Queenstown not only turned out to be a refuge from the rain but unexpectedly turned into a family get together that made me remember the joy of being surrounded by extended family. Growing up in South Australia I have this distant but fond memory of converging on my grandparents house for christmas – Uncles, Aunties, Cousins of all ages playing with the dogs, picking almonds and all forms of stone fruit straight off the trees, climbing the big old mulberry tree and chasing puppies, kittens, chickens and other random animals around. It’s been a very long time since the making of those memories but spending a few days with my mum’s favourite brother and his wife, three of my cousins, their partners, dogs and one very cute baby brought it flooding back in a wonderful way.
The girls were completely taken with this family they hadn’t met, particularly their Great Uncle and Aunt and their two placid fat black dogs. They spent their time trailing around after them on beautiful acreage in the mountains of Queenstown, picking blackberries, harvesting zucchini’s and generally helping out – I use the term ‘helping’ very loosely here! We thought having two short people bursting in on them every morning to say good morning and talk their ears off may have worn out our welcome quickly but the relatives seemed bemused (although I dare say they are now enjoying the peace and quiet of their acreage retreat again!)
Queenstown is certainly not the ‘moonscape’ it has been labelled, it was a pleasant surprise to be presented with wooded mountains, lush rainforests and incredibly beautiful hiking areas. One of my cousins not only turned out to be a gifted artist but a very decent tour guide and it was greatly appreciated him taking a day off house renovations to show us the local attractions. Highlights were the site of the first copper mine “Iron Blow”, a short hike through beautiful rainforest at Bird River and a very interesting stroll through an old mine site.
Placing an immense amount of trust in my cousin we followed him into a pitch black tunnel hand-hewn out of solid rock and equipped with a couple of torches – I suppressed my safety professional instincts enough not to ask for his risk assessment but was still relieved to hear that there was an air shaft half way along providing fresh air! No-one suffered an attack of claustrophobia or fear of the dark however I was less than impressed when told afterwards there are often spiders on the roof of such tunnels, no more copper mine tours for me thanks.
All and all the west coast was a great experience with all the descriptors you always hear – wild, untamed, rugged and beautiful but for us it will also be associated with a new generation of wonderful family memories.