplugged, and then set about the task of emptying various receptacles of liquids stored temporarily onboard. (I don’t think I need embellish). I added fresh water to the reservoir, and then I pointed Alfie’s nose south and took off on the scenic route to Queenstown via Cardrona.

Here’s the thing, Cardrona is a popular ski resort in the vacinity, and the name is familiar to me, and both my brother and my friend Kerrin had told me to take this scenic route and stop on the way there. So when I saw the sign pointing out Cardrona, I turned right and found myself following a dirt (corrugated in many places) road up the mountainside, with many cars behind and in front of me, filled with puffer jacketed people going skiing. It felt odd to be in a camper van doing this too. But my brother had told me to do it. Eventually, and to my relief, I found other campers parked along with cars at the car park further up. People were piling out, grabbing skis, and heading up to the shuttle bus depot. Could my bro have meant me to catch one of those?? I heard back from him, via FB messenger, and a photo showing the old time pub named Cardrona that is a bit of an icon. Apparently REAL town Cardrona was slightly further along the road.

It was lovely. Yes, around a corner and up a hill there was a group of buildings all reminiscent of earlier days, and so I stopped in the store for coffee and a cheese scone, and complimented the serving woman on her place of work. My quip that “THIS is an excellent spot to work – just think, you could come from Auckland like me” fell flat when she admitted “but I DO come from Auckland.” Indeed there seem a LOT of Aucklanders in the Wanaka/Queenstown area. Coming down out of Cardrona there was a glorious vista of mountain and valley leading to a glimpse of Queenstown in the far distance. And then the road wound on down further and further, finally twisting back on itself that I had to take a quick screenshot.

And so I found myself cruising in to the bustling tourist town of Queenstown, all the new housing dotting the slopes around me, the glistening blue waters of Lake Wakatipu stretching out into the distance, and mountains surrounding on all sides – with a cap of snow to add just that bit extra. Such a pretty setting it is. I was here at lunchtime – noon exactly – to meet an old friend. Kerrin used to work with me in Auckland 20 years ago, and since then has moved to Queenstown and works in the centre of town. I parked the van in the carpark on the edge of town, and walked in to meet her at her office. How lucky she is to work and live here, and she is still as pleased about it as she was when she came. We set off down the hill through the main centre, past lots of road works, and plenty of dapper young people lining up for food at hip places all around.

At the waterside we took some photos, saw the tail end of the Earnslaw making its way out to the centre of the lake, and then we wandered around the waterfront to a cafe out by the edge. I ordered a bacon butty, and she a cheese scone, and we enjoyed a catchup in the idyllic setting of mountain and lake surrounding us. She walked back with me to the camper to check it out, and then we parted ways.

Now I had nothing else to do but drive back up to Arrowtown, which I had passed on the way in, and sort out my spot for the night. Two spots, actually – why? Because my sister, Helen, has opted to join me for next few days, in her own camper!! Yes, she was due to arrive from Dunedin in hers shortly, and so I made it to Arrowtown and found two spots together and soon a smaller compact van arrived with her familiar grinning face. She had come across the central Alexandra area from Dunedin and we would loop down around the bottom through Fiordland and back up the eastern side to Dunedin again.

We have had a pleasant reunion, driven up into Arrowtown to appreciate this remarkable wee town, which is very picturesque in its narrow streets and old shop frontages. It has a history of gold mining at its heart, and just outside town are some shanties that once were where the chinese miners lived and worked. Helen and roamed the shops, and then settled on a hotel – New Orleans – for our early dinner of Blue Cod and chips for me, and Pork Belly for my sis. It was cosy, the fire crackling away, the darkened interior full of conviviality, and the food generous and delicious. We are now back at our campsite, replete, happy, and still dazzled by the snow mountains overshadowing the town.

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