The day started like many, running slightly late and in dire need of coffee, but the beauty of a private guide means there’s no such thing as having to work to a timetable. So once the coffees were procured thanks to Franks Eatery, we set off with our private guide, Lee from Alpine Luxury Tours. After a quick stop to pick up his guiding partner, history extraordinaire and gold panning expert Paul, we started our adventure into Skippers Canyon.
A drive to remember
Skippers Canyon is regarded as one of the most breathtaking roads in the world. I’m not entirely sure when Mercedes designed their Sprinters they thought the luxury vans would traverse such a road. Yet, the transport was perfect, sitting high to maximize the views through the mountains, canyons, and down to the turquoise rivers below. The 360 degree visual smorgasbord enhanced by Paul’s stories of ‘bus scratch’ corner, and the ‘retirement home’ one of the pioneers built in the late 1800’s to be closer to town (still would have been an overnight by horse into town), and the last remains of the Halfway Hotel, that gold miners would overnight before heading further into the remote Skippers Canyon. Skippers Canyon is certainly one for the senses – the scenery like no other and the sound – utter peace.
Lunch was at the old school house, lovingly restored with artifacts and photos to understand the life of the families that lived in some of the most remote parts of the greater Queenstown basin.
A golden day for everyone
On the way home we stopped midway at Deep Creek, where Paul taught us how to pan for gold. The children loved it and the adults too! Everyone but me was successful at discovering gold with each pan. I tried to reason that my pans of river shingle didn’t have any gold in them, yet statistics would suggest given everyone else was successful multiple times it might in fact be my lack of: a) technique b) deft touch and c) patience. While our loot would struggle to earn a six pence, the little jar of gold that my god daughter took as a keep sake (and didn’t let it go the rest of the weekend), the memories and experience – all priceless.
Given we had no time constraints, we basked in the sunshine with a rather competitive stone skimming competition across the Shotover River, everyone involved, including Lee and Paul. At times it turned into straight out rock throwing to watch and hear the plop of the rocks in the pristine water to the delighted giggles of the kids.
An end to the day that was as sweet as honey
As with any perfect private guide as we headed back into Queenstown the discussions turned to what next. We finished the day at Buzzstop to sampling the honey and experiencing honey spinning. I had a bee nibble honey from my finger while also learning that bees have five eyes. Who knew? Thanks to Nick and Rosie for showcasing a great experience and a perfect way to finish a fantastic day for young and old.