It’s amazing how lazy you can feel after sitting by a river all day. Having done just that, by the time evening hit the Central Otago town of Arrowtown, I started to feel like some exercise might be needed. So, as dusk approached I decided to stretch my legs with a walk up Tobins Track to see the sunset over the Wakatipu Basin. Set high above the hills of Arrowtown, Tobin’s track was originally built by Irishman Thomas Tobin who won the roading contract to link the Wakatipu Basin to the Cardrona Valley in the 1870’s.
Lake Hayes Walkway – Buy
Just outside of Arrowtown, or 15 minutes drive from Queenstown is Lake Hayes. A tranquil and beautiful lake that is filled with all sorts of bird life, the lake also has an 8 kilometre, loop walking track. Surrounded by some spectacular mountains, it’s a perfect place for a stroll, walk, run or bike ride.
Autumn on the Arrow River – Buy
Back in autumn I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Arrowtown. I say fortunate because I wasn’t meant to be there at all. I had planned to spend some time near Christchurch, but my accommodation was unexpectedly cancelled. So, I had to choose an alternative destination and Arrowtown was it. What a joy the town is during autumn when the colour takes hold.
Arrowtown autumn colour – Buy
It was a sunny May day, yet at this time of year in Central Otago, the warmth that the sun brings can be fleeting. Winter was just around the corner and in the small town of Arrowtown, pockets of autumn colour were still visible. Fairly shortly the area would start to take on a distinctly winter feel however, for now I decided to enjoy the last of the autumn leaves.
Autumn reflection at Lakes Hayes – Buy
What a tranquil place Lake Hayes is. For the life of me, I can’t recall ever seeing it anything but placid and serene. Even when the weather has been miserable, all around the lake manages to remain reposeful. I’ve seen it when it’s windy, when it’s raining, when it’s hailing and snowing. I’ve seen it in the morning and the evening, at dawn and at dusk yet it really is quite remarkable how untroubled it always seems. I wonder why that is!
I had been in Arrowtown for a total of 15 minutes before our hosts had announced they were walking up Tobins Track. Not sure what exactly Tobins Track was, I was told it would take about 30 minutes of steady walking up a hill to a lookout that gave views looking out over the entire Wakatipu Basin. As the sun was due to set within the next hour or so, I decided, ‘well, why not!’
Coronet Peak Road – Buy
It must be said that the view from the road up to Coronet Peak ski field is quite incredible. The road starts in the valley that links Queenstown to Arrowtown and twists and turns its way up the side until you reach the ski field. It really is rather astonishing.
Arrowtown – Buy
I had lunch just as the day in Arrowtown was starting to collect itself. The morning had started with subzero temperatures creating a thick layer of frost over the town and virtually everything in it. Now, several hours later with the sky a clear and brilliant blue and the sun being a welcome source of warmth, I found myself in a delightful cafe having brunch. Actually, I wasn’t as much in the cafe as I was outside in the garden, which was equally as delightful and rather splendid as the sun took hold.
Earlier that morning having been for a walk in the cool morning air, I decided to see what Trip Advisor was advising regarding the local eating establishments while the town defrosted. So, after some toing and froing and a rather lengthy period of indecisiveness, I decided to make my way to a place called Provisions of Arrowtown. There, I found my way to a table in the lovely garden and enjoyed a splendid brunch surrounded by a wonderfully restored cottage that dated back to the 1870’s and the Arrowtown goldrush era.
Having no immediate plans for the rest of the day, apart from vacating my table which was clearly wanted by a number of hungry visitors, I decided to ponder what to do next as I walked the town streets
The morning air was once again cool with a light layer of frost covering the ground, although not as thick as when I had first arrived. After several injections of caffeine, I began the 280km trek back to Dunedin but first I wanted to call in to see St Paul’s Church in Arrowtown. A building dating back to 1871, making it the oldest church of any denomination in the Arrowtown area.
Like most things in Arrowtown, the church sits on a lovely tree lined street, set back into the property to allow a grassy area out front where presumably the congregation would gather both before and after the services. As I looked around the church gardens, which were small yet lovely, I became aware that the morning was already pushing on and the traffic on the road behind me was steadily building. Yet despite the occasional passerby on foot, I seemed to have the place to myself.
Afterwards, fancying a bite to eat, I found a few tasty treats to eat in the car at a nearby shop and followed the Arrow River into the Gibbston Valley, through the Kawarau Gorge and beyond to Cromwell, Clyde and Alexandra. I passed familiar places like Fruitlands, Roxburgh and Millers Flat while pondering that one day I should leave enough time to stop and wander around these towns rather than simply driving through them.
