We check on my father-in-law’s headstone. It’s harder and harder to find a park close these days, but we somehow manage, sneaking our car past four-wheel drives, new cars, trucks, buses and car parks reserved for the mini golf place – surprisingly still there not having been swallowed up by developers.
We wipe the shiny, dark marble, clearing it of dust from the construction work opposite – a new hotel complex (no surprises there). We water the tussock plant. We take a moment. Memories crowd in.
This is another visit to Robert’s old home town, much-changed since the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s …
We search for the byways and quiet places that no-one else knows (or wants) to look for. When we find one, I give a nod to the Three Sisters peak – part of the Kawarau / Remarkables family of outcrops and scarps. Free of snow, they are rocking it in their summer gear.
We have parked ourselves beside Whakatipu Waimāori in a spot where there are no people except for those who just walk on by.
In deference to the scorn that a lot of New Zealanders (in my experience, usually Mainlanders) pour on this town – a town that has been turned into a resort overwhelmed by tourism, I tweet: ‘It might be Queenstown but it’s our Queenstown’.
We watch a family of scaup – a mother scaup and her three ducklings –
the ducklings learning to dive.
Next stop, Arrowtown.
Arrowtown is a quaint town (also to a large degree overwhelmed by tourism) with a history of gold mining and cheek-to-cheek cute stone cottage cafes and shops selling expensive stuff to visitors and tourists.
But it has a river.
We opt to buy beer and crisps and to find a place to sit in the shade by the river Arrow
where lupins catch the sunlight and upstream, a young couple pan for gold.
We return to Tāhuna / Queenstown . We’ve booked to stay for two nights. Downtown the noise and crowds are both inevitable and inescapable. We settle a while beside a raucous cafe with a singer full of quips and requests for popular Elton John songs.
We sit beside our old friend the Earnslaw steamer, soon to ‘go all green’.
For Robert, his hometown can still be found here. You just need to know where to look.