Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jan 22nd Jet Boating and Walter Peak Farm

The ride to the jet boat area in the canyon is about a 1.5 hour drive from Queenstown. What I did not realize is that the drive into the canyon was going to be as thrilling and more nail biting than the boat ride.
About a half hour into our journey the bus turned off on to a dirt road (see pictures). We were told the road was wide enough for two vehicles ( in my opinion two smart cars would be a tight fit). We wound our way up and down the dirt road of the canyon for about an hour. Now I like a good window seat on the bus but this was taking it to extremes as there were no guard rails and as we were rounding corners all I could see was down very long way down. Good thing I had not eaten lunch I really hoped this guy was a good driver.
People came to the Queenstown area
in the 1800's when gold was discovered in the canyon and that was the beginning of the New Zealand gold rush. There is a story that two young men took 22kg of gold out of this area in one day.
Before what they loosely call a canyon road was built the miners carried all supplies into this gold mining area by foot over some very difficult terrain. Finally the road was built and even a small hotel operated out of this very isolated area until the early 1950's. With all the mountains the weather can be very unpredictable and change at a moments notice (which we would find out later in the day). After the gold rush only a few people stayed in the canyon area. A couple of families that run large sheep stations and the family that designed the first bungy jumping area in the world. It is no longer operating because another company opened one at the gondola in Queenstown and really does it matter if you jump off the side of a mountain or into a canyon-I will never know as I couldn't even get myself to walk out onto the bungy bridge. A nice young couple from Auckland offered to help me but l wasn't sure my breakfast was digested yet??
We finally arrived at the jet boating area (me thinking I already had a thrill ride in the bus). The weather yesterday was 23 celsius and now it has dipped to 10 degrees but it is still sunny). Life jackets on and into the boat, now as you can see the canyon water is not deep, is full of rocks and other obstacles (I hope this guy is a good driver). The boat goes about 10km up the canyon and every so often does 360 degree spins at 80 kmh. Now he does signal the spins are coming but how would I know as my eyes were closed because it decided to hail. Hail hitting your face at 80 kmh is not fun. Thank goodness it didn't last long and then the sun came out in time for another 360.
Back on the canyon road again we came across another bus with rafts on the back. The two buses could not pass each other surprise surprise. The front end of the other bus was right under my window (brought a whole new meaning to 'reach out and touch someone'). So now the buses had to back up and lucky us we were on the cliff edge side of the road dam these people for driving on the wrong side of the road-- hope the side of the road does not give way as it does not look really secure so I closed my eyes took a deep breath and the next thing I knew we were motoring along again. Made it back to my hotel safe and sound to get ready for a dinner cruise to the Walter Peak Farm.
The ride to Walter Peak Farm was on a coal driven steam boat apparently there are only three still operating in the world. The Walter Peak Farm is a working sheep station. We had a lamb dinner in the beautiful farm house that is filled with antiques. The dinner was average but my dinner companions were lovely. Pit is from Luxembourg and Helena is from Germany they are currently working in Dubai at the Westin and Armani Hotels. They got engaged last night and are in New Zealand to take a look at the country as they are considering immigrating. I learned lots about Dubai and we exchanged emails and hopefully will keep in contact. Pit had been interviewed by the fairmont for a position at the new hotel in Egypt. I told him my son's friend Cat (who also worked in the pool at ROB) may have interviewed him as she was doing interviews for the fairmont in Cairo, he said a female interviewed him but could not remember her name.
After dinner we went out to the sheep shearing area and watched as the dog worked the sheep. These dogs are given extensive training from a very young age and it is amazing to watch how they respond to their masters signals and move the sheep around.
We then got to watch a sheep being sheared. Did you know that the lanolin from sheep's wool is in cosmetics and creams. There are also different grades of wool. A general rule is there are 7 sheep per acre of land. Some sheep are raised just for their wool and some for wool and meat. All and all a very lovely and informative evening.

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