Several hours later I found myself happily in the familiar surrounds of Dunedin as the city came into view from over Lookout Point. The light was beginning to fade and I still had a number of jobs at home that needed attending to before the day was done. At some point while driving along the southern motorway I glanced over towards the coastline that was becoming a sea of lights. For a moment I considered taking a detour out to the beach (not that I would see much), it would only be 10 minutes out of my way I reasoned. I thought about the beach and then the jobs that still required my attention at home, ‘well, why not!’ I thought.
The early morning light was just starting to hit the tree tops. It was a cold, chilly morning with frost covering everything at ground level. Pools of water looked like glass, leaves frozen in place where they had fallen the day before. My breath appeared infront of me in great clouds of mist as I watched the light creep across the hillside, revealing the autumn colours that had be hidden by night.
One of the attractions of Arrowtown during autumn is the wonderful colour that comes out throughout the town. However, the Wilding Pines that surround the hills have created a dilemma. Either lose a large section of the autumnal background or face an ecological disaster.
Hut On Tobins Track– Buy
The walk up (and up and up) Tobins Track in Arrowtown is an extremely worthwhile walk that rewards you with outstanding views of the Wakatipu Basin. I did it with friends one hot, January evening in summer but half way up we got a little side tracked with a path leading to the crumbling remains of this hidden hut deep in the bush.
Streetlight In Arrowtown – Buy
I can’t remember what the temperature was when I took this however it was early winter in Arrowtown on a Friday night. What I do remember is that it was bitterly cold. I wasn’t outside for long, it was maybe time enough for 5 or 6 frames before I headed inside to a nice warm fire.
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I’m not sure Central Otago and the Lakes District have a bad season. Summer and Winter are seasons of extremes and are completely unique while autumn is full of colour. There are so many great reasons to visit Arrowtown and the colour of autumn is definitely one of them. If you get a chance to explore the Chinese Village by the Arrow River then the autumn leaves, trees and colours will astound you. I was lucky when I took this photo as it was a fairly still day, meaning the only blur I had to worry about was from other visitors. Sometimes blur and movement is okay in photos but on this particular occasion I wanted everything completely still.
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Print Price Guide 2021 – Download
A bit of a change today from my usual creative adventures on the Esplanade. This is St Paul’s Anglican Church in Arrowtown, which is inland from Dunedin in Central Otago. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a road trip so I might need to organise one once the weekends become free. St Paul’s in Arrowtown was built at the time of the Otago gold rush in September 1871 which makes it 150 years old. Before it was the built many of the miners wanted a dedicated Anglican Community and once they had raised the necessary funds and found a piece of land, the church was built. It has been holding services in the same place ever since.
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The Echoing Path
I’m not sure Central Otago and the Lakes District have a bad season, if you like extremes that is. The summers are deliciously hot and the winters intensely cold making them completely unique. Unfortunately, they are heavily reliant on international tourists and with those dollars not coming in at the moment it means areas like Queenstown, Arrowtown and Lake Teakpo are hoping that Kiwi’s take a local holiday.
There are so many great reasons to visit Arrowtown and at the moment it’s full of colour, giving it yet another distinctive season. If you get a chance to explore the Chinese Village by the Arrow River then the autumn leaves, trees and colours will astound you with deep oranges, fiery reds and warm yellows. I had a trip all planned before the whole Covid 19 thing hit. The idea was to spend a few days exploring the colours of autumn in and around Arrowtown. Instead we all ended up in lockdown at home. Maybe it’s one local holiday that could be rescheduled.
The Socially Distant Shopper
It’s not often I’m allowed to go grocery shopping for our household these days, you see, I have history with Supermarkets. It’s not that I’ve been completely banned by my family from stepping foot on the premises, it’s just that it’s better for all concerned if I don’t go. To be clear, I am entrusted to pick-up small amounts of items that are essential to the evening’s meal, and beer. But nothing more beyond that.
Kiwi chef Simon Gault often speaks about adding 5% magic to dishes to really elevate it and give it WOW factor. My banishment from the weekly shop started with this very premise, adding 5% magic. Originally, some years back during the regular weekly shop I added a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trolley to add that 5% magic to one of the weekly meals. I then repeated this the next time I went grocery shopping, once again adding a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trundler to elevate one of the nightly dishes. This process then continued for some time, with me adjusting the list accordingly as I went and occasionally coming home with more items that weren’t on the list than were.
The second to last straw came one day when I arrived home and started unpacking the grocery bags out of the car.
“Where are the rest?” my wife said.
To which I responded “what do you mean? This is it”.
The next short while was spent with myself having to explain how in fact it is humanly possible to spend such a large amount on so few items and still manage to forget essentials like toilet paper, bread, milk or 95% of the other items I went out to get.
