Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Queenstown, a Special Bird & a Special Day

It was wonderful to catch up with our Invercargill family again albeit just overnight but we made the most of both days & in fact when we left them in Queenstown mid afternoon on the second day they didn’t leave for their 3 hour drive home to Invercargill until early evening after doing some shopping & visiting the heated pool in Frankton.

After exploring Arrowtown the afternoon they arrived we had a lovely BBQ lamb roast dinner in their chalet at the holiday park. This was made all the more special when I was taken by surprise (well, surprise until Cameron turned the lights off) when after dinner, Rachel, Ollie & Ruby emerged from the bedroom with a candle lit birthday cake, present & glowing balloons! I was tickled pink.

My birthday is actually today but this year I’m having a great run up to my special day. Because we weren’t sure where we’d be on the actual day, David & I went out for dinner in Arrowtown last week to celebrate it.

We’d been recommended La Rumbla by a guy collecting money at the Autumn Festival and it turned out to be an excellent choice. We had to book ahead due to the festival being on & it’s popularity & it was indeed a very busy restaurant with great atmosphere on the night. It doesn't look anything special here but believe me the décor inside was perfect. La Rumbla is a tapas/small plate restaurant with a mix of dishes from Mexico, Spain, France & NZ and has been set up by a couple that have had a lot of experience in hospitality, one half of the partnership, Penelope Johnson also set up the well known Botswana Butchery restaurant a few years ago.

There was a good selection of dishes available & we thoroughly enjoyed the five we chose. We shared them between us as you can do with tapas and would have ordered more if the waitress hadn’t  warned us that these were “kiwi tapas”- big servings! And they were.

There was an extensive wine list, as you would expect in a region well known for its vineyards and I managed to choose a newly released (& rather expensive as it turned out, but hey you only live once) bottle of 2013 China Terrace Chardonnay from the Gibbston Valley Winery. And it was a lovely drop but somehow I just couldn’t shake off the thought that that bottle of wine could have paid for a few nights in a camp ground….squeak, squeak.!! Anyway we had a fabulous night and would highly recommend La Rumbla.

After our BBQ lamb the night before we had a lovely cooked breakfast with the family before they checked out and then we all drove through to the holiday meca of Queenstown on what was another glorious autumn day. We parked near the waterfront and spent a couple of hours watching the water activities and enjoying the sun.

There was a good range of water craft enjoying the calm waters of Lake Wakatipu and it didn’t take long for Ollie & Ruby to talk their parents into taking them out on the 3 wheel aqua bikes. Too much like hard work I warned them;  I’ve been on them before and they are very hard to pedal. Luckily they only had 20 minutes between them otherwise they might have paddled off around the point never to return.

While waiting for their turn on the aqua bikes we spotted another fast & furious craft speeding through the water offshore. This is a Seabreacher which is a fully sealed jet-ski-engined “sea missile” that looks like a shark although they have orca look-alikes too. This jetboat-hybrid can plunge two people under the water at 60km/h and then hurl them into the sky. This one actually disappeared under the water before bursting out but I missed that shot. Kind of strange seeing a shark in a lake though.

Just as the family finished up on the bikes I spotted an unusual bird in amongst the ducks & scaup that were cruising along the foreshore. It was a great thrill to realise that it was an Australasian Crested Grebe (Kamana), a fairly rare bird in New Zealand and one that is only found in the South Island. There are only 5-600 birds in total scattered around a few provinces,  they're usually found on the higher alpine lakes.

This bird is an immature & quite possibly the offspring of a pair of grebe that are known to frequent the bay in front of Queenstown. Mature birds have a lot more colour; bright chestnut & black cheek frills that they use in elaborate & bizarre mating displays. This bird wasn’t that worried about all the activity going on and seemed quite relaxed as he(or she) preened and prodded at his feathers and did a few stretches (I thought he looked like he was sunbathing).

What a great way to finish a couple of special days! Another one to cross off my “twitcher’s” list (although I’m not a true twitcher, just an average birder)

We're now parked at Lowburn back in Cromwell, for the third time, this time it's just about deserted with only half a dozen vans parked up overnight. I took the photo on the blog banner yesterday afternoon when a heavy rain storm blew through. It was gone within the hour & today is sunny & hot again.  I wanted to do the other end of the Nevis Road  (which climbs the range behind Cromwell) before we move on & I needed to get my hair cut, stock up again with groceries & have a birthday breakfast at a local café.  When I woke up this morning I told David all I want for my birthday was 40 litres of water. Forty litres would give me one long hot shower! Movanners out there will certainly relate to this.

We'll be moving on towards Alexandra tomorrow and then back down to Invercargill for the Bluff Oyster Festival before then heading north for winter. And I may have put a few of you wrong with my snow blog, "heading north" means to the north of the South Island not back to the North Island. We haven't finished with down here yet!

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