The drive over the Crown Range to from Arrowtown to Wanaka is truly a great drive. I first did it alone when I holidayed in New Zealand in 2004. There was still snow around and the signs to 'put snow chains on here' had me terrified, well that and the steep and sharp corners straight out of a James Bond film. I was shaking at points but proud none the less. 
Since moving here we've done the drive a few times and no...Adam hasn't driven every time.....just mostly.  On this occasion, the sun was comforting and turning the afternoon golden and warming. The views are far reaching and the mountains seem to smile back at you. We head down into Wanaka, heading to the outskirts and a hunt for campsite......
Oh the joy, I knew just driving up the gravel road we were onto a winner here. Yes it's a wee bit out the way, but boy is it worth it. So no, you can't stroll into Wanka for an evening meal or drink but there is a well stocked shop on site with just the amount of goodies you need. Plus you can walk round the lake into Wanaka, it'll just take a hour or so.

So this place has soul. There are numbered, powered sites, but not lined up like a regimental ground. There are trees, dirt and mud. Plus you're on a lakeside, on a slight incline, so there are varied views and outlooks. There are a few folk here, some in tents, some in very small tents. There are trailer tents, and campa vans plus huge trailers with the whole deal of heaters, satellites etc. What I'm saying is that it copes, encourages and welcomes all types of camping. Yes Lake Outlet Holiday Park is the place to stay.
The showers/toilets are the best designed I have ever come across and despite the wind and rain (oh boy was there rain) they stayed warm dry and cosy. The warmest of our trip in fact. Now these aren't flash, big or brand new. They just work and are just right. There is a sufficient sized kitchen that given the rain was always quite busy in the evenings, folks playing cards, writing, computering as well as cooking and washing up. 
We were here for Anzac day which we marked with a good breakfast and a stunning walk from the campsite to Albert Town. An absolutely great track that we were blessed with sun and warmth as we strolled the easy path along the lake outlet up the river about 6km of walking, then a rest with treats and then a walk back. 
Despite the onslaught of severe rain at this point, the sort of rain that shuts roads, floods paths and causes a wee bit of trouble - New Zealanders never get too disrupted but enjoy the challenge - we had some good times. On our list of 'To Do's was Puzzling World. Often passed never as yet visited. Great time. Simple but fun. My mum would have loved the maze, Adam beat me, but heh ho. The Illusion rooms were amazing, clever and difficult to describe - sorry - you'll have to visit yourselves. 
Another must do for Wanaka is the cinema. Now a cinema visit in New Zealand is always pretty good, They have leg room, normally wine or whatever you fancy really. There are those with bean bag seats or those with posh lounging recliner chairs where you can have food delivered to you mid way through the film. There are huge screens. There are some amazing independent cinema with great style, class and ice cream. There are quirky famous in there own right cinema and this one, the Paradiso in Wanaka is one of those. 
Tis full of armchairs, settees and other oddities to sit upon - namely a Morris minor! You can eat before, during or after. It was busy when we booked our tickets, busy when we turned up and busy when we ate pizza after the film. They have this amazing tradition it seems of home baked cookies, ready fresh from the oven for the intermission. Yes an intermission, the stampede was a sight in itself. Service excellently friendly banter and fun with a healthy approach to annoyingly noisy children.
We did brave the rain, got dressed up - no such thing as bad weather just bad clothes kind of attitude - and off we went. Only a short one, I'm all for getting out there, but the cloud was low , the rain was full on and I don't want to die! Anyway Diamond Lake it was. A a great walk around the lake, we then went up (oh how I love walking uphill), as we got to on viewpoint, the clouds lightened, the rain eased and we took it all in for a moment. Deep breaths, joy of living and all that. Then we walked back, more rain came and the clouds thicken. We are blessed, joyful, appreciative, wet, happy. 


