Lake WakatipuThe South Island of NZ has the reputation for being spectacular and there is no argument on this side of the house with that statement!
The whole of this part of the country is riddled with Lakes and Mountains both large and small and they either creep up on you or, as you motor along and turn a bend, there is suddenly yet another ‘wow’ view. So much so that you get quite blasé about them, “oh yes another wow view, great!” was heard more than once! The picture to the left is Lake Wakatipu as seen from Queenstown, it is so large that looking out across it is like looking out to sea from a Norwegian Fjord, it is 80kl (50 mi) long, New Zealand’s longest lake, but, at 291 km2 (112 sq m) it is only the countries third largest in surface area.

Lake at Butchers DamOn our way up from Dunedin we passed three comparative tiddlers, two created by damming the Clutha River, below the main dam at Cromwell which forms Lake Dunstan one at Butchers Dam (see right) and one at Roxborough Dam, the third one is along the Kawarau River between Cromwell and Queenstown which finally drains into Lake Wakatipu. I cannot tell you how much difficulty I had with all the Maori names, as difficult as speaking High German! What is interesting is that each lake and its environs have their own character, all of which are very different. Looking at just these two you can see the rolling volcanic hills of the lake at Butchers, some of which is Clutha River from Clyde Roadmeadow, (above right) and the harsh volcanic slopes at the dam on the Kawarau (see left), which will support nothing not even vines! Going back to lake Dunstan both sides have facets with the much sought after north facing slopes and so both are now covered (as we have seen already at Amisfield and Misha’s vineyards) with both vines and fruit plantations, all doing very well based on irrigation of the land, it may have been barren but just add the magic ingredient WATER and it flourishes very quickly.

P1030292There are two routes north out of Cromwell one to the West via Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, a route that we would have liked to take but involved a lot of backtracking so we did the straight forward Easterly route via Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo and most importantly including the stop that sees Mount Cook over the blue waters of Lake Tekapo! It is the sort of scenery that leaves you slightly numb, it is just so overwhelming and nowadays of course expecting to see at least at least a P1030299few Orcs or a Hobbit or two emerging from it. I have added in a small one (left) just to show that these were actually taken by us and that they are not archived copies! We were very lucky with all of the weather as we travelled north, it was just beautiful sunshine not what the vineyard owners wanted to hear at all! The drought continued as we progressed north so that as the land slowly flattened out the meadows appeared parched and arid.

P1030651After the spectacular lakes the land turned into sweeping hillsides and the route took us up past vast open valleys grazing huge herds of cattle and sheep, although there are clearly valley sides the flat valley plains are as wide as ten kilometres. Right back when we arrived the driver between Auckland and Matarangi pointed out what the sheep do to the hills. The picture to the right shows a hill with the perfect parallel lines created as the sheep walk side by side across them but one sheep width lower or higher, these are re-trod by the cattle until whole hillsides become naturally terraced! We saw this effect the length of the country from Dunedin to Bay of Islands!

Thinking that Amisfield was at Queenstown I had booked two nights in the hotel there, then after we realised that the winery was in Cromwell and the rooms not refundable I cut our losses and booked into a Motel in Cromwell, just before Misha insisted that we stay with them! So on Tuesday night we had three rooms, Wednesday I had not booked in Christchurch and Brian said don’t worry we will easily get a Motel, no sweat. On the way up we thought blow Christchurch we will go straight up to Amberley the nearest town to Waipara West where we were booked in at 8.30am with Viv Tutton. On arrival there all we could find were red “No Vacancy Signs”, this applied to the whole route back into Christchurch and the town itself has so many red signs that it looked as if it has an outbreak of measles. Then, listening to the local radio we found out why! This was the opening night of the Cricket World Cup! Having travelled the 50k back into Christchurch from Amberley in order to get a bed we had to back through Amberley and another 50k north of that to Cheviot. The next morning after a very early start we arrived at the cellars and met Viv Tutton and explained our 200k round trip, damn she said I thought that you were staying in Christchurch for the fireworks if I had known you could have stayed with us! Thank you God!

Well here we are the next stop Waipara West Vineyards or ‘The Bone Line’ as you will see on the next posting!


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