Sunday, 23 October 2011

New Zealand, the South Island, Queenstown and Rugby

It is official: the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup! This is not a small thing to do, considering that it took 24 years to repeat this success. They did it though yesterday - we did it! - and the entire Nation of New Zealand celebrated a glorious win over France.

The last 6 weeks were more or less Rugby World Cup oriented. Now it's over and it seems that nearly everything is back to normal. Nearly...

Skippers Road, Mount Aurum in the Back
Queenstown is gearing up for Spring which has finally arrived in our beautiful mountain resort. The trees are getting green again, the temperatures truly rise and create an invigorating climate that brings a smile on every single face.

And the Daffodils are out. This lovely flour is believed to be a symbol of unrequited love - what a cold description. Daffodils are a family member of the Narcissus plants. Apparently, in Western countries they are perceived as a symbol of vanity, in the East though as a symbol of wealth and good fortune. Me personally, I like the Eastern notion as it is absolutely true that we are blessed with the natural beauty of the South Island, but especially with the area of Queenstown.
Daffodils in Skippers Cemetery

The goldminers back in the early 1900s certainly found their wealth and it is only fair that the Daffodils grace some of their last resting places in Skippers Canyon.

The year 2011 was a difficult year for New Zealand: the earthquake, the mining tragedy and now the oil spills. Those shattering incidents did weigh heavily on New Zealand's awareness. But yesterday, all Daffodils veraciously brought good fortune to our Nation: we won the Rugby World Cup!

As said before, nearly everything is back to normal. The 1 thing that has changed since yesterday is having smiling faces everywhere, true happiness and clearly visible excitement and anticipation of the things to come. We New Zealanders -whether Native or immigrated - are truly blessed with good fortune.

There is only 1 thing left to say to all you people out there: WISH YOU WERE HERE!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Fundraiser for Wakatipu High School

It is this time of the year again where we proudly support our local Wakatipu High School with a fundraiser.

Every year, all year 10 students spend 2 weeks in Skippers Canyon, namely at the Branches Station. During this time, the students are isolated, while experiencing outdoor pursuits including abseiling, rafting, tramping, bush craft, kayaking, shooting and archery as well as important personal and leadership skills. This camp has a tradition of over 35 years and is one of the longest running school camps under canvas in the country!

Students have to pay a fee in order to participate. In these difficult economic times, not all parents are able to afford this fee which could mean for some students that they would not be able to attend and share this experience with their school mates.

Queenstown Heritage Tours strongly believes that all students should have the possibility to attend. Therefore, we started our yearly 'give-something-back' initiative: we will donate $2.-- for every merchandise sold between 1 October until 23 November 2011. We will hand over all donations to Wakatipu High School on 24 November 2011, as the camp starts on the next day.

Today is a very unique and humbling day for us: we collected $100.-- in donations given by our customers. Some bought merchandise and others simply gave cash! This is incredible and we are extremely proud to announce this today. THANK YOU!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Skippers Canyon Travel Journal of 1909

The following is an excerpt of the Otago Witness, dated 27 January 1909.
A man, Willow Brooe, summarized his experience in and around Queenstown.

".....The course followed by the steamer [from Kingston to Queenstown] is within a stone's throw of the jutting rocks of the western shore, which, surmounted with fuchsia, rata, and olearia, make an effective foreground to the huge peaks which tower overhead. All the way up the lake you steam with the ranges on each side of you until passing Colin's Bay. The steamer rounds Mount. Cecil and you have your first glimpse of Ben Lomond and a most picturesque view of the Remarkables. In a little while the steamer rounds the beacon and there directly ahead nestled in peaceful quietness, as though in repose, is Queenstown.

As the steamer approaches the wharf it is seen that there is quite a crowd to meet the boat and on landing visitors have to go through a regular ordeal, in that they have to pass through long lines of waiting people and be severely criticized in the process. It is a regular habit of the people to meet the boat and line up in this way......

