294° and sunny
Four weather forecasts, four mistakes.
Not that we’re complaining. Most of the forecasts have been for heavy rain, and we’re happy to have missed the larger part of the precipitation. One immediately suspects mountain effects, as the jagged peaks of the Remarkables have gained new dustings of powdered sugar snow each morning, and now similar white-flecked pinnacles are starting to appear on the ranges to the west and north.
Anyway, today’s predicted clouds and cold rain have taken on the guise of warming sunshine and bright blue sky, and despite yesterday’s chill the immediate post-dawn weather is just warm enough to consider wearing shorts. We’re up early for something we do surprisingly little of on vacations, especially considering how much of our summers back home are built around the activity: a round of golf at the Queenstown Golf Club, a course on the Kelvin Heights peninsula, crowned by the rich golden-brown pyramid of Cecil Peak and surrounded by the sapphire-blue waters of Lake Wakatipu. We’re the first ones out today, and the course is – for the greater part of the morning – ours.
QGC is an inexpensive public golf course, and as such isn’t exactly in pristine shape. That said, it’s a lot better than Ringa Ringa Heights (though perhaps that’s not saying a lot), and all it really needs to improve is a good overseeding and more tightly-mown greens. Still, the views can hardly be surpassed, and a few hours walking such a beautiful golf course is in no way time ill-spent.
The Little Nell of the Southern Hemisphere
We lunch back at our rental, making quick work of a composed salad full of semi-local fishy delights and a decidedly local bottle of wine.
Gibbston Valley 2003 Pinot Blanc (Central Otago) – Shy on the nose, showing crisp apple and pear with light minerality. Dry, sharp, and surprisingly intense (structurally), but not as generous as it was in the Gibbston Valley tasting room. It probably just needs decanting, but the bottle doesn’t last long enough for us to find out.
Theresa takes a midday nap – such are the luxuries afforded by long vacations – while I wander the streets of Queenstown in search of a few gifts. The change in the town vs. just a few years earlier is striking, with construction thrown up on every available hillside and a bevy of trendy new shops slowly crowding out the more rough-hewn adventure-oriented and knick-knacky storefronts that had still held sway on our previous visit. Pizza and pasta dives have largely been replaced by middle-class restaurants, touristy swag has given way to jade-, opal- and paua-hocking jewelers, and functional (though sleekly-designed) adventure-wear shops are met in equal measure by the sort of upscale “hey-look-we’re-‘roughing-it’” clothing boutiques one can find in most any area where looking the part is as important as the activities represented by the outerwear. There’s also a good deal of Lord of the Rings merchandise; some of it tasteful and familiar, some of it shockingly inappropriate (“the Lord of the Rings four-wheeler off-road tour & commemorative Andúril replica”), and there is a still-low key but obviously emergent focus on the viticultural output of the nearby Central Otago wine regions. I note a few restaurants and wine bars worthy of further exploration, the locations and prices of local internet cafés, and return home to pick up my well-rested wife.