Wanaka, Arrowtown, Queenstown

After a short walk and an abortive attempt to climb a tree, we piled back into the car and drove south. The scenery varied, from dry hills to dry fields full of hay bales. Captain’s seating arrangements also varied.

Our first destination was lunch: the Searcher crew had recommended a place called The Post Office, in a little town called Clyde. When we arrived, however, they were in full crush mode, and told us to come back in an hour or so. So we waited around the corner at The Victoria Station cafe, which had a very pleasant back yard.

We walked back over at the appointed time, and were seated in a little booth in the old-timey interior.

The waitress turned out to be a cat person, as well as a former sailor. She told us she hadn’t been able to get her cats into the country.

We had a long and not super scenic drive to our next little tourist town, Wanaka, which is famous for one particular tree. It turns out that it’s not just the tree but also the angle; as we walked Captain along the beach towards the viewpoint, we saw the crowd of photographers lining up to grab that iconic shot. Not quite ideal conditions, a bit early for golden hour and a bit too much wind for that super clear reflection, yet here we all were.

So we gave it a try. Captain was not super excited to be close to the water, and of course we’d forgotten his box of treats so we couldn’t properly bribe him.

Walking back, we took a more inland route, which gave Captain a chance to turn invisible. He’s such a striking cat that we often forget what great camouflage those spots are. Anyway we got him back into the car, and drove up and over the last pass between us and Queenstown.

We checked into our AirBnB, an inlaw unit whose solid construction and new appliances relieved a tension we hadn’t known we’d been carrying from the last few ramshackle houses. Captain immediately tried to make himself at home on the stovetop, which was going to be an issue. We were a little outside the city so we had some green space around to take him walking, and we tried to burn off some of his car-ride-induced ya-yas. We’d picked the place out for its view, and it turned out that this was actually the view from the terrace above the house, or maybe from the owner-occupied half? Still, it was very comfortable, even if we had to go up stairs to see the mountains. (Still no coat hooks though; where is one supposed to put a raincoat in these cold climates?)

Our plan had been to go to Milford Sound on our first day, but some bad weather was blowing in and our flight was postponed. So instead, we took a trip up to Arrowtown, which turned out to be a little town trying very hard to style itself as a frontier outpost for the tourist trade. It was cute enough, despite the rain and gray skies; check out the public bathroom in the last picture!

There were a lot of shops, and we spent a little while trying to find Jazz a hat.

When lunch time rolled around, though, we discovered that despite the decent crowds of tourists, all the restaurants were closed. In general we’ve found that the labor market in New Zealand is very tight, with “hiring” signs in literally every restaurant window, and many other signs asking for patience with their limited hours and reduced menus. This time we hit the double whammy, because it was also Monday.

On the way back towards home, we stopped in at a cellar door. When we pulled in, we found an instagram-ready wedding venue that did a side business in wine and art lessons. It turns out that “cellar door” in the US implies proximity to an actual cellar, but in New Zealand it just means a tasting room; maybe there’s an association with the producer, but even that isn’t strictly guaranteed. There were grapes on site, but only a half acre, which seemed to be there mostly as a backdrop for wedding photography; their serious growing, and all the production, happens elsewhere.

Back at the house, we bundled up the cat. Have we mentioned that it was starting to get cold? It was getting pretty cold, down to 6C /42F at night, and we worried about his little ears, especially since he wanted nothing more than to go outside on his leash.

For dinner we tried our luck with downtown Queenstown. The view over the lake was nice. Not as nice, the local response to cold weather appeared to be to throw long underwear under your shorts. This was not an isolated example.

We got a good laugh out of this waterside sculpture full of road cones. We’d been laughing about the phenomenon of road cones for weeks: every construction project and every minor pothole is painstakingly marked out with road cones at about a one-meter spacing, an absolutely excessive density made more ludicrous by its ubiquity. Apparently some someones got fed up with them, and the city eventually gave up cleaning them out of the too-tempting basket.

Back at the house, Captain wanted another walk, so we bundled him up and made it about five minutes before the rain kicked in and we rushed back inside. Also pictured: where is Jazz supposed to sleep?

In the morning, after cleaning up breakfast (dishwasher!!) and convincing Captain not to jump on the exhaust hood…

… we found that our flights were yet again canceled. So we bundled up (even colder today, with a high of 6C / 42F!), and headed out to Shotover Canyon. We had planned pet-friendly hikes, but the continuous rain made the prospect of muddy paths unappealing even if Jazz’s leg had been in good shape. So yet again we found ourselves in a place famous for its outdoor adventures, sitting indoors and tasting beers.

We took another quick pass through downtown Queenstown, pausing to note this ridiculous boat, whose operator had begun hitting us with ads on just about every platform. It’s probably a lot of fun in better weather.

We had been waiting for a clear view of the mountain for ages, and we finally got one! … As we walked into the supermarket for some quick provisions. When we came out ten minutes later, the clouds were back. Unrelated, check out these dogs!

We had another brief break in the clouds and tried to get Captain outside for a photo. He was happy to participate, but the sky was not.

We extended our stay one more day in hopes that we’d catch a weather break for Milford Sound, and we did! That’s another whole post, but here we are after that trip, yet again tasting beer at a lakeside local. Jazz is pictured demonstrating why stemless glasses are a problem for people of small hand size.

We also made a trip back to Arrowtown, because Jazz had made up her mind about the hats. Sadly, the one she wanted turned out to be damaged, and we spent an hour fruitlessly searching for an equivalent hat elsewhere. We did not succeed on the original mission, though we did manage to acquire a totally different hat. Andrew was rewarded for his patient support with more new flavors.

We took one more pass through downtown Queenstown, where we had a meal outside under a heat lamp. We were freezing, and had no idea what people were doing lounging on the beach and eating ice cream.

As we drove back (past the inescapable road cones!), the sky cleared again, and we took Captain out for one last walk and photo shoot with the mountains, before settling down for our last night here. In the morning, we would begin our drive north along the west coast.

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