Lockdown has now gone from Level 4 (stay-at-home orders; only essential businesses open. No restaurants or even takeout) to level 3 (takeaway restaurants allowed) to level 2 (almost normal!). Level 4 lasted nearly 5 weeks, followed by 2 weeks at Level 3. Now that we are at level 2, life feels like a new normal. While mass gatherings are still not allowed (so likely no rugby matches for awhile) almost everything else is permitted with some slight distancing and contact tracing rules. Most importantly for us, domestic travel reopened at level 2 and is even encouraged. We are free to drive around the country. Flights have resumed at the local airport. There was much excitement when we saw the first plane come in for a landing!
On our second day of freedom we decided to head to Glenorchy, a scenic town about 1 hour away. That sounds a bit far, but it’s actually the next town, things are just quite rural here. The drive out was a destination in itself! The road follows Lake Wakatipu (the same one our apartment is on) to one of its ends, to the northwest. The views were simply incredible. Miles and miles of nothing but lovely mountains and clear water.
Water color! Wow
Steve found an open tour operator that rents self-drive all-terrain vehicles for tours around a scenic riverbed in the valley at the end of the lake. We rushed through a haphazard lunch to make a 1:30 reservation. Probably not surprisingly we were the only ones there. What is more surprising was that we were his first customers in many months. It turns out prior to lock down there had been massive floods (record breaking really) and it has really made 2020 a nightmare for them. The owner showed us an amazing afternoon! His off-road vehicles were high tech (GPS maps on iPads with periodic nature information), and impossible to get lost in. He claims they are the only one of their type outside the US, so they had familiar left side drive for me:) They beeped if you went off track (plus he could monitor us from the office!). There were subtle colored rocks on ground to guide you over the river and away from the woods, as it were.
With a nod and a wink there was some implication it wouldn’t be terrible if we let the kids have a go at some straight bits, which we all happily did.
The tour lasted about 2 hours with some stops for views and rock-skipping in the river. The terrain varied a bit and the track goes through some streams, which was quite fun. The end brings you to a spectacular scene, which happened to feature in one of the Lord of the Rings films (the background for Isengard).