After we left the lush green West Coast of the country we drove inland toward Wanaka and Queenstown. The landscape changed drastically and quickly became dry and quite barren.
This is prime country for merino farming, and it was in this climate that we saw a shift from dairy properties to sheep. The country is hard, and lacks vegetation – which causes a bit of stress making the merino wool softer and longer (we learned this in Eneabba as well). It is also a popular place for snowboarding, skiing, luxury retreats and station living.
Mike used to live in the area, and spent a few seasons snowboarding and was keen to show me the space. We visited old friends (Tracey and Elliot) and thier two dogs whom have settled into Wanaka’s easy ways and enjoyed some really nice sushi and a breezy few days in the summer sun. The area is really cute, and frequented heavily by tourists, yet still doesn’t appear to be too over crowded. That is true apart from….
Queenstown. The city is perched on the edge of a beautiful lake, and is very strikingly similar in feel to Banff. The temperature dipped low the night we intended to camp there and so we avoided the chill and took shelter in a local hotel. This particular evening we ate out (which is not something we’ve actually done very much of while camping – for the most part we have been budgeting and making healthy meals) – at a popular pub that served us some pretty awesome pizza. We both really loved the smoked chicken, cranberry, rosemary and brie pizza. Seriously…it was beyond good. I might try to find a way to make it at home.
During our time in the Otago, we also did a really cool tour at Cromwell for a bit of history on the local prospecting scene and to learn a thing or two about what it takes to actually pan for gold.
Men used to hike for days with little to no food from Dunedin, only to discover that there was no vegetation in the area…return back and then make the trek again toward the area with whatever provisions they could physically carry. It had originally been discovered by two men whom were gold panning in the 1800’s and the volume of gold they found (80kg in three weeks) brought out a sea of men. Very few made as much as the first two gold panning pioneers however it did become more lucrative over time as new methods of panning became available (dredging etc).
This was probably my favourite thing we did in the area. The simple act of separating mud, rock and sand with water is quite soothing, and also did surprisingly yield a few little pieces for us. We spent 3!!!!! hours hunched over with gold fever looking for the dull yellow mineral amongst the muck. In the end we both hurt our backs and had to pull each other away from the hunt. It was so much fun though.
We each took away a small vile filled with water and our small flecks, which of course we both compared and took note of whom might have found more gold. It may be that I found a lot of pyrite! haha…it’s mostly goldish looking.
Hope you’re all well.
Holly & Mike