24 March 2018: Saturday.
First thing in the morning, Flo and I left Kawarau Bridge to go straight to Creeksyde Holiday Park located in Queenstown itself. It’s well known for being the greenest park and for Flo and I, it was the most expensive campsite we spent on as well. That being said, facilities were extremely good, they had a dumping station and fresh water to fill the van with, electricity, a kitchen (which we didn’t use) and lots of showers and toilets at different spots so that anywhere in the park, you had easy access to all these conveniences.
We arrived an hour earlier than their check-in time at 12noon but they were very hospitable and gave us a space that had just cleared. Flo and I zipped straight to take our showers while our dirty laundry went for a spin in the washing machines. Then we waited multiple rounds for our laundry to get dry in the dryer before we lunched and took a short walk into the heart of Queenstown.
Aside from Wanaka, I think Queenstown’s the only other city/big town I really like. The sun was out and there was live music playing while people relaxed on the well manicured lawn. Around us just by the lake were small stalls set up selling handicrafts, jade carving, hot coffee, ceramic bowls. There was a lively buzz throughout the town centre that I liked.
Queenstown itself is extremely scenic with the tall mountains hugging the nest of low-rise buildings, and a gorgeous lake smack in the middle. Picture postcard perfect!
After Flo and I basked enough in the sun, enjoying the music, we decided to walk over to Cafe Vudu and Larder for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. One of my old friends recommended this place to us but since we didn’t have space for lunch, we settled for coffee/tea and cake.
One thing I noticed here in New Zealand is how even older people enjoy the cafe vibes. And more than a handful of older ladies had their hair coloured purple, pink, blue! Still, they carried with them a sense of knowing and confidence that breathed class. It sounds like a total oxymoron but it’s true. They looked put together and rocked their hair without an ounce of trashiness to their being.
Anyway, since Flo couldn’t resist having a slice of their Blackberry Cheesecake, I agreed to sharing it with him. It was a generous portion and just as well that it was because it was SO. DAMN. GOOD!
No joke! This cheesecake was barely set in the middle and indulgently creamy with just a hint of cinnamon and a beautiful, thick, buttery, crunchy digestive crust. I am TOTALLY a crust people and this one TOTALLY hit the spot. The bounty of blackberries studded on top gave a hint of tartness that helped cut through the richness of the cake.
My boyfriends, now fiance (!!) declared this the best cheesecake he has ever eaten! Even better than he’s Oma’s German Quark Cheesecake. Or maybe he said almost better. Hmm… And even though I bake cheesecakes of my own, I don’t feel offended because I am in total agreement.
I had a Honey Lemon Ginger drink to go with which was warming but nowhere as outstanding as their dessert. We’d have returned for more the next day if we weren’t already on our way to Lake Pukaki but if there’s one place you NEED to visit when you’re in Queenstown, it’s here. At least for that blackberry cheesecake.
The rest of our time in Queenstown aside from some souvenir shopping was spent in our camper van. Oh and with access to an electrical point, it meant that we could use the sockets in the van to charge our phones and batteries. Even better was that we could finally use the portable heater which was a total God-send! It meant finally being able to sleep in a sleeveless top, without socks, and feel so comfy. It was the best sleep we had since perhaps our first few nights in NZ.
25 March 2018: Sunday.
Flo and I had a wonderful sleep in before getting the van in shape for our drive towards the Mount Cook area. Since we were leaving the Southern-most area of the South Island and moving our way back to the middle, the weather turned milder once more.
As we drove along, Flo caught sight of these raggedy mountains and kept going on about how awesome they looked. He wondered if we could even go there so we stopped by a bay only to learn from GoogleMaps that the place was called Omarama Clay Cliffs.
Omarama went straight onto our ‘To See’ list and we followed the road right round, went over gravel paths, and dutifully paid our NZD5 into the honesty/donation box to see these strange looking works of nature.
Once parked and fed, we walked along the cliffs and into this huge cavity where there were lots of rocks and debris, almost as though the mountain had collapsed into itself.
The Clay Cliffs are actually formed naturally from layers of gravel and silt. These were deposits from flowing glaciers from millions of years ago.
They look really solid but the walls of the pinnacles were actually quite soft to the touch. Very much like clay.
It was a surprise find but one we were glad to have visited. It felt almost as though we had stepped into a portal and been transported to some other planet if not for the other visitors in the area. Goes to show that NZ is full of unexpected discoveries as long as you don’t mind going off the path less travelled every so often. I’m glad that Flo’s curiosity enabled for us to pursue this route to the cliffs because we ended up being well-rewarded.
Another reward that arrived after all that driving was the ice-blue waters alongside our camp for the night. We parked right next to Lake Pukaki and had a clear view of Mount Cook – New Zealand’s highest mountain, also known as Aoraki.
When we first arrived, the clouds had gathered over the mountains so we couldn’t see Mt. Cook’s peak. But just before the sun began curving it’s way day, the clouds cleared just for a short while and we had a clear view of Mt. Cook’s tippy top!
As you can probably tell by now, Flo and I never really spent more than one night at each campsite so every morning, we woke up to a new place which was really cool. This one by Lake Pukaki was idyllic and peaceful. I remember that evening, me sitting against Flo, blanket wrapped around us, looking out at the calm lapping water. Nothing needed to be said. Just being there, in the moment, felt like perfection.