Arrowtown is a gorgous little place. A place to visit in any season, but has a reputation for stunning autumn colours, hence our April visit. We were not dissappointed. Nor were we disspointed with the great Lake District Museum, much bigger than it looks, with loads of interesting and well set up displays. It's history is the gold minning days and that history is important, preserved and intergral to any visit.
It also has a small number of shops, good places to eat, an historic chinese village settlement, short and longer walks. All pretty cool.
We wanted to spend the night, as previous trips where all day visits, the intention being a good mea, a bottle of wine and a wlak make to the camper. There is but one choice and given the stunning backdrop the campsite is a huge disappointment.
It is dull, unimagantive site. Regimental, concreted. Even the map of the site is depressing. You have to have an access card for the barrier for goodness sake, what is that all about. The staff I saw were realatively friendly, though when we arrived at 4pm we were unable to use the kitchen (closed) or the toilet/shower block (cleaning in progress) so that annoyed me. The point of paying to stay in these sites to have access these things - what if the gas had run out in the van and I needed tea, what if I needed the loo after our drive. I was slightly enraged as we walked into town. Actually I misread the opening hours of the kitchen and they weren't as bad as I first thought, though it was still closed at 4pm!
When we could use the shower room. you have to pay an extra dollar for a shower. Now these are flash sleek, new and clean I'll give them that, and yes there is underfloor heating, but I'm not that fussy. The showers are also quite powerful, so this place is probably worth a night, if you have sore aching muscles that need a good pummel, or if you have tangly, knotty hair that really needs power to get that conditoner worked through!

But on the whole I would say give it a miss. There is no soul, no atmoshphere, no style. You want an electical hook up, you don't need to be frog marched, squeezed in and lined up, which is kind of what it feels like. Campers are never as chatty at places like this either.

It was the only place I could find, to camp near enough to walk into town for what turned out to be a great meal, preceeded by wine in an absolutely fabulous little bar. I digress, maybe this was the night to try freedom camping. Maybe that is what people do and that is why there is a secirity barrier to stop sneeky folk using the facilities! Camping and campsites are very personal so each to their own. This is but my own humble opioion and I hated it.
Thankfully things were about to get a lot lot better.

The Ride of the Rings

Bless him, that's all I can say. Number 7 has been on my mind for this trip as I thought that the stunning scenery around Paradise would be tempting and dsitracting. So we booked. I still ummed and errred - Queenstown seems to always knock me into in-activity. There is so much to do, so much exciting adrenaline rush stuff that I do nothing. I overcame and booked the ride. It had been rather wet so we went for the Ride of the Rings - plus this one is only at a walk and only one and half hours. It takes you right up into Paradise so the fact that you pass lots of places where filming took place is either an added bonus, or neither here, nor there depending on your point of view. I was worried though as Adam was calling horses 'beasts of Satan' on the drive up to Glenorchy.

So first off I must say that all the staff at Dart Stables are fantastic. Though on the day of our visit Rachel deserves a special mention. She knew her day wasn't going well with a pick up over half an late, then Adam asking about camel riding I don't hink helped much, but she could take the piss out of him without any fear. Then she had to face the rude man and the phone, then the late woman having a fag. It made our waiting to leave all very entertaining but I did feel for her, and felt the need to give her chocalate if I'd had any one me.

So off we go. I was so worried about Adam, but he seemed to be smiling at me. The rain held off for our ride and at times the sun came out. It was stunning, walking into the forests took my breath away, it was amazing, so beautiful. No, sorry crap at good descriptions, you'll have to trust me. Though of course if you're not into outdoor stuff, woods, trees and the like you'd have hated it, anyway I digress.

I did have moments of anxiety over my control freak thing, that occurs when I'm sitting on a horse, but I relaxed, feeling confident and assurred by our two guides, knowledgable with a sense of humour. They were both great. I rode Randel, apparently can be grumpy and likes to eat, so we got on perfectly. It was great, can I say that any more times.

Having your picture taken at a higlight spot was a surprise and a rather pleasant one at that.

Well the pace of the walk picked up and I guessed the horses knew we where on the home stretch, the wind started to pick up and just as we all dismounted the rain came. Blessed, that's what I am.

Well at this point I look at Adam, he smiles, a big, huge, happy smile. Then you could have knocked me over as he says 'I really enjoyed that', blimey hell and hurrah. He wants a horse now, of course. But at least I can plan some more riding trips.

Thank you Dart Stables. By the way we popped into your shop in Queenstown and there was a couple there deciding whether to do a trip - I think we did a pretty good job. Especially Adam, who I think Rachel offerred him a job anyway based on his sense of humour.


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