Published: NZ Herald
9 February 2018
In Peak Condition
By Tess Nichol.
Personal organisation wasn’t up to much, but its importance paled in the face of the big Southern picture, writes Tess Nichol. I arrive at the wrong information centre in the “town” part of Queenstown, several minutes after I was due to collect my bike for a day of cycling and farm touring at Mt Nicholas Station.
Considering how small central Queenstown is, it takes me much longer than I should to locate the Southern Discoveries information centre down by the edge of Lake Wakatipu and it’s nearly time for the boat to leave when I realise that my satchel is a totally inappropriate cycling bag.
I’m also missing about half the essential items on the “things you should have” list, including a proper bit of warm gear, insect repellent and (as it turns out, most crucially) sunblock. My pants also have no pockets but never mind, using my No.8-wire, Kiwi mentality, I tuck my passes for the day’s activities, along with my phone and a map, into my sunglasses case, which in turn is shoved down the front of my sports bra.
The boat ride over to Mt Nicholas Station is typically stunning, all dramatic mountain ranges and snow-capped peaks. I spend it sitting by a window and sipping on a complimentary coffee, which I spill down my front without realising until right before we pull in to shore.
We’re greeted by Duncan, our tour guide of Mt Nicholas Station, which produces merino wool as well as being a spectacular tourist attraction. Most goods and all tourists arrive and leave by boat and the farm workers still travel on horseback. Duncan is shadowed throughout the tour by Stewie, a month-old orphaned merino lamb who we get to feed from a bottle. Stewie has been abandoned by his mother, something Duncan says is not uncommon among merinos.
We’ve arrived on a crisp blue morning with that smattering of cloud beginning to burn off. The ranges, pushed up over thousands of years of tectonic plate movement and glacial carving, are sublime against the sky. Wander off by yourself for a moment and all you can hear is the chirping of birds. What a precious thing: a moment of peace and quiet.
A quick tour through the shearing shed and a rundown on the value of merino wool culminates with a quick-clip demonstration with a 2-year-old wether, then we jump on a bus and it’s off to see the farm.
Driver Chris takes us over sunburned paddocks and across crystal-clear streams before we stop on a flat patch of grass on the edge of a field.
The view to Glenorchy is breathtaking. The awesome capacity of nature to stun you with its creations is calming: it’s hard to feel significant by comparison. It’s here I meet Debra Newby, a 60-year-old tourist from Northern California who has “divorced” her tour group for the day, deciding she’d rather go sightseeing than bungy jumping.
Offering to take my photo, she tells me she hates when people just take the same photos over and over — standing and smiling, standing and smiling. She approximates a fake photo smile and scoffs. “That’s not real life.”
She takes one photo of me doing a star jump, then inspiration strikes. “I’ve got a pose for you, because you’ve got a young tattooed body,” she says. She has me lie on the ground with my head propped upon my elbow, the curve of my hip lining up perfectly with a mound of grass on the horizon line behind me. I ham it up for the photo and she laughs; we sit and chat about her travels through New Zealand and gaze at the view — her favourite so far. Chris calls the group back and we climb back into the van and head back to the station, Debra and the others heading back to the boat.
After a light lunch, I say goodbye and peel off for the Station 2 Station cycle trail, a 13km bike ride for which,as previously mentioned, I am extremely unprepared. Slogging up a dirt track (first on the bike and then just pushing it — I’m not as fit as I thought), I gain some height before the trail more or less levels off for an easy ride. The trail is simple — just keep the water to your left, you can’t get lost. I’m here in late November, which must be the end of the shoulder season and I spend most of the next hour and a half on my own, riding at my own pace. There are so many gorgeous views that my eyes feel tired by the end, held open so wide for so long, trying to drink it all in. The trail ends not a moment too soon—I’ve drunk my water and despite a lovely British couple sharing their SPF30 with me about halfway along the track, I am extremely sunburned by the time I return to Walter Peak Station.
The old farmhouse is surrounded by the most luscious garden. Roses,peonies and lupins are flowering into shocks of brilliant colour and a lush green lawn is kitted out with beanbags which are, mercifully, in the shade. I fill my drink bottle up and flop down with plenty of time to spare before the famous coal-powered TSS Earnslaw is due to arrive and take me back to Queenstown.
Enough time it turns out, for a quick dip in the lake in my undies because I forgot (of course) to bring any togs — a cool end to a hot day.
Full article: nzherald.co.nz