Cardrona and beyond

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Today was our second bookend day intended to buffer our trip to Doubtful Sound yesterday. We had no firm plans though I had penciled in a trip to Wanaka and we had an invitation to dinner with Margie Slattery-Smith, a sister-in-law of Majella’s brother, and her husband, Ned.

We had no need to be out early this morning but were a bit surprised when we woke to discover it was already 8:00 am. After breakfast Majella did the little bit of laundry we had accumulated. We spread it around our room to dry and were out before 10:00 am.

Our first stop was Arrowtown, a favourite of Majella. Our intention was to have coffee but first we wandered the streets for a while enjoying the old buildings. Naturally we spent some time in The Stitching Post, a quilting, wool and embroidery store. Soon after we arrived Majella spotted the New Orleans Hotel and thought she saw a piano being played inside. We returned there for coffee which we drank by the open fire but there was no piano player.

From Arrowtown we headed for Wanaka via the Crown Range Road. We would probably have done that anyway but it was clinched by a call to Majella from Margie confirming dinner arrangements. She suggested there might be snow near the road on the higher sections. As always, Majella was keen for snow so we went that way.

Majella and snow person

We stopped at a couple of lookouts on the road up the Crown Range. Both had sweeping views of the region ringed by snow topped mountains. Near the top one we stopped for Majella to get into the snow. She was lucky to find a somewhat worse for wear snow person on which she did some repairs rather than build her own from scratch.

Cardrona Hotel

By the time we reached Cardrona it was almost midday. Majella called lunch time because she had wanted to stop at the Cardrona Hotel on previous trips but each time we had already eaten elsewhere and there seemed little point in getting a group in and out of a vehicle for a look. Lunch was slow but good. Majella had the potato and leek soup while I had a venison and bacon burger.

Lake Wanaka

Since we no longer needed lunch our stop in Wanaka was short, just long enough to brave the wind on the foreshore of the lake to take some photographs of the snow covered mountains across the lake. By that time there were some clouds appearing from the west and it was apparent that a change of weather was coming. Majella did a drive through visit to the main street and we headed back toward Queenstown via the Cromwell road. 

We wanted to pick up a bottle of wine to take to dinner and had decided that Roaring Meg, a brand we had seen at lunch in Glenorchy, was appropriate. The Mount Difficulty winery that owns that label was just beyond Cromwell so we headed there. We found it perched on a hill in an interesting landscape with eroded sandy hills that we assume are what cause the locality to be known as ‘the desert’. 

Further along we paused above the Kawarau River at the old gold mine and at Roaring Meg where a tributary stream joins rapids in the gorge. The side stream has been tamed for hydro but there is still a strong swirling flow in the gorge. We also stopped at Gibbston Station to buy some cheese to add to the wine.

We arrived back in Queenstown with time to relax before dinner. There was also time to begin packing in preparation for tomorrow and to catch up with Facebook and other communications.

Maps on my iPhone and the address we had took us most of the way to dinner but I misread Margie’s directions and we turned up a wrong drive. A phone call sorted that out and we were soon being welcomed by Ned and Margie at the top of the next drive. Their house sits on a hill with a view directly across the valley to Coronet Peak ski area. At the time we arrived there was still the last glimmer of daylight but the lights were on for night skiing so we looked across at lights sparkling against the white snow.

We enjoyed drinks and nibbles while we waited for Tracey, a friend of Margie and Ned, to join us for dinner. Once she had arrived we chatted for a while while dinner was finalized and then sat down to enjoy tender rib fillet sliced and served on a bed of rocket with Mediterranean vegetables and fresh bread accompanied by red wine. Dessert was banana cake iced with chocolate and served with yoghurt and mixed berries. It was all delicious. As might be expected among a group that totaled about 300 years of varied life experience, conversation ranged widely, it was a very enjoyable evening. Tomorrow we fly north.