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On the Road to Queenstown and the Milford Trek

After leaving the Cedar Flats hut tramp, our plan was to spend a couple of days in Franz Joseph town. This on the west side of Mt. Cook and also has impressive mountains, glaciers, hiking, etc. Once again however, the weather interfered. We stopped at the ranger station in the center of town, and he informed us that a cyclone was on its way, and that it might be necessary to close the coast road. Not only that, the town was packed and there was no place to stay. And so we decided to push on. The road ran directly near the water and in places it was already washing over the rocks and approaching the pavement. In fact there had been another storm a week or so before and the road was partially washed away in a few spots. We got through without any issues however, and stopped for the night in another resort town, Wanaka. By then it was pouring and so we figured we'd spring for motel and a hot shower. Unfortunately the place was also fully booked, and the only room available was in a so called resort for $300. Resort was not exactly the name I would give to a rather basic, albeit clean room, but we felt we didn't have much choice. At that point we just couldn't face another night in our tiny van.

The next day was still rainy, windy and quite cold, and we spent it wandering around the crowded streets. Everything was overpriced, but we happened into a Subway, whose cuisine I had never appreciated as much as I did on that day. We must have spent a couple of hours there trying to stay warm and out of the weather. Nobody chased us which was a good thing. Given that the weather was still pretty dreadful, we didn't have much incentive to push on to Queenstown, where we had a reservation for the following night. Neither did we want to blow another $300, and so we ended up in a campsite by a river at the edge of town. Not wanting to cook dinner, and feeling relieved about saving the money, we managed to find a pretty decent Indian restaurant , and so the evening was not a total loss.

The weather finally did clear the next day and we drove on to Queenstown. We figured on a couple of days of R and R before our final trek to Milford. For those of you who don't know ,this is probably the most famous tramp of all in New Zealand, and Bill had to reserve it almost a year in advance. It is a four day, three night excursion staying in simple huts along the way.

Queenstown is now the premier extreme sports capital of New Zealand. It was full of young people into bungee jumping, white water rafting, mountaineering, parasailing, hiking etc. And it was overflowing with people in what was peak season. We dropped our van off at the airport and were practically giddy to unload it. I should mention that we had a bit of trepidation on turning it in, because Bill had dinged the back of it trying to cross one of the many narrow, one way bridges of the south island. Each of these bridges entails a game of chicken because although someone is supposed to have the right of way, it is often difficult to see them on the other side. Oh, and did I mention that there are no speed limits on these narrow roads. Every road says 100K. I guess they figure the terrain itself will slow you down, and if it doesn't, you'll likely fly off the road and no longer be a problem. At any rate, on one of those bridges Bill had to back up the van in a hurry, and managed to dent the rear slightly on a post. This was not the first dent by any means. It was apparent that others had done the same thing. He got a can of black spray paint and covered it so it was barely noticeable.

Of course the Wicked folk didn't see it. We got an Uber back to our motel in town, and it must have taken close to 40 minutes because of the traffic. This is a town of 10,000 people, but at least at this time of year, the end of February, it felt about 10 times that. After a couple of days of wandering and eating in expensive restaurants, we were more than ready to leave.

Main Street, Queenstown with Remarkables in background
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Gondola in town center with delta wing kites
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Harbor on lake in town
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The big picture
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Posted by jonshapiro 17:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes people postcards

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Very rugged country,but beauty abounds all over. Too bad about the rain. Shit happens.

by Alan Tallman

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