On the road again
Going places that I’ve never been
Seeing things that I may never see again
I can’t wait to get on the road again
Day 3 of the Rimu tour was our longest travel day. One last breakfast at Braemar and then we were on the road again. As we made our way south, the high-country scrublands slowly gave way to undulating grassy hills. We stopped for a leg-stretch in Omarama, where I bought some very nice paua shell Christmas ornaments for friends back home. From there we bounded over scenic Lindis Pass to Lake Dunstan.
A special surprise was in store for us at Cromwell, in the heart of the south island’s fruit growing region. We stopped at a shop that specialized in all manner of fruits, vegetables, and preserves that would have been the envy of anyone at the Strathcona Farmers Market back home. Even better, our guides treated us to delicious ice cream cones, hand-blended with our choice of fruit. Blackberry ice cream never tasted so good.
The bus rolled into Queenstown around 1:00 pm, and we were granted about 2.5 hours to go for an unguided walkabout. The group was scheduled to be back in Queenstown for the weekend, so most people made arrangements for upcoming activities. I hiked up to the gondola area and did some research on downhill mountain biking and the luge track. Both activities looked like a complete riot. Later, I headed back downtown and checked out a few bike hire shops and some sporting goods stores to see what was available. I also made sure to drop into the immortal Fergburger for a monstrous cheeseburger and a beer. The perpetual lineup at Fergburger usually goes right out the door, and I could certainly taste why.
We bid Queenstown a temporary goodbye, and got back on the road again. We crossed from the Otago district into Southland, and then turned west toward Fiordland. While there were still sheep and cattle grazing in roadside pastures, I noticed more and more deer farms. The domesticated deer in New Zealand are a good size, about halfway between our white-tailed deer and our elk back home. Our guide mentioned that the Southland area was where deer farming first took root in New Zealand, and the meat products continue to be an important revenue stream today.
After a very long day of traveling, we finally arrived at Lake Manapouri. Our guides needed an hour or two to pull together dinner, so I went for a nice brisk 6 km hike up and down the lakeshore. Lake Manapouri may be off the beaten path, but it sure is a relaxing place to blow off some steam.
Our tour company made a point of featuring local ingredients at dinnertime throughout our trip. So on this night, we feasted on succulent medium-rare venison tenderloin with a berry reduction and garlic mashed potatoes. Maybe it was the exhilaration of finally being off the bus, or the endorphin rush from my speed hike, or the hilarious table talk with Bil and Cam over dinner. Whatever the reason, the grilled Bambi at Lake Manapouri was the best Kiwi meal I’d ever had.
Song of the Day: “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson