Day 13 Travel NotesWhen we woke up at Mt. Cook the next day the weather had changed (again) from the beautiful sunny warmth of yesterday to gray overcast with threatening rain. We had breakfast and headed out for Queenstown, about a 260 km drive. We had to backtrack along part of the route we had driven the day before but the lake that was so beautiful in the sunshine now looked completely different. Still something wonderful to see, but more somber and cold looking. Yet, even with only gray cloudy skies, there was still a significant blue-green tinge to the water.
Later on we encountered a mystery along the road. We were in a wide, flat valley with rocky soil, and poor looking fields. I started to notice cairns along the road side. At first I thought they were some sort of accident marker like the roadside shrines we have in the US, but they got to be so numerous that I knew that was wrong. Some were just 6 or 8 stones piled together while others were as tall as a man. Some of the larger cairns were painted red or international orange. This was on an isolated section of the road and we never saw anyone in the area to ask about them. This went on for several kilometers and then they vanished.
We also stopped at a number of other scenic spots along the highway. One waterfall/rapids was particularly spectacular. I believe it was a popular place for kayakers or white-water rafters though we didn't see any on the water while we were there.
Finally we got to the Queenstown area (actually Arrowtown) and started looking for our hotel (Millbrook Resort). It turned out to be a rather fancy golf resort - unusual since neither Jan or I have touched a golf club in 35 years. We really felt a little out of place there among the country club set, but the accommodations were wonderful.
It had started raining after we unloaded our things in our room but we still decided to go explore Queenstown itself. It turned out to be interesting little town with much the flavor of some of the ski towns in the western US. In fact, in the winter it is a ski area and in summer is favorite destination for backpackers and fly fishermen. Jan and I found a little brew pub called Speight's Ale House for lunch. Good food and their Pale Ale was as fine as any I've had.
Then we did touristy things, buying souvenirs for family and friends, finding an internet cafe to email back home and generally soaking up the feel of the town. The gondola at one of the ski areas was running as a summer tourist attraction but we decided to pass due to the rainy weather.
At dinner that night I had my first taste of New Zealand venison - it was fabulous! Nothing like any I have ever had before. If venison like that were available in the US I think we would be buying a lot of it. At the cafe that evening we met a woman photographer from New York City who was traveling around NZ taking pictures. She told us about some of her other travels and how she only took up photography after the age of 60. Her husband had urged her to become a photographer shortly before he died and she seemed to be enjoying that new aspect of her life.