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Day 13, MacKenzie Country to Queenstown

Tēnā Koutou Travelers!

We are making our way towards Lord of the Rings Country!

It is extremely colorful due to the autumn leaves and brush changing with enormous mountains as a backdrop, snow covered slopes and so many rivers, lakes, streams, creeks and ponds along the route. I've always said: "Where there are mountains there are rivers, lakes and streams!" and it's so true here. We are definitely in Middle Earth now.

We're on the road headed towards the middle of the South Island and intense Southern Alps Mountains were gold and other precious metals were mined. The weather conditions are changing to warm and dry, and where there is cultivation of tree fruits, more vines for award winning wines and Merino sheep graze. Wildflowers line roadsides, and powerful rivers cut deep gorges lakes along the way.

Arrowtown and Bannockburn were successful mining settlements that are still thriving as tourist locations with communities that cater to the activities in the lakes, rivers and on the slopes. The architecture from early days gone by remains today and is preserved as though it was still 1860. To the north of Bannockburn, you can see the remains of the Bannockburn Creek area where there was once extensive coal mining that supplied coal for use on gold dredges working the Kawarau and Clutha Rivers. Our guide answered all our questions and delivered the long history of the area, we stopped at the towns along the way, had lunch and continued on towards our winery visit in Gibbston Valley. The Brennan Winery is located on the way to Queenstown, and with their 10 hectares (25 acres) of vines we see and smell ripe grapes as we arrive. They're actually growing Tempranillo here and making a Rosé from it, they say that it occasionally ripens but mostly doesn't get enough sugar so Rosé makes the most sense. Brennan is known for their Pinot Noir, and now we understand why, they were so lush, fleshy and plump, but also refined and clean. A lovely vineyard walk to explore their organic methods, they even have some bio-dynamic methods included in their farming practices. After our visit we head into Queenstown to spend our last day of the tour - tomorrow in Queenstown. We're already feeling the sadness of missing this group, the visits, and the beautiful people of this country. We have an exciting ride up on the Skyline Gondola to our restaurant that holds 360 degree views of Queenstown and the surrounding area. It's amazing, beautiful, and breathtaking. Pam is so excited to arrive to the top, we had to crowd around her so that she wasn't freaked out, we had a group hug with her while gathered around her. It was a perfect excuse to enjoy Pam's excitement and our enjoyment of each other. Thank you Pam! As usual our dinner is filled with chatter, the excitement of the day, the wine, the company and the view all stimulated our enjoyment and evening together. Kia kaha Travelers!

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