For our next days off, a highly anticipated girls roadtrip was in order. The first activity of our action packed weekend was to take the gondola up to the top of Queenstown hill. As we climbed higher over sheep grazing, the incredible view of Queenstown and Lake Wakitipu opened out in front of us. From the top Aus and I rode the luges around a scenic circuit spiralling down the hillside, too preoccupied with the competition to admire the views any further.
With the adrenaline in our blood we got cleaned up ready for a night out. Joined by Allison and Frazer, the team assembled at a bar for a few drinks and progressed into a night of live music, dancing and Aus asking every 10 minutes when we were going to ride the bull.
The best part of the night out is the debrief breakfast the morning after, location, Red Rock, menu, fry ups and coffee. Ready for a big day, Allison, Aus and I loaded our small car and headed north for Mount Cook. The three hour drive took us through the golden rolling hills of Central Otago and on to small town Omarama, home to eclectic antique shops and our lunch stop.
We took a detour down a gravelled road to visit the clay cliffs. These amazing structures rupture out of the steep cliff edges in an otherwise pancake flat plain. We explored the jutting rocks making time for dusty selfies.
Then the landscape transformed again as the brilliant blues of Lake Pukaiki came into view, fringed by birch trees. As we turned up to Mount Cook, we followed the shores of the lake where pink and purple lupins were in full bloom. The village at the top was a small alpine settlement of 300 people, a few hotels and cafes but no real facilities. As short climb from the car gave us a view over the receding Tasman Glacier and the beautiful river valley below. An action packed day called for a quiet night with dinner and drinks overlooking Mt Cook, the clouds turning pink overhead. Edmund Hillary first climbed Mt Cook in 1949 and then went on to become the first person to climb Everest, subsequently becoming the first man to climb Everest and visit both the north and South Pole!
Luckily they brew the coffee strong in Mt Cook as Allison and I set off for the energetic Sealy tarns walk. A brisk 2,200 steps made for a thigh burning climb where we took every opportunity to catch our breath and look out over the magnificent view. We surprised ourselves with how quickly we got to the top and sat with the glacier and snowcapped mountains behind us, lake and valley outstretched in front.
Aus had managed to score a free helicopter flight through her company and picked us up from the bottom of the walk, filled with adrenaline from her ariel view. We had a second coffee in the mountaineers cafe before heading back south down the road. On our scenic drive we stopped to wander in the lavender fields, feed the Salmon in Twizel and gawp at the views of the ever changing countryside.
As successful as our girls weekend was becoming, we needed an opportunity to prove that we didn’t need men, and luckily a burst tyre presented that. A bulge in the aged tyre burst quite suddenly on (ironic) Deadmans Bridge in Cromwell and we limped off to jack up our car and change our impressively gauged tyre for the spare.
As all good nights out begin, we met in the food court so we could all fill our bellies. With several more Milfordians joining, we were a larger band of girls, Allison, Aus, Lineke, Nadia and Jaemi. Aus was so keen to begin on the beers that the ice cream saga, or any other which delayed our progression to the nearest bar, was not welcome. Once again we bar hopped to include live music, shots, cheesy music and finally, the bit Aus had waited all weekend for, riding the mechanical bull in Cowboys. As a former Gillyroo and country girl at heart she was a natural and judged all men on their riding abilities. I was not as glamorous as I clung on for dear life in a not so upright position.
In the morning we were up bright and early to ride the steam ship, the TSS earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu. The ship, built in 1912 made us reminisce about life on the Titanic as the speed changers rang out throughout the boat. The open ceiling to the engines meant we could go and gawp at men shovelling coal and firing the boat. The lake was calm, a man playing the piano added to the regal and timely feel of the boat. On the other side we stopped at Walter Peak station, a farming station once only accessible by water, frozen in time.
At the station we were treated to a sheep shearing demonstration as Asher turned and trimmed the sheep making a clean and efficient job of harvesting the wool for sale. Then we watched the sheep dogs round up the sheep from the mountainsides, sharing some giggles about the mischievous dog who seemed to be oblivious to the persistent cries of ‘Come Leo, Come!’
In the beautifully decorated house we had morning tea, dishes stacked high with carrot cake, brownies and scones with jam and cream. We had a view across the gardens and lake. Finally we were introduced to more of the family, the highland cows, alpacas and sheep they kept and were able to feed the animals over the fence.
On the return journey we sat down in the saloon of the boat, occasionally walking around to listen to the piano sing a long taking place on the top deck. We pulled into Queenstown docks to the sounds of Auld Lang Syne.
With a bit of grocery shopping and jobs along the way we made for Milford, a successfully exciting, exhausting road trip.