When snow-kiting on the Old Man Range several weeks previously, Rachel had lost her favourite woollen hat (knitted by a guy on Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca) somewhere out on the vast area of snow. Rachel clearly has a 'No Hat Left Behind' ethos, so, with a big snow melt, we drove back up the mountain. Once the road became became too muddy, we continued on foot. We didn't find the hat, although some consideration was given to a posting on the local lost and found sites.....
Our search unsuccessful, we camped by Lake Dunstan just north of Cromwell.
One of the main reasons for being back in the area was for the van to be fitted with new Glow Plugs. Once done, we took the picturesque Cadrona Valley Road to Queenstown,. The views over the pass and on the approach to Queenstown are just stunning, but on arriving in town, we weren't quite ready for the hub-bub of city life, so we passed through and out the other end. We continued along Lake Wakatipu to a quiet campground on the edge of the lake, some 15km from town. We spent another night on Moke Lake taking in the views of the surrounding mountains.
There are lots of vineyards in Central Otago, so we were lucky enough to meet for lunch at Akarua Wines with friends from Raglan, Dave and Nicky, who were on a trip from the North Island in their new Range Rover. Over lunch, we were invited to go for a jaunt in the new car. The next day, stocked up with plenty of picnic food and wine, we all headed off for a drive through the Pisa Range and to the Nevis Station, a huge ranch miles from anywhere. Eventually we came upon a locked gate and no way forward, we had to turn back. No, wait a minute - we were back on the theme of missing hats. Dave and Nicky's friend had lost a hat by a locked gate on this route, in recent weeks. Out we get and search the area. This is a windy place and any hat could have been blown to the other end of this huge valley.... We didn't find a hat, but we did have a great picnic and day out. I love that car.
After camping the night in Arrowtown, an old goldmining boom town, we continued our journey back through Queenstown, stopping at Glenorchy, then on to Kinloch at the north end of Lake Wakatipu. There are incredible views wherever you look in this part of the country.
In the morning we drove to the end of the road on the west side of the lake opposite Pig Island, where we took a 16km hike on a loop track to Lake Rere. Hard work in places, but worth the effort for the views.
We stayed a second night in Kinloch and after a short drive in the morning, took a hike on a steep track along the Routeburn Track to Forge Flat.
We returned briefly to Glenorchy and then drove to Paradise, a truly beautiful place. We were booked for a night at a rustic cottage. No electricity, no gas and definitely no phone signal and it's still the middle of winter. There was a coal burning stove (but we had wood) and in the forest, a bath tub. To have a bath, I first had to fill it with cold water, then light a fire under it. Great fun sitting in the bath, supping wine. You certainly know when it's time to get out - well before it's time to chuck in the onions 'n carrots...
Cooking on the stove took a little longer than expected, as the wood didn't quite get it to temperature. The food was made to feel uncomfortable, then bothered, rather than cooked. As usual, Rachel's perseverance got us through. We both loved the place and the experience.
The next day, the benefit of keeping the stove going all night paid off. While the oven didn't really get hot, nor did the room really warm up, we did enjoy a piping hot shower, courtesy of the wetback. After walking the grounds and visiting other cottages, we headed back along Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. This time we didn't just pass through, as we had done on the many times we'd driven through. This time, we stayed. Away from the one road we had travelled along 4 or 5 times, Queenstown is a handsome town, plenty to see and do and surrounded by amazing scenery and snow-capped peaks.