TN: The rusty belt (New Zealand, pt. 31)

[Rippon]The luxurious colon

Just what exactly is “luxury muesli,” anyway? 24-carat gold nuggets amidst one’s rolled oats? Or does it make your…no, wait, on second thought, never mind. I’ve felt some pushback from musing on muesli’s digestive effects in the past, and perhaps the world isn’t truly ready for such ruminations. (And maybe they feel the same about unsavory digestive puns. You know, the kind that leave a bad taste in one’s mouth.)

Anyway…it’s “luxury muesli” in our bowls this morning, and our bodies are virtually brimming with whole grains and crunchy earth-mother goodness. We’ll need it.

The mirrored crown

In a country full of ascendant byways, “the country’s highest sealed road” is bound to be quite something. And indeed, the breathtakingly beautiful and precarious trip from Queenstown and over the Crown Range is just that, flitting its way dramatically upward through golden mountain slopes tufted with tussock. It eventually flattens, shooting relatively straight along the Cardrona River to emerge high above Wanaka, a small but popular town draped across the southern tip of its majestic alpine lake. It’s a good thing the road’s downhill, too, because we’re running on fumes by the time we reach civilization. (Note to selves: next time, gas up before leaving Queenstown, because there’s nothing along the way.)

We’d been to Wanaka before, though only for a few minutes on a seemingly endless drive to the glacial wilds of the West Coast, and had greatly admired something it shared with its nearby “sister lake” Hawea: an almost impossible sky-tinted blue, like something out of an unlikely but riveting painting of the ideal mountain pond. Today, it’s not quite that blue – whether due to season, sun angle, or mineral content we can’t tell – but it’s hardly less beautiful for it. We park near the beach, and emerge into a sun-warmed (but wind-cooled) paradise surrounded on three sides by towering mountains. Wanaka is vacation town for Kiwis and tourists alike, and buzzes with activities and the planning thereof. We stroll along the beach to shaded, calmer groves of trees on the lake’s southwestern corner, then head north along the Waterfall Creek path for a gently pretty, leisurely stroll through trees, shrubs, beaches and grapevines…that, eventually, turns a little boring. What cynical and world-weary hikers we’ve become in such a short time!

Let napping dogs lie

Back to the car we go, to retrace our steps via a road only a few dozen meters from our walking path, leading us to the dramatic entrance to Rippon, a strong candidate for the world’s most beautifully-situated winery. Vines descend in orderly rows towards the lake, which reflects both the sky and the snow-capped mountain peaks in mirrored glass. It’s awe-inspiring. (linked image ©Gilbert van Reenan, Clean Green Images)

Unfortunately, the wines do not live up to the view.

(Continued here, with tasting notes and many, many more photos.)

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