June 16 - Queenstown
We considered getting up early to go to Stewart Island on the southern tip near Invercargill, but decided it would take two days to do it, and would be more expensive. We didn’t want to rearrange the itinerary that much in case we needed the two extra days I had built in for another time. It was also going to require us to get up around 5:30 so we could drive the 3 hours and make it in time for the 9:00 AM ferry across.
Instead we got up at 8:15 AM as we had been the past few days. We took showers, packed our things, ate a banana and checked out of the hostel. The roads were deserted, unlike the days before when people were driving everywhere. There were no cars parked on the roads, very few cars driving, and even less people walking around. It as 9:00 AM on a Saturday so I figured more people would be out doing things.
The hike to the car took about five minutes. The hardest part was walking up the steps on a short walking trail where the car was parked. The weather was pretty crispy cold, but the skies were perfectly blue and clear. It would have been a great time to see the peninsula and castle, but we had a long drive to Queenstown ahead.
We drove back down to the train station to get pictures with better weather. On the way we saw a huge outdoor farmer’s market. It might have been nice to stop, but we didn’t have time and didn’t want to pay for parking. In the end it probably wouldn’t have been cheaper than the grocery fruits and vegetables we had bought, and we still had a lot of them left.
On our way out of town we got a little lost, but were able to follow the signs and get back on track. I anticipated the drive would take about 4 hours. We were leaving right around 10 AM, so I was hoping to be there by 2 PM. We have four total days to spend in Queenstown, and today counts as one of those days.
Most of the drive was very scenic with a few hilly portions mixed in. There were a few small towns along the way where we had to slow down and we got stuck behind a few slow moving trucks and vans at times. We stopped only a few times for photos. We stopped at an overlook with a lake below and the city of Cromwell.
We saw grassy areas, hilly areas, sheep, people playing rugby, and mountains. The drive was very nice. It was also very foggy. For being midday and later there was still lots of fog. Sometimes you couldn’t see more than 20 yards in front of the car. I thought it was strange to still be foggy so late in the day when the sun was up. Usually fog is gone early in the morning. I guess it had just been so cold the few days before.
We got to Queenstown around 2:30 PM. Our plan was to find the campground and possibly do a hike. It gets dark around 5:30 PM here, so we didn’t have much time. We also still needed to eat lunch. The campground we are looking for is near Glenorchy, a small town just past Queenstown. The campground is Twelve Mile Delta, and supposed to be right on the lake surrounded by mountains, and very cheap.
Queenstown is known for it’s outdoor adventure activities and for being very expensive. We plan to do a jet boat ride and paragliding, along with a few day hikes. Our first goal is to find a nice campground to stay in for the next few nights.
We drove straight through town only to stop for a picture of the lake on the side of the road a couple of times. We were getting very low on gas as we drove in to Queenstown. We probably should have stopped and refilled the tank, but we didn’t. We were hoping that the campground wouldn’t be too far. Queenstown is very hilly, and very scenic. Lots of houses, apartments, and hotels overlook Lake Wakatipu and have great views of the mountains along it’s shores.
We drove down a road that pointed towards Glenorchy not knowing exactly where we were going. We drove for about 20 minutes and saw a sign for the Twelve Mile Delta Campground. We had to drive down a steep road that was gravel at parts. Most of the area was very small bush trees.
The campground was very undeveloped. It consisted of two outhouse buildings made of stone that were very clean and nothing else. The entire campground is gravel roads that are completely unmarked. We couldn’t tell what was road and what was hiking trail. We ended up driving down a short hiking trail for about 20 yards until we saw there was no way out because it was blocked with wooden posts. It reminded us of Swaziland and South Africa because some of the roads we had to drive on there when doing safaris were like that. You could hear bushes screeching against the door like fingernails on a chalkboard. The car we are in isn’t that great, so there wasn’t any damage done to it.
Andy had to back out and turn around. We were trying to find a good flat area with views of the mountains behind to camp. At one point Andy got out of the car to see if a little building in the distance was a bathroom or a kitchen,. It was just a bathroom. It didn’t seem like we were going to get to use our new pots and eat real food tonight. As he was walking over there a dog was chasing after him. The guy running the campground was walking around doing some work on the road and had his dog with him. The dog didn’t do anything to Andy. It ran up to him and then turned around and ran back to it’s owner. Then the dog went and chased another car as they were leaving.
We stopped and asked the guy running the campground where we could camp. He said anywhere was fine and pointed back away from the lake for possible camping sites. He said we could pay him after we got things set up. We ended up ignoring his advice and chose an area near one of the bathrooms. It looked more like a parking area for people wanting to use the toilet, but the camp is empty so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Just across the road from the campsite there is the shores to Lake Wakatipu. We parked, set up Andy’s gopro, and did a time lapse of ourselves setting up the tent. We had already done one of us taking it down, so now we wanted one putting it up.
We finished getting the tent set up and then the guy running the campground came over and collected our money. He told us about a few hikes in the area and things he recommended. We may do some of the hikes that start at the campground later on in our stay.
It was now about 4:00 PM, but felt much later. It gets dark so early so it makes you think it’s much later than it really is. We hadn’t eaten lunch yet so we made peanut butter and jelly with chips. I had a gross cookie for dessert just so we could get rid of them faster.
It was too late to start a hike so after our lunch we walked down to the water to get some pictures of the mountains. It was about 4:30 PM so the sun was beginning to go down behind the mountains behind us. Along the shore were huge trees with lots of roots sticking up out of the ground. They were perfect for climbing because they branched out everywhere and were low to the ground so it made it easy to get started.
I climbed one tree and took a few pictures and then Andy did the same. I was getting cold so I walked down the beach a little further. Andy had to go back to the car and change his battery so while I was waiting I did some yoga on a tree stump. It was able to warm me up completely except my feet, they were freezing for some reason. I thought my socks were warm, but I guess not.
Andy made it back and set up his gopro to do a time-lapse of the sunset on the mountains. The sun was behind us, but you could see the shadows moving up the mountain as the sun went down. I had him film me climb in a tree. I took a few more pictures and then we started going back. Andy wanted me to film him climbing the first tree we had come to. We waited until the shadow got to the top of the mountain and then he picked up his gopro. Then we went back to the car.
It was about 5:30 PM when we came back to the car. I stayed in the car and started typing my journals to get caught up a little bit. Andy set up a time lapse video of the tent with the mountains and stars in the back. When I finished typing it was about 7:00 PM. Andy wanted to know what was for dinner, but I told him it was time for bed. We considered tuna sandwiches, vegetables, or something else, but decided on nothing.
I went to the tent and Andy followed shortly after. He left his camera running for about an hour and a half. He wanted to go get it at 8:15. He sat in the tent and wrote in his journal until his pen quit working. He thought it froze from the cold.
Even in my sleeping bag I was freezing. My sleeping bag is supposed to be able to handle 15 degree weather, and my feet were frozen. I stuff my pillow, jacket, fleece, hat, and gloves at the bottom to help keep me warm, but that wasn’t helping at all.
My feet had been frozen since we got to the campground and after a few hours that hadn’t warmed up at all. Hopefully in the night I will warm up, but it’s not looking that way right now. I was asleep before he went to get his camera stuff and came back.