Sat Feb 21 2009: Wanaka to Te Anau
Rain. Again. And it's cold! About 9-11C the entire day.
Our route for the day
Our route today takes us out of Wanaka south to Cromwell, where we follow the Kawarau River on what's called the Kawarau Gorge Highway. We're pretty high up above the river so we can only see glimpses of it while riding, so we pull over to investigate. It's quite a popular spot for riversports like white-water rafting, kayaking, etc. The Kawarau Valley used to be a site of a lot of gold mining activity in mid-to-late 1800s and there are still a lot of historic museums along the way.
Stopping to admire the scenery
Taking a hike from the highway down to the Kawarau Gorge
I think these people were in a shipwreck while boating down the Kawarau River. Good thing they all had boogie boards and flippers...
A bit further south of Queenstown, we decide to seek shelter from the rain and check out New Zealand's vintage steam train, the Kingston Flyer. It is still operating, albeit on a shortened track of 14kms and only for tourists who opt for a return trip running from Kingston to Fairlight and back - the only thing in Fairlight being a steam train souvenir shop where you can buy anything from steam train mugs and stickers to fridge magnets, which is what we're really there for (if you're at all familiar with our fridge back home, you'll understand!). It all takes 1.5 hours - a half hour to get to Fairlight, a half-hour to shop and walk around and another half hour to get back to Kingston. It's quite a photogenic train, so to make up for the fact that we didn't take a lot of pictures while on the bike in the rain, here are a whole mess of train shots instead.
In front of the Kingston Flyer
The engineer does some final last-minute inspections
"Step on a steam train. Step out of the driving rain..."
I have no idea what this is. But steam came out of it. And it looked cool...
We shared the rickety train ride with an elderly couple from England, they seemed to be train ethusiasts of some sort. They could the name the type of engine, the style of the interior, and even the fact that the steam train whistle was American-style and not British (multi-pitched vs single-pitched)! Back when they were our age, steam trains were the only way of travelling long distances! Pretty cool. So far, we've seen NZ by motorcycle, by helicopter and now by steam train! Have any of you seen Charley Boorman's new series, "By Any Means"? Yeah, I haven't either... ;)
The scenery around the Central Otago Drylands
After a lunch at the Kingston train station, we turn westwards again towards the coast. A lot of the hills around here are dotted with sparse outcroppings of vegetation that look like sagebrush, like the kind you see in California and the south-west US. We follow the winding Oreti River for part of the way and marvel at the mountains across the waters reaching up above the low-hanging clouds. Access to the actual west coast itself is blocked by the system of mountains that make up the Fiordland National Park, as well as Lake Te Anau, which the Oreti River flows into. It's the largest lake in the South Island and is where we're stopping this evening.
Stopped to admire the Oreti River on the way to Te Anau
I can't believe all this rain we're having. I know it's better than the snow and ice back home, but it would be kinda nice to see some sun during this trip!
Me, standing on a wet rock. Note the winding road behind me.