Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Bungee jumping, Arrowtown, Queenstown and Croyden airfield

ALLIE: DAY 48: Tuesday, 3rd of April

Bungee jumping, historic Arrowtown, tacky Queenstown and old aeroplanes

An early morning run along the shores of lake Wanaka refreshes my unused muscles. The morning light around the deep blue lake with its colourful trees and the snow peaks in the background is stunning.
stunning scenery at Wanaka lake
Mr. Dunnington wants to visit the local airfield, so we drive there. He spots one of the rare types he needs to fly in, but it’s a skydiving aeroplane and they only fly you, if you jump! But that’s something neither he (nor probably I) really have the courage to do. What jump out of a perfectly flying aircraft??

Bungy jumping at Kawarau Bridge- not for me!
Ok, on to the next adrenaline buzz: The Kawarau Bridge. This is the place where in 1980 the first bungee jump was invented. The bridge is historic, built in 1880 and spans across the deep gorge of the Kawarau river.

It was used for the many gold rush settlers that filled this area in the late 19th century. Now thousands of mainly young people fill the area. All are keen to try their courage to jump from the bridge, feet bound together like prisoners and leap into the 43 m deep gorge.

Phil and I watch the scene for a while. Not everybody indeed has the guts to do it. And if you don’t jump, you have just wasted 150 NZ Dollars.

But most of the folks leap into free fall with their hands touching the waters of the river. I read that the heaviest jumper weighed 225kg, the lightest only 35, the oldest guy to jump being 94 years, the youngest just 10.
We decide that since we can’t break the record anyway, it’s not worth the exhaustion.

Arrowtown – like many of there little settlements – was an old gold mining town. Even the Chinese came here from Guangdong to try their luck. We visit some of the remains of their houses. They are tiny. Not even a cow could comfortably live in there for long. But the Chinese were tough and obviously managed. 8000 of them came to stay here in 1870.
Tiny houses in Arrowtown

On to the touristy busy town of Queenstown. Wonder indeed what the Queen would say if she were to visit this place that clearly has lost all its charm in the past 20 or so years.

The town is spoilt by hideous modern houses that nest between the steep mountains and Lake Wakatipu. The only thing worth doing here for us is to have a coffee at Starbucks and use their wireless lan internet service to check our emails.
Rain is coming in and the temperature drops tremendously. Another short look around Queenstown airport and on to Gore in the southern part. The Mountains gradually disappear and an open countryside spreads in front of us. This is sheep country. 70million of them are here in New Zealand, compared to 4 million people. A quite unbalanced relationship. But who knows for how long? Earlier on we came through valleys that are now filled with vineyards and no sheep at all.

PHIL: Day 48/3 Apr

A rather less crowded day and one which brings the realisation that a great deal of New Zealand’s agricultural industry seems to be giving up traditional sheep for vines. 

The valleys between Wanaka and Queenstown are 100km of almost continuous winery development – none of which was evident on my last visit in 2000. Remembering past history in Australia & California where planting of vines became a fad reaction to increased demand which subsequently evaporated, I wonder who is drinking all this acreage.

After a brief stop at the K…….Gorge, home of the original A J Hackett bungee jump I remained firm in my conviction that jumping inverted off a bridge is not my bag. 

We had even talked about doing a free-fall parachute jump but, despite the fact that I would like to have had a flight in the rare Cresco aircraft which was the jump platform at Wanaka, decided my vertigo would make it all a significant waste of money. Allie still has a gleam in her eye, however…..

Queenstown, like Wanaka, is a rather tacky tourist trap, albeit in the magnificent surroundings of the Remarkables mountains and Lake ……….Not a place to live, we decide, before driving on down the long, deserted valleys towards the open Southlands plains of Mandeville & Gore. 
finally at Mandeville, Gore with gorgeous old aeroplanes!

Here our target is the Croydon Aeroplane Company, probably the most careful preservers of old aeroplanes – particularly ones built by de Havilland of UK in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Their Chief Pilot, youthful Ryan…………., is gloomy about prospects for a flight I have arranged for the next day.

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