I mentioned in the last post that we were making our first trek out of Dunedin to explore the south Island a bit. We decided to turn it into an early anniversary celebration and stayed a couple nights at a beautiful little cottage in central Otago.
In my opinion there are few things better than driving a new road and witnessing a landscape you’ve wanted to see and tried to picture take shape before your eyes. Driving west from the coast took us across hills and beautiful open farmland; the further we drove the more the colors deepened. Our car continues to be a bit temperamental, but thankfully we had no major issues.
It took us a little over 3 hours to get to Cromwell, which is the farthest point away from the sea to be found anywhere in New Zealand. However, we were in no hurry and made stops in random little towns for coffee and pulled over for spur of the moment scenic photos. Below on the left you see Cromwell which is given part of its boundary by two rivers. I mention this only to note that 20 years ago a dam was put in (creating a large man made lake) and the town of Cromwell, then a gold mining town, was flooded. Below to the right you see part of the old city center which was relocated and preserved. The rest of the town was rebuilt on higher ground.
Cromwell is in a part of Otago known for its orchards and vineyards which are plentiful because of the amount of heat and sunshine the region gets (think Napa Valley). The roadsides are lined with wineries offering tastings and fruit vendors selling fresh products. As you can see in the pictures below, the autumn colors are simply spectacular. Also, there was a giant shaggy-haired cow scratching its head on a tree, which was great fun, with a tiny calf standing underneath it. A picture was required. (Note: Stephanie is not convinced this is in fact a small calf, so weigh in on the debate if you want. Majority rules.)
These views are of the Clutha river just next to historic Old Town. There were also beautiful running paths around the edge of the lake/town. It’s quite serene.
We stayed at a cottage just outside of town. The owners of the business previously were deer farmers (yes, I said deer farmers) somewhere on the west coast of NZ, but moved to Cromwell in 1999 for sunnier weather. They bought a piece of property, built a house, and then spent a few years building cottages and landscaping.
While the cottages were fantastic, the grounds were simply magical. They purposefully designed the grounds so that guests could mosey around and take in the serenity of the colors and sound of the stream. Also, they grow a large garden that guests can pick food from as they please. I freely admit I wondered a time or two if we were in Eden. Thankfully, there are no snakes in NZ. Below are a few pictures of the grounds, but they hardly do the place justice.
On Saturday we took a day trip to Arrowtown and Queenstown. It was only about an hour drive through a valley filled with vines. Along the way, the mountains got bigger and reminded us of the Rockies.
First stop: Arrowtown. We’d been told that Arrowtown was great and that the colors would be very good this time of year, but still we weren’t prepared for it. Arrowtown was amazing. Surrounded by beauty and full of little cafes and shops in a quaint downtown, it was one of the most picturesque little towns either of us has seen. Just look at the colors that wrap around the town on the hillsides. Amazing.
After gawking at the colors and poking around the shops for a while, we drove another 20 minutes to Queenstown. Queenstown is the sister town to Aspen Colorado, and the beauty is comparable. It’s a very fast-growing town, with a lot of development taking place and foreigners buying property; it has many restaurants and shops and, thus, tons of tourists (like us!). Here are a few pics to enjoy.
Sunday we took a short trip up to a little alpine town called Wanaka. Wanaka was nice, and on the edge of a beautiful lake, but after Arrowtown and Queenstown it somewhat failed to impress. So, after poking around the shops a bit and getting a cup of coffee, we started making our way back home. I don’t know the particular locations, but the Queenstown area (and parts of Otago in general) is a favorite filming location of Peter Jackson. I thought the two pictures below looked quite a bit like some scenes from LOTR/Hobbit, and the Two Towers in particular.
We’re so thankful we were able to take this little getaway. It may indeed prove to be our favorite, since it was our first and the scenery was so beautiful. Anytime we have a break from our normal routine and get away Steph likes to ask what we’ve experienced that we’d like to instill in our day to day life, big or small. From this trip she found a new magazine called North and South she likes and wants to start reading regularly. I’ve made major plans to landscape our little yard and plant grapevines, fruit trees, get a shaggy-haired cow and add a stream.
In the meantime it’s back to the everyday, with 6am work starts for Steph followed by afternoons of reading, writing short stories, and keeping house. I still am doing lots of reading, thinking, and language work – the thesis continues to shift its shape – but will soon (next week!) convert it into some writing.
We’re continually thankful we have this chance to study, live in, and explore this beautiful land, but after weekends like this one in Cromwell, we’re extra grateful. In fact, we’re already talking about when we can plot a return trip!