Our allotted time for Southwest New Zealand was coming to a close. Jesse and I had accommodation booked in Cromwell, which is a little town in central Otago that provides easy access to Queenstown and Wanaka. We had been camping for 5 days at this point and I was craving a shower. And some fruit (which Cromwell is apparently known for)!
We arrived at our AirBnB place just before dark. It was a lovely home with even lovelier hosts. Their place was full of other guests, both long and short term, from all over the world and it was fun to see different cultures colliding. The young French boys taking over the kitchen, the Chinese couple quietly streaming videos, the Croatians kindly living from their suitcases in the hallway so we could have a bed. The homeowners, Tracey and Tony, took it all in stride. I loved it there. We found some Thai food for dinner (Thai Crom…highly recommend. They let us in at closing time and fed us deliciousness without the slightest hint of annoyance) and called it a night.
In the morning we hit up a pick-your-own cherry place, which I thought was fun but Jesse didn’t agree! There’s a funny story though: We picked our 1.5 kg maximum of cherries, varying between dark and light varieties. We went up to pay our $18 and were asked by the checkout girl if we were headed to Wanaka and if so, could we deliver a box. Jesse looked to me (we had planned to go to Queenstown that day) and I shrugged. Sure, we could head to Wanaka. She was so grateful, she gave us about 2 dozen peaches and a dozen apricots (about $30 worth of additional fruit) for our trouble. But we still paid for our cherries. (Why not just give us those for free? Bizarre. But I’ll take it!) We drove to Wanaka, delivered the box to another fruit stand there (he asked if we’d like some free fruit. I told him we had plenty!). It felt only slightly sketchy, but it was a little adventure nonetheless.
Wanaka is a cute tourist town right on the lake. Much like Queenstown, but quite a bit smaller. We had some ice cream and lay by the water, debating renting paddleboards and/or kayaks. In the end, laziness won.
We drove the back way to Queenstown, flying down narrow winding roads, enjoying views of the mountains and valley, passing caravans left and right. We got into Queenstown and wandered around, eventually ending up at the famous Fergberger. Jesse is a huge fan of gourmet burgers and we heard this was the crème de la crème. The line was about 30 people long (both pre and post ordering) but dammit, we were gonna get some Fergburgers! So we waited. We stood in the hot sun and inched toward the counter. We ordered and waited for our number in the tiny restaurant. Jesse would argue it was worth it and was the best burger he’d ever tasted. I’d give it a shrug and a meh. But it was fun for the experience, if only for the jealousy that ensued amongst our NZ friends when they heard we’d been!
The following day we again found ourselves in Wanaka after getting a late start. We grabbed some lunch, spent time by the lake, and then carried on to Lake Hawea. We first stopped by the grocery store and bought a carton of premium Maple Walnut ice cream. With our camping spoons at the ready, we sat on the rocks and ate the whole thing. Then we skipped rocks, played games, watched the dogs swim and run on the beach, and just…were. It was perfect.
We left Tracey and Tony’s the next day and ended up in Twizel for some salmon fishing. Tony gave Jesse some bait and some tips (sadly, neither were successful). However, the Twizel area featured the bluest water I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how or why it looks like that, and the color is exaggerated somewhat with the brown and dry surroundings, but I couldn’t get over it. We also had a side trip mixed in to Lake Tekapo and had some fun on the flying fox!
Just beyond Twizel was our next stop: Mt. Cook.