The final straw in my banishment from the weekly shop came after my invention of the sport ‘grocery item tower-building’. After a lengthy absence from the shop floor, I was once again entrusted with the food gathering task. Off I went, list in hand, my wife accompanying me and acting as chaperone to ensure I brought something that was edible for all and stuck somewhat closely to a budget. Having successfully negotiated all the aisles, I added a few last minute items (that would definitely add 5% magic) before proceeding to the checkout. Upon arrival at the checkout, I then proceeded to build a tower with our grocery items on the conveyor belt. The object here being to build the highest possible tower without it falling over when the conveyor belt is moved. My tower, having reached ten items high, unfortunately proceeded to crash to the ground and all over the counter when forward movement was applied. The imploding tower resulted in two things. Firstly, my grocery item tower-building personal best of nine items still stood, and my banishment from the weekly grocery shop.
Here, many years later on a windy Saturday morning, my first trip anywhere in a week, I found myself standing in line outside Countdown. List in hand, once again being entrusted with the weekly shop. I can thank PM Jacinda Ardern for this turn of events. “Shop normally,” she said.” I was also told that it would do my mental health the world of good to venture out. So off I was sent with the mission of doing the weekly shop.
The line to gain access to Countdown stretched all the way through the carpark and almost out to the footpath. Maybe it was it an early morning for us all, maybe it was the cold wind, maybe there was a sign saying ‘no talking or smiling while in line’ that I had missed or maybe everyone else wasn’t as excited as me. Upon joining the end of the queue, I copied what was clearly the expected protocol and stood in silence. The hushed stillness was deafening. Once and a while we’d all take two steps forward, inching closer to the main door yet keeping a good 2 metre gap. The somber and bleak line continued to inch forward at regular 2 metre intervals with the occasional break in silence coming from the sound of a car heading past or someone questioning if we were allowed to bring our own bags, if we had to wear face masks or if they were handling cash? For the greatest time, I couldn’t put my finger on what the mournful feeling reminded me of when the answer suddenly appeared in the wind. It was like being back at school. Everyone lined up waiting to be told off by the principal. I found myself imagining an irate Cabinet Minister stomping up and down the line, telling everyone off for not shopping properly and stating that this is what it’s going to be like until we prove we could shop properly. Again we stepped forward, one person entering as one person exited, eagerly waiting our turn, list tightly gripped.
The next 40 minutes was one of the most unique shopping experiences I will encounter. Everyone walked around in silence, some with gloves and mask, some taking their time soaking up every ounce of time allowed out, others racing around the aisles like Lewis Hamilton through the chicanes at Monte Carlo. My second stop, after the beer, was the fruit and vegetable section. It seems that the 2 metre rule doesn’t apply when you’re choosing your capsicums, lettuce, cauliflower or beans! My first listed item was cauliflower. Having scanned the surrounding area and establishing a healthy 2 metre gap between myself and one other person, I went for it. With only four left I was quite delighted to be able to add one to my trolley when suddenly a hand appeared. Out of nowhere my trolley collected a heavy bump, shifting me sideways a bit and a wrinkled old hand, covered in rings and bracelets suddenly grabbed two of the four and disappeared. Before I could gather my senses, another one disappeared, from my left hand side this time. I quickly grabbed the single remaining cauliflower and retreated. What I proceeded to watch was people applying the ‘dive in out out quickly’ method to grab their chilled vegetables. No patience, no 2 metre gap, similar to a six kid lolly scramble that had got slightly out of control.
Fortunately, the rest of the shop was calmer. Casually being able to amble through the isles adjusting the list accordingly as I went. The empty shelves meaning my family didn’t have to worry about extra items being added for that 5% magic. The biscuit aisle seemed to be another hotspot where large groups of people had obviously decided to risk it and break the 2 metre rule. Fortunately my list didn’t have them on it and on I went to the baking aisle where a barren shelf greeted me, only an empty space left where the High Grade Flour used to be. With that being the only item on my list not to be crossed off, I paid and headed out the door.
Feeling very impressed with my ability to stick to a list and stick to a budget without adding extra items, my mind turned towards packing. I was suddenly drawn to a halt by the lady in front. In one motion she had instantly frozen and clicked her fingers.
“Oh shoot” she said, the jingling sound of her bracelets catching my ear and eye as her wrinkled old hand covered in rings clicked her fingers.
“I forgot high grade flour” she added to no-one in particular. I smiled to myself, recognising her from the Cauliflower invasion. I paused, thought for a second, looked at my Cauliflower then watched her join the end of the queue via a detour to her car. It seems being kind and patient has its rewards I thought, my shopping trip having been made a little better.