March 1st, 2004

full steam ahead

No clever title

This is the first day where I arranged everything myself and I think it's going well: I caught all my connections and I think I'm in the right place...

Back from Te Anau to Queenstown by coach: we alternated rain and gleaming sun and I got to see more of the hills. Queenstown is quite familiar now and I found the LotR tat shop (at last!) and the cafe I wanted (raspberry pear smoothie and sunshine on the dock of the bay: yum). The colour of the lake is amazing: such a vivid deep blue that I can't quite believe it even when I'm looking at it.

I took the bus up to Arrowtown - the old mining settlement. It's an odd mix of nice suburb, traces of empire like the gas lamps and memorial cast iron doodad commemorating King George and the oldest post box in New Zealand, quaint historic cottages, touristy high street (though with the minimum of plastic tat), thriving community and impressive scenery.

The Chinese settlement is where Chinese gold miners ended up and it's a little sad because they went from invited workers to discriminated against in less than 15 years and the rebuilt cottages look small and pokey. I don't know if the riverside setting would have been picturesque in the winter and one visitor's comment that the shacks were small because the miners were made my blood boil!

I walked through the wood to the cemetry but diverted along the way to scramble up a nice-looking hill with pines halfway up. I repeated my mountain goat impression at the cenotaph which is on a steep hill with amazing views of the surrounding hills - it also has an easy track that I discovered only on the way down!

The Arrow river forks and meanders and recombines in the wide riverbed: the fords are never quite high enough to get across with totally dry feet and although it looks placid the water spurt and foams in the deeper sections.

After a wander around the town (village? I stayed in the small historic centre most of the time) I had cocktails in the Blue Bar: pink drink! Strawberry champagne martini and watermelon daquiri - yum. I sauntered across the alley to Saffron which had a good writeup in the guidebook, which it thoroughly deserved. Poached quail eggs and caperberries on spinach with brioche toast: rack of lamb with minted potato croquettes and a skewer of kidney and bacon: warm chocolate cake with so much cocoa on it that when I poured the melting ice cream over it the liquid rolled right off! Pleasant merlot though not as nice as the Tatachilla which turns out to be Australian.

And as you might expect in a small place, the waiter lives next door to the b&b where I'm staying. I'll admit to a little uncertainty here: I think it's where I booked but the owners are away (he's having complications after an operation on his back) and the other neighbour let me in. I'm now wondering if I hallucinated booking it or forgot thwm saying they'd be away or something and shouldn't be here... I'd hate to be intruding when they already have problems to cope with. There's nothing to do at this stage except tidy up after myself amd think grateful thoughts! And finish my book: I found a rack of books for sale at the local library, next door to the scenic and spacious phone box and the Masonic lodge which manages to simulate classical architecture with infill stone walls!

I found myself wanting an unplanned, just drift into it kind of day and I think that's what I've had. Some odd moments but assuming I haven't broken in to anyone's house, something of a turning point for me.

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors