“Oh, you have an accent. Where are you from?
“Oh, New Zealand, I LOVE New Zealand. The South Island is absolutely stunning! Where are you from?”
“Hamilton. . .Hmmm. . . where is that exactly? “
“It’s in the North Island, south of Auckland”
“Oh. . . . Well. . . living so close, you must’ve spent plenty of time in the South Island, I’m sure!?”
“Yeah. . . . . I’ve never actually been to the South Island
(A confused look comes over their face and the conversation about New Zealand is officially over)
I spent seventeen years of my life calling New Zealand home and not once did I make it to the part of my country that would seem to give me some kind of “credit” with those who have visited. But after leaving the country thirteen years ago, I have finally returned to see what all the hype is about.
The flight into Queenstown is absolutely amazing. It has to be one of the first flights I have ever been on where Bret actually paused his movie to look out the window. As the plane dips under the clouds it exposes the stunning snow dusted mountain tops, a sharp bank to the left, and the beauty of Queenstown is brought into sight.
We had a small list of things we wanted to accomplish while in the actual city of Queenstown. But after our time on The Farm, I was told that it is an absolute must for me to take the TSS Earnslaw vintage steam boat across Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak Sheep Station.
The sheep station was founded in 1860 and taken over by my grandmother’s family, the MacKenzie’s in the late 1880’s. It takes 40 minutes on the Earnslaw to cross the lake and reach the farm at the opposite end. Upon arrival we were greeted by one of the station helpers who took us to their holding cages to feed a few deer and sheep. We also had a little pat of the three Highland Cattle kept on the farm as a tribute to the Scottish roots of the MacKenzie family.
We then enjoyed an afternoon tea of scones, pikelets and banana loaf. Followed by some relaxation in the gorgeous gardens before seeing a quick demonstration of the working sheep dogs and a sheep sharing demo. These days, Walter Peak Station is a 25,758 hectare working high country sheep station running approximately 18,000 Merino and Perendale sheep and about 800 beef cows. The scenery is absolutely stunning and it was really something special to see where my grandmother grew up. The family history made it a pretty interesting trip for both Bret and I.
With three nights in Queenstown we were able to explore the small city quite well on foot. After having a blast the first time in Rotorua, we decided to have another go at the luge ride. We took the gondola up and were treated to a spectacular view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu before flying down the luge tracks, Bret almost taking out the cautious tourists slowly making their way down at a leisurely pace. The course is a little newer than the one in Rotorua, but quite a bit shorter and with fewer track options.
Bret’s highlight of our Queenstown adventure was the fact that we managed to find a good pub to watch the Seahawks play their first play-off game against the Redskins. Pleased with the outcome, we were able to talk ourselves into joining in with the locals and treating ourselves to a “Sunday Session” in the Queenstown sun.