From Lake to Lake in New Zealand (sat)

Woke up and headed to the waterfront for our Jet boating trip. Turned out the Saturday art market was set up along the waterfront. Picked up a couple of colorful paintings of a kiwi from a local artist.

Jet boating is like jet skiing, but a bigger boat, that goes much faster. For tourism, it is a boat that holds almost 25 people. Two 750 horsepower engines suck water in from the bottom and shoot it out the back, allowing the boat to raise up out of the water and reach speeds around 80km/hr. Sitting idle, the boat needs a good 1 to 1.5 meters of water. When moving fast, the boat only needs 5 – 10 centimeters of water allowing us to go over extremely shallow areas. This adds to the excitement as the fast speeds and hugging shorelines or sand bars is a blast.

We started out in lake Wakatipau, traveled to and under the dam at the Kawarau river mouth, up that river a ways and then veered into Shutover river. For almost an hour, we got to travel some 42 kilometers and saw great scenery. To liven things up, the JetBoats can be made to do a full 360 over the water. When our driver Kent would motion with his arm (as if he were twirling a lasso), that was our warning he was about to spin us around. The boating was a lot of fun. Next time, I want to find
someone that will let me drive.

Next, we headed up to Arrowtown, a small town north of Queenstown. If someone swapped signs with Estes Park, it would probably fool a few people. Same type of town, focused on arts, mountains all around. Blaise’s friend Nicola had recommended we get some custard squares from the bakery there, and we now understand why. I also dropped some coins in a small donation box to support a local cat rescue, despite seeing no cats in the town.

We then headed toward Cordrona. To get there, it required going over a windy mountain pass toward Wanaka. Blaise feared for her life, clawing the passenger seat while I enjoyed the very Rocky Mountain-esque road. On the opposite side of the mountain, we stopped at the Cordrona Hotel/Pub, an iconic southern New Zealand watering hole. It is apparently in many commercials of all types and just associated with the region. As is tradition, I ordered a Speights, a locally brewed beer. We had a platter of cheese, bread, meat and other cooked items in a beautiful grassy courtyard with picnic tables, foothills in the background and a two person band playing folk and Irish tunes.

From here, we passed through Tarras, home of ‘Shrek’. No, not the colorful ogre we all enjoy. Shrek is the name of a folk hero sheep from Bendigo station. Many years ago, Shrek and the rest of his flock would be released into the local mountains and collected before spring to harvest the wool. That year, Shrek (before he was named) did not come back with the flock. Then, year after year, he did not turn up when the ranchers went to collect the sheep. Six years later, the sheep returned with the flock and he was a mess. From that point, he was named and became famous internationally. Google “shrek the sheep” for pictures, Wikipedia article and more.

At some point during the drive, I noted that NZ radio does not censor songs. According to Blaise, they do sometimes if the amount of profanity is high, or a song plays during certain times (e.g., right after school lets out). Otherwise, they play the originals.

We ended up spending the night at Lake Tekapo. Unfortunately, there was some cloud cover so we didn’t get to see the notorious colorful night sky. Think ‘northern lights’ but more shades of red. Dinner at Kohan, a Japanese restaurant next to the motel. Probably the best and most fresh salmon nigiri I have had in ages. This is due to us being half an hour from a glacier-fed salmon hatchery.

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