Thursday, 23 November 2017

Queenstown to Invercargill via Fruitlands

We head to the airport for a 9am car pick-up. The airport is empty and so is the car hire desk, so we wait and I gather some brochures for Southlands. We have a brand new Rav4, which proves to be a lovely car but not as powerful as the Forester - I'm not tempted to buy one.

Our journey today will be long because we've chosen the scenic route, via Arrowtown where we stop for a much needed coffee and muffin break (it's been nearly 12 hours since we had a decent coffee!). This tiny town was settled in the mid 19th century, following others in the rush to find gold in the rivers. It's quaint, very touristy, and busy. We're lucky to find a parking spot easily because by 10am there are none left.

Cherries are in season as we head through the central Southlands towns, also known as Fruitlands, like Cromwell... to Invercargill.


The scene changes and becomes very craggy, rocky outcrops poke from the mountain sides and this is still LOTR country. It's barren and there are traces of snow on the peaks. We stop to look at Gore's new-ish hydroelectric station, built unwittingly on an earthquake fault line!!

We stop for a much needed lunch break in Clyde, another gold rush town now tuned to tourists needs. I might add that we aren't tourists, as Aussies we're honorary Kiwis! We settle for a delicious veggie stack and salad at the Bank Café.

As we descend towards sea level the farmland appears - sheep and dairy cows by the millions, everywhere we look another cow or sheep! They are fat and well-fed from the lush green grass.
A pit stop at Gore, country music capital of NZ and home to the Brown Trout!

Invercargill looms towards us as the clouds appear. It looks like it might rain here. We locate the hostel I booked months ago only to find they'd muddled up their guest nights and we are put outside the main house in what appears to be a lean-to. Tiny, wobbly double bed, lurid sheets and thin walls adjoin the toilet. It is not attractive and I determine to find a better place for three nights. The owner, Wally, says there's no cancellation fee, which is generous of him, so we hop back into the car and head to the main street looking for a motel.
What a find! Asure Townsmen Motel has a superior room we can have but we check it out first to be certain. It's HUGE. A suite no less, all brand new, clean, comfortable, well kitted out kitchen. We hesitate briefly then head to reception to ask if we can stay 3 nights here. Donna grins and gives us the key. We need somewhere comfortable, it must be age :)
Provisions are bought from Pak ''n Save, a vast warehouse supermarket and we note what to buy for our Stewart Island walk in a few days time. We also find a liquor shop and Rich buys a litre of brandy! It may be possible to take some on the track. My itches are a nightmare but maybe they'll be better in the morning after a good night's rest.

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