"" Writer's Wanderings: New Zealand Diary - Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw

Monday, December 09, 2013

New Zealand Diary - Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw

Saturday, October 26, 2013

One of the places Bob wants to eat at while in Te Anau is Miles Better Pies. He found it to be the number one spot on Tripadvisor. They make fresh meat pies daily and are well-known. Unfortunately they were closed before we got into town the first afternoon and we were in Milford Sound all the next day. So we have decided to forgo a hot breakfast at The Shakespeare House and stop for breakfast pies on the way out of town this morning. We fill our old McDonald’s take away cups with our B and B’s great coffee and find our way to the pie place.

Yesterday morning we had noticed a huge line as we passed by but this morning there are only a couple of people there when we arrive. We ask for bacon and egg pies and each is put into a small brown bag. Each pie is about five inches in diameter with a crusty top and bottom that flakes better than the best filo. Since the rain is still with us, we sit in the car and eat our pies and enjoy our second cups of coffee. When we’re done, we have to turn on the defroster and clear the windows. It got pretty steamy in there—from the pies!

We set Lady Garmon for our Queenstown destination. Except for a couple of minutes of sunshine, we have rain most of the way. There is no stopping for a morning walk today. We are tired of the rain and cold so we just continue on until we arrive at Queenstown.

Queenstown is a surprise. The city is full of all sorts of motels and hotels and accommodations of all kinds. It is a resort town and mainly for the winter months when the surrounding ski areas are open for business. It sits on a large lake, Lake Wakatipu. The views of the surrounding mountains are spectacular when the clouds part and let you peak at them.

We check in to our room at the Amity Lodge Motel and to our delight find that it is more like an apartment. As we assess its size we agree, it is probably bigger than the first apartment we lived in back in our college days. This will do nicely especially since we probably won’t be out and about a whole lot unless the weather improves.

The Information Centers in town (one for the area and one for the city) don’t offer us much hope of something to do, good weather or bad, unless we want to bungee jump, do a canyon swing (swing over a canyon on some contraption), go shopping, experience a jet boat ride. . .well, you get the picture. It’s a resort town and they have to offer something when the skiing is done. The gondola ride to the top of the mountain would be great if you could see the top of the mountain.

Eventually we opt for a ride on an old steamboat, the TSS Earnslaw. The ride takes you on a forty-five minute trip to the historic homestead of Walter Peak where you can see sheep sheared and have tea at the cafe there and wander around the homestead. We opt out of that part and just purchase the ride tickets to stay out of the rain.

As our steamship pulls away from the dock, we are wished farewell by a band on wheels. There is supposed to be a jazz festival on the city square this weekend but it too has been dampened by all the rain. Gotta love their enthusiasm though.

The TSS Earnslaw is certainly worth a good look around. The TSS at the beginning of the name stands for Twin Screw Steamer. It was built in 1912 to service remote farming areas around the lake. In the early days it was mainly a cargo ship and once the road access to the area improved, she was used less and less. In 1969, Real Journeys, the tour company that now operates her (and the one we used for Milford Sound), purchased the steamship and began operating her as a tourism venture. The decks were restored to reflect the earlier period . TSS Earnslaw is named for the mountain at the end of the lake and she has been dubbed “the Lady of the Lake.” 

The middle of the upper salon is open to the engine room and you can watch the engines at work as well as the fellow who shovels the coal into the three furnaces that keep the steam heated. It is amazing how fast this boat moves with the steam power. The wood and brass trim as well as the upholstery in the fancy salon on the lower deck are reminiscent of the period of the beginning of the steamboat’s service 101 years ago.

We pass a peaceful hour and a half going to the homestead and back and most importantly, staying dry. On the way back there is a piano player in the front of the salon but his music is hard to hear over the steam engine between us and him.

Back on land, I suggest we get some takeaway for dinner. We have a microwave we can warm things in and I really don’t want to go out again once we get back to the apartment. I am chilled to the bone. In a small mall, we find a food court with a Japanese takeaway and order two meals plus miso soup. It’s a bit of a walk back to the car with all of it but we make it back to the motel and it is still plenty warm.

The TV turned on and the heater turned up, we spend the rest of our afternoon watching some movies and catching up on our blog posts and reviews and Facebook of course. Along with this spacious apartment, we’ve also gotten a very generous 2GB of internet and it allows us both to be online at the same time as well.

Dinner done, I snuggle under a throw that is on the couch and read while Bob gets a good dose of TV sitcoms. The electric blankets are turned on to warm the bed—we each have our own control, and it isn’t long before we tuck cold feet into the preheated sheets hoping for a warmer and less wet day tomorrow.

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