Sunday, 28 October 2012

Road Trip: Day Seven

Waking up with a view over sparkling Lake Wanaka and the misty snow-capped mountains beyond is one hell of a way to greet the day ahead.

After showers and more duck feeding, we drove into town to breakfast on porridge, topped with spiced apple, cranberries and vanilla mascapone. Incredible. We had a quick look around the shops before heading out to Queenstown, via the mountain pass.

The curator of an Arts and Craft shop we visited told us there had been snow on the mountain during the night but she thought it should be safe since people had been driving on it all morning. As we turned onto the road out of town, we passed a sign reading 'vechicles carrying snow chains only past this point'. Slightly worried, we decided to venture ahead and see what the conditions were like. The road was heavily gritted and no-one appeared to be wearing chains, despite the numerous designated 'chain bays' we passed on the way up.

Having tackled the snowy pass and headed down the other side of the mountain, we decided to stop off at Arrowtown, where the ladies at my sewing class had told me you can visit a recreation of a Chinese miner's village. 

Widely known for its gold mining history, the town attracted many Chinese immigrants after the West Coast goldmines opened in 1865 and drew most of the European miners to search for riches there. Subsequently, the Otago government invited the Chinese to mine in Arrowtown. They soon established their own settlement on the outskirts of the town, drawing both positive and negative attention from the original inhabitants of Arrowtown. They remained until 1928, when the amount of gold dwindled to next to nothing. 

Their houses were simple dwellings, built by hand with a basic chimney in the entrance and a small garden area where they would grow plants and vegetables to supplement their small income. These buildings soon fell into disrepair once the settlers had moved on, but were restored some years later. We spent a good 30 minutes walked around the settlement, reading the miner's stories and discovering the difficulties they faced as strangers in a very foreign land.

After a quick snoop around the lovely array of antique, vintage and shabby chic establishments that Arrowtown has to offer, a munch on a bag of chips and a stroke of a grumpy tabby who tried (and failed) to swipe at me, we were back on the road towards Queenstown.

We settled for a campsite with slightly higher prices than we had been accustomed to, since we'd been expected a rise in prices as we travelled into more touristy areas of the country. A trip to the bathroom soon explained where all the extra money they made was going....the bathrooms were snazzier than some hotels I've been in!

Among the many extra features listed in the camp's information sheet, I spotted board games and sent Mr Bear off to retrieve a travel sized snakes and ladders. I seem to be the only person I know to enjoy this particular classic. After four consecutive games, Martin and Brendan left me to play by myself. Sorry boys.

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