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Off the Beaten Track


Thankfully, my fever broke overnight, and I woke up feeling alive again.

Dore and I were a bit sad to leave Dunedin. There were a number of things we still wanted to see, and we loved the town. But we needed to keep moving in order to make it to all of the other places on our trip. So we packed everything up, settled up our B&B bill (only $330 NZD — or about $230 USD — for all three nights), and hit the road.

We made really good time, to Queenstown, enjoying the fantastic scenery on the way up into the mountains. We drove past gorgeous lakes, fast-flowing rivers, and steep-sided grassy hills filled with sheep. We stopped briefly at a picnic area right next to a gorgeous river for a quick lunch, then continued on.

We made it to Queenstown about 2:30, and decided to find a place to stay before doing anything in the town. Dore found a DOC (Department of Conservation) camp are on the GPS, so we started driving toward it. After a few kilometers, we started into the mountains, and after a few more turns the road turned into a single car width dirt track. Dore was really apprehensive, but the road looked quite well maintained, so I felt pretty confident that there was something up ahead. The more trepidation Dore had the more excitement I did, as the road wound up the valley and the mountains became higher and higher.

After a few more kilometers we finally found the campground at the end of the road. It was little more than a wide grassy area in the valley at the head of a medium-sized lake. Huge mountains loomed on all sides, and there was only the barest signs of human habitation. In a word, it was heaven.

We made sure that there were at least outhouses, and then we made the decision that yes, this would be a pretty cool place to stay the night. It was a bit early for that yet, though, so we headed back into town to check it out a bit more and to grab some dinner.

Along the drive back, we were stopped by a farmer, his three dogs, and a herd of sheep covering the road. We stopped to talk to the farmer, who asked if we wouldn’t mind waiting a few minutes while the sheep got over the next hill. Grinning, we assured him that it was no trouble. We sat in the car eagerly watching the dogs herd the sheep across. It was really cool to watch. After chasing a few sheep off the road on our way down, we made it in to town with no further delays, and went to have a bite to eat.

After dinner, we dropped by a pharmacy to get some NyQuil equivalent (my cold had turned into a raging head cold) and went by the i-Site information center to book bungy jumping for the next morning. We were both excited to go, and a little bit apprehensive, but we decided to take the plunge at the original bridge that they started doing jumps in 1988 (man, it’s crazy to think that that is twenty two years ago now). Jumping is quite expensive, it turns out, but I’m a bit glad that we were able to separate paying from doing. If things do go horribly wrong, I’d rather not have my last thought be of how expensive this whole thing was.

Bookings complete, we returned to the car and headed out to the camp site again. Once we made it to the dirt road, Dore and I switched places, and Dore drove the rest of the way out to the campground. This was her first actual road experience with the stick shift, and again I was really impressed with how well she managed it. We stalled a couple of times, but we were more or less solid the whole way. Awesome!

At the campground we rolled around for a few minutes until we found the perfect spot by the lake, then took a little walk along the lake shore to take in the beauty around us. It was incredibly gorgeous, and we were both really happy we came. As the light faded, we walked back and sat in our camp chairs, drank a beer, wrote in our notebooks, and watching the night slowly draw over the valley.

Just before bed we went to the bathrooms, and were amazed to find a full moon lighting up the valley. The moonlight was brightness that you can only see when everything else is completely dark, and is almost like a dimmer version of daylight. I ran and grabbed the camera, and spent a few happy minutes trying to capture the amazing light. I think I actually managed to do a decent job of it. I’ll have to post a few shots later when I get a chance.

As I worked on a few shots by the lake shore, I heard a rustling in the grass near me, then, flicking on the flashlight, saw that it was a hedgehog. The hedgehog looked at me with dazed, blinky eyes for a few seconds, then turned and waddled off into the grass. I could hear him rustling around for a few more minutes as I worked. It was a fun, snuffly sound that brought a grin to my face, though I don’t suppose anyone would have been able to see it in the dark.

Shots complete, I went back to the van, climbed in, and went to sleep, content and happy.

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