Neighborhood Travels

New Zealand Part 15: Walter Peak

When one thinks of New Zealand, one thinks of sheep.  Right?  Yes, there’s great scenery and those Middle-earth movies, but the sheep are also there!  My daughter Halley and I had seen many sheep during our time driving…thanks to the creativity of our GPS. But I wanted to visit a farm and see the dogs working the sheep.  In Queenstown, the Walter Peak Farm Tour is the obvious choice for that kind of activity. We signed up for the trip across Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw.

Prow of the TSS Earnslaw heading toward Walter Peak
Aboard the TSS Earnslaw heading for Walter Peak

Commissioned in 1912, the ship has a great history and its in beautiful condition.  What fun to sit out on deck, in the chilly wind, and watch the mountains as we sailed by.  The trip from Queenstown to the farm takes about 45 minutes.  It was warm and toasty in the cabin but why would I want to stay inside when Lake Wakatipu was all around me?  What a gorgeous sight.  I suspect my fellow passengers may have been more interested in dinner.

Upon arriving everyone hustled toward the dining rooms.  All were eager for the “Barbecue Buffet.” First we ordered wine to warm us up.  We had time to drink it while each table took its turn at the buffet, because we were one of the last to get in line.  I welcomed the organization with so many hungry people ready to dash for the food.  The setting was an interesting juxtaposition of style. Do jeans and red-checked shirts go with wine glasses?  A nod to the menu perhaps.  Or is the the usual dress?

One of the dining areas with our rustic wait staff at Walter Peak Farm
One of the dining areas with our rustic wait staff at Walter Peak Farm                     Photograph by Halley Boatman Sanchez

I wasn’t that interested in dinner.  I was waiting for the sheepdogs.  Finally around 8:30 “the farmer” came to get us.  That’s what they called him.  I guess he didn’t have a name.  This demonstration wasn’t mandatory.  One could stay inside and munch on dessert or have a little more wine and conversation. Halley and I opted to see the farm!  Thank goodness Halley had a nice gap between two people so she could get the following photo.

The farmer and one of the dogs before the demonstration
The farmer and one of the dogs before the demonstration            Photo by Halley Boatman Sanchez

Oh my, it was dark out there!  We walked away from the lights and warmth of the restaurant and out toward a barn and fields.  After a brief explanation, the farmer instructed the dogs to go out and bring in the sheep.  I thought “What sheep?”  I couldn’t see much beyond the fence!  But the dogs could.  And it was exciting when they, and several sheep, finally appeared near the gate.

We turned around and headed toward a seating area.  Here we had another chat with the farmer and then a sheep sheering demonstration.  I was disappointed to learn the Merino Sheep had been sheered a few weeks earlier, but that’s life.  I did learn a thing or two during the demonstration.  Did you know that if you set a sheep on its backside, it doesn’t try to get away?  Useful information, isn’t’ it?

A farmer sheering a sheep
The farmer sheered all this wook in just a couple minutes.

As you can see the sheep is almost finished, but still putting up with the process.

The tour was about over and we raced back to the dock for the boat ride to Queenstown.  This time Halley and I didn’t sit outside; it was too nippy for that.  Instead we explored the ship.  I particularly liked the engine room.  What a noise!  It was kind of spooky too.

Stoking the boiler on the TSS Earnslaw
Stoking the boiler on the TSS Earnslaw

This was a tricky shot for me.  The man was moving quickly (who wouldn’t be?) and the area in which he was working was small.  I wanted to get him, the shovel, and the coal all in the frame.  I’m pleased that it came out as well as it did.  It gives the impression of what it’s like to work down there.

While Halley and I were wandering about the Earnslaw, the rest of the passengers were having a great time in the lounge.  As we came up we could hear them singing! That needed further investigation.  To our surprise there was a piano player and everyone had the words to a selection of old songs.

The piano man accompanies the singalong on the TSS Earnslaw
A pianist accompanies the singalong on the TSS Earnslaw

Halley and I joined in just in time for the last song,  Auld Lang Syne. Minutes later we arrived in Queenstown.  In the image above you can see the lights of the town in the background.

It was an entertaining evening.  Next time, I’ll visit Walter Peak in the daylight and see more of the farm!

Elizabeth Boatman

Traveler, explorer, memory maker and someone who's just downright curious about stuff. It's all about finding joy.

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