That night, before turning in we [Willow and a new friend] resolved on driving to Skippers the next day. So next morning we were up early and having made up a party of seven we made an early start in a waggonette with four horses for Skippers. How can I describe Skippers - that wild, rough, and rugged road? Though I might try ever so hard I could not do justice in my description of the ruggedness and grandeur of the many magnificent scenes to be met with on this road. At one point of the road our driver called our attention to the exact model of the head of a man on the hillside.
Head Sculpture in Stone

There it was: eyebrows, nose, mouth and chin, as complete as if sculptured by human hands, and yet on such a massive scale as to show that it was not the outcome of human industry.

Hells Gate in the front
The load we travelled was steep, and heavy on the horses, so when going over a particularly steep piece we all got out and walked by a short cut over the hills so as to ease the horses. Presently the waggonette caught up with us and we got aboard again. As we proceeded the driver pointed out to us the many items of interest. We passed through, the Cathedral, a huge cutting in the rock that greatly resembles a Cathedral, and then through the Abbey, where you can easily imagine yourself entering the courtyard of an old abbey. Another place through which we drove with the great rocks frowning over us called Hell's Gate. The Lighthouse, also the Mushroom Rock and the Toothpicks, all most appropriately named according to their shape, were pointed out to us.
Lighthouse Rock

And then we came to a place where, on the other side of a ravine round which we were passing, could be seen a castle with battlements and turrets strong and powerful-looking and while we were wondering what a castle was doing in that lonely spot our driver broke the charm by informing us that it was the Castle Rock we were looking at that it was not the handiwork of man, but of nature.

Castle Rock
At last we arrived at the little Welcome Home Hotel where we ordered dinner to be ready for our return. Away again, and now we strike the most rugged part of the road. On one side of us the mountains rise steep as a wall, and now and again the swingletrees touch the rocks as we turn the corners. On the other aide, far down below us, between two and three hundred feet, the Shotover River muddily discoloured with sluicing, flows on its way.

Driver over Skippers Bridge in 2011
In some parts of the road there is very little to spare between the wheels of the waggonette and a precipice as steep as a house-side. It is a drive which anybody troubled with "nerves" should never attempt. One member of our party dare not look over, so frightened was she. All along the river we passed sluicing claims, and at one place we saw four wild goats.  .... At last we arrived at Skippers Bridge and drove across it. And then pulled up. The bridge is 300 ft above the river. It is a suspension bridge and is 300 ft from span to span.
We were amusing ourselves by dropping stones into the river when someone suggested we should time a stone from the bridge to the water. I accordingly pulled out my watch and was astonished to find that it took about five seconds for a stone to reach the water in a straight drop.

Enjoy the view, but please don't drop a stone...
The horses having been turned homewards we boarded the waggonette, and away we went for Queenstown.

Welcome Home Hotel back then
Arrived at the Welcome Home Hotel we had dinner about half-past 1 and having rested the horses for some little tune, we again started for Queenstown, which place we reached about 6 30 p.m. after a very fine day's outing.

But there was one thing I forgot to mention about this trip and that was dust. It was from 18in to 2ft deep all the road and you can just imagine what a dusty-looking crowd we were. We could not have been worse had we been employed in a flour mill...."

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Photo Camera Competition in Skippers Canyon

It was just yesterday that we had our very own photo camera competition in Skippers Canyon near Queenstown, New Zealand.

We hosted a small group. They came to our little paradise from Ireland and from Australia. Of course, the group had to discuss the current developments at the Rugby World Cup and which chance their teams have to play in the finals. We are naturally convinced that our New Zealand team - the All Blacks - will win, so we let the group have their little teasing and friendly rivalries. It was all good fun, though!

In between those discussions, we invited the group to step out of the minibus and experience Skippers Canyon up close and personal. They all had their photo cameras with them and after a while the discussion started, who would have the best of them all.

The one thing that the cameras had in common was that they were digital; but that was about it: one had a huge lens in the front which could be taken off, the other had a wide angle perspective as an option, the next could record movies...

We are not quite sure if all those fancy features were used. But we observed that the cameras were frequently in action. We could observe as well that all camera owners had plenty of storage devices with them - and that was a very good thing!

At the end of the tour, all cameras did exactly what they were supposed to do: secure their owners numerous great and unique shots of Skippers Canyon. We are sure that those captured memories will amaze their families and friends at home.

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Queenstown, Otago, New Zealand
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