NZ Life & Leisure - - On The Cover - WORDS AND PHOTOGR APHS : GUY F R EDER I C K

Au­tumn is a

far more mind­ful time to visit Queen­stown

IT’S QUI­ETER THAN usual on the board­walks which flank the cold, deep waters that form a nat­u­ral hub around which Queen­stown re­volves. Au­tumn is a time when the pic­turesque lo­ca­tion that put ad­ven­ture tourism on the world map is mo­men­tar­ily re­claimed by lo­cals and trav­el­ers in the know.

A me­an­der along the much-pho­tographed lake can be in­vig­o­rat­ing, but the warm­ing aro­mas of ginger and car­damom mix with the crisp, fresh air. A young In­dian cou­ple are bring­ing a fra­grant mea­sure of their cul­ture to the town – one cup at a time – and their bright chai cart ties in well with the golden colours that are blan­ket­ing the back­drop.

This mel­low, fruit­ful sea­son brings the chance to avoid the madding crowds that will soon come to ski, snow­board and party. Am­ble past the botanic gar­dens which have cel­e­brated the ar­rival of au­tumn in an ex­plo­sion of colour to the start of the 120km net­work of tracks that is the Queen­stown cy­cle and walk­ing trail. In this sec­tion, this easy-go­ing, bliss­ful track con­tin­ues for sev­eral kilo­me­tres along a lake­front that re­flects New Zealand’s ar­che­typal south­ern land­scape putting on its best show, as though dressed for the races. On the hori­zon a puff of smoke drifts up­wards, a sign that the SS Earnslaw is steam­ing into port after her daily trip to Wal­ter Peak sta­tion. As much a part of this land­scape as the jagged schist peaks, the grand old lady fills the small bay with ma­jes­tic pres­ence, un­der­tak­ing a broad turn with a pea­cock-like dis­play be­fore dock­ing.

This ro­man­ti­cized ver­sion of Queen­stown re­minds me of the area’s his­tory but in real time, the town, once a quiet sum­mer­hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for South­landers, is now on the bucket list for ad­ven­tur­ists around the globe. They come to sam­ple a taste of the lengthy list of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer in the Wakatipu Basin – and a sur­pris­ingly multi-cul­tural of­fer­ing.

New Zealand’s equiv­a­lent of a pil­grim­age to the Taj Ma­hal has to be a trip up the gon­dola to take in the town be­low, nes­tled within a cathe­dral of na­ture; it’s a scene from ev­ery tourism brochure but one that has to be snapped with one’s own eyes. The day can also end with din­ner at this alti­tude, the world-class vista the res­tau­rant’s con­stantly chang­ing wall­pa­per as the evening light kisses the moun­tains and wel­comes the Milky Way to the ever-re­volv­ing scene.

The in­flux of peo­ple tick­ing off a thirst for adren­a­line has brought an in­ten­sity of growth and a buzz of en­ergy to the town. But Queen­stown has un­der­gone a shift reach­ing be­yond this quest for a quick fix, with a re­newed fo­cus on health and well­ness.

It’s a des­ti­na­tion that now caters for those seek­ing nour­ish­ment of mind, body and soul, and these days, you’re just as likely to see a rolled-up yoga mat ca­su­ally slung over the shoul­der as a back­pack; it may be just me, but these down-dog en­thu­si­asts seem to wan­der about with very good pos­ture.

The stag­ger­ing num­ber of yoga op­tions on of­fer (hatha flow, power vinyasa, yoga nidra and honey flow) set the flex­i­bil­ity stan­dards high. Yoga seems to be on the menu in ev­ery sec­ond café, and well­ness and spa re­treats have popped up ev­ery­where. The Nadi Well­ness Cen­tre in the mid­dle of town of­fers a full suite of such nour­ish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and ther­a­pies. Amanda Wool­ridge, one of Nadi’s in­struc­tors and life coaches, made the 19,000km jour­ney from Lon­don here 25 years ago and never left, but she sug­gests it’s the 30cm jour­ney be­tween the head and heart that for most is the big­gest jour­ney one can ever make.

A pre­req­ui­site for a healthy head and heart is a healthy diet but if you’re not care­ful, any goal to leave Queen­stown stronger and fit­ter, could eas­ily turn into de­part­ing with an ex­tra kilo or two un­der the belt. There’s a de­li­cious va­ri­ety; sourc­ing food lo­cally and sus­tain­ably has moved main­stream, with eth­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions a fo­cal point.

In­ter­na­tional in­flu­ences aug­ment this lo­cal food scene bring­ing yet an­other layer of flavour and colour to the town. French crêpes are served from a small mo­bile stand on the wa­ter­front by a young woman who looks very, well, French (I’m mak­ing a huge judge­ment call based on her classy style and her painted-red lips). And then there’s the pop-up Chai Wala cart bring­ing a touch of In­dia to the town or the choco­late em­po­rium, Patag­o­nia, owned by an Ar­gen­tinian cou­ple who han­kered for the co­coa-laced taste of their home­land.

But it’s that lake­front beach that keeps draw­ing me back. With a loud blast, the Earnslaw’s horn echoes through the streets and al­ley­ways as it chugs off on its next jour­ney. As the ship fades into the dis­tance, I can’t help but think it will prob­a­bly ply the lake long after I’m gone. It is cer­tain what will re­main: the deep lake and those tow­er­ing moun­tains pierc­ing the mag­nif­i­cent big sky for all to see and hope­fully, in the process, to be nudged a lit­tle fur­ther along that 30cm jour­ney from head to heart.

CLOCK­WISE FROM FAR LEFT: Sam Chap­man (co- owner) and Shay Pacetti (as­sis­tant man­ager) in Sherwood’s res­tau­rant, a hub of nour­ish­ing food, ac­com­mo­da­tion, de­sign, yoga and mu­sic; Patag­o­nia’s mas­car­pone cheese and fruits of the for­est ice cream, one of 20...

The Earnslaw sweeps into Queen­stown for dock­ing, a ma­noeu­vre fine- tuned over the 100 years the grand old steamer has called Lake Wakatipu home.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Lunch with lake and moun­tain views; Okonomiyaki ( Ja­panese pan­cake) from Tanoshi; Amanda Wool­ridge of Nadi Well­ness Cen­tre says liv­ing among the greens and blues swipes away the noise of life; a still evening with a back­drop...

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