Tales of a wandering lesbian

B-list bliss

Aside from gorgeous mountains and amazing lakes, New Zealand has a number of other interesting attractions, lesser sites, and tourist traps that don’t bring most people to the country, but are not to be missed, in my estimation.

Arrowtown, for example, is one of the historic gold towns of the South Island’s goldfields.  Along with its cute, wooden, wild-west main street

the town has an area of preserved and reconstructed homes of Chinese workers.

The gold town history is still alive, so much so that you can buy or rent a pan from the Department of Conservation information center in town, and head to the river to try your luck.  I grew up in Idaho, in an old gold town, so I was excited to crouch down and start swirling the muck around the bottom of my little, plastic pan.  Until the sand flies found me.

Then we headed to the Cardrona Hotel, which we heard was a great place to grab a bite and enjoy the scene.

Sadly, it was closed when we got there, so we enjoyed the garden and made friends with some of the locals.

From there, it was back to Wanaka to reclaim our day of relaxation.

The first thing waiting for us in Wanaka, was pastry at the amazing Cheeky Monkey Café.  And pies.  New Zealand, being a former British colony, has adopted some of the great parts of British food culture (yes, there are some).  We ate fantastic “chips,” drank wonderful tea in the afternoon, and had pies – savory-filled pastry.  At least, Krista did.  Even though veggie options were often available, the pastry portion was nearly always glutenous.

But not at the Cheeky Monkey.

I ended up with some kind of fabulous vegetable pie on my plate, and finished up the meal with a “slice.”  We ran into slices all over.  Triangles of sweet yumminess.

Krista packed up some of her caramel version to take with her, but I threw back the whole lot of mine, chocolate and coconut and apricot and almond.  It was pretty much heaven.

As we stood to leave, I remembered the fleece.  Krista’s fleece sweatshirt.  Packing for the Routeburn Track in Queenstown, she realized that she’d left her favorite fleece in Wanaka, likely at the Cheeky Monkey.  I was quite sure it was still there.

Krista had asked at the hotel next door, where we’d used the internet, but had no luck.  Now she turned to our server, a tone of resignation in her voice.  “I’m sure it’s not back there, but would you look and see if anyone turned in a sweatshirt?  I think I left one here.  Thanks,” or something equally doleful.

“Oh, it’s grey, right?”  The waitress was walking into the back room.

We looked at each other and I started laughing.  She emerged a moment later with the prodigal fleece.

Krista pressed it to her face like a child greeting a favorite blanket.

“Thanks!”  We were all smiling now and Krista was pulling the fleece over her head.

The fleece reclaimed, we were off to Puzzling World, some kind of puzzle Mecca that included an immense, outdoor maze.

Both a little reluctant to admit we were interested, we floated the idea back and forth.

“I’d be up for it if you’re interested.”

“It looks kind of hokey, but I’m game.”

“Do you want to go?”

“Do you?”

Finally we admitted our interest and headed up the street to the strange building that housed New Zealand’s puzzling center.

It certainly was unique.  And fun.  When we entered the huge maze, we were told the average time spent inside was 45 minutes.  That’s a long time in a maze.

We raced around, taking time to survey the quadrants from the elevated bridges, and trying to make sense of blind corners and hidden turns.

We made it through in about 30 minutes, and felt like we’d conquered the final immunity challenge in SURVIVOR.

But the maze wasn’t the only thing Puzzling World had to offer.  Inside were rooms and rooms of illusions.

We played around in each of them, stared at statues, moved our heads a certain way, and sat down to play with all of the puzzles you could purchase in the gift-shop.  Puzzling World offered literally hours of entertainment.  We were happy.

Our next off-the-tour stop was the ghost town of St. Bathans.  We spent the night just outside of town, but before we settled in, we cruised up to the town itself, and the haunted Vulcan Hotel.

The hotel and the rest of the ghost town were interesting for sure.  We visited each of the little buildings, all managed by the family that runs the hotel.  Knickknacks and honesty jars lined the walls of some buildings.  Old bottles and cobwebs lined the windows of others.

But all of this came at the end of our visit .  When we pulled up into the little gravel lot across from the hotel, we were greeted by the town guide.

“Buddy,” as we called him, guided us into the lot from the street, and waited for us to get out of the van.  He led us over to a little info display and then, hearing that we were interested in a short hike, took us out to the trailhead.

We chuckled hard as Buddy led us the entire way.  He jogged ahead of us, running off the trail every so often to sniff a favorite rock or greet a bird.

The trail ran through the remains of a sluicing operation – a great lake made by the use of pressurized water to wash away gravel and mud, revealing gold.  Supposedly, when the light hits the water, the lake turns an unearthly blue.  It was an overcast day, so we didn’t see it, but the carved walls surrounding the lake, and the old pipes still sticking out of them were unearthly enough for us.

The next morning, we headed to our next destination, Dunedin, for a smattering of interesting activities.  We photographed the second most photographed building in the Southern hemisphere: the Dunedin train station.

We filled our cistern with water from the local brewery.

And visited the world’s steepest street.

The mountains and waterfalls of New Zealand are remarkable, truly.  But the unexpected, unplanned parts of any trip are usually my favorite, and New Zealand didn’t disappoint.

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1 comment

1 Big Mama { 01.26.11 at 4:41 pm }

I always feel as though I’ve been somewhere special after reading one of your blogs!! Thanks for sharing.

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