Welcome to Queenstown, the latest stopover on my series, Places I’ve Been, for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.
Before we go any further, I should warn you, that Queenstown isn’t on my top ten places to visit. Indeed, at the time it was a mistake, and my views haven’t changed. So, I caution you to be very careful when you program “Queenstown” into your magic carpet, and ensure you clearly enter Queenstown, New Zealand into your GPS. Do not mention Tasmania. You’ll certainly notice a striking difference, which goes well beyond the accent and how much Vegemite they spread on their toast.
Unfortunately, I ended up in Queenstown, Tasmania back in 1995 when I flew down for the 50th Anniversary of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. I hired a car with a fellow backpacker from the Youth Hostel and unfortunately neither of us had done our research. After leaving Hobart and visiting the stunning Russell Falls, we noticed Queenstown on the map and decided to head there for the night.
Well, perhaps, it it wasn’t such a huge mistake, because it was an education. However, we’d have to be one of the few visitors to Tasmania who went to Queenstown instead of the breathtaking East Coast.
Back in 1995, Tasmania’s Queenstown was still an environmental catastrophe and nothing short of a heartbreaking, barren moonscape after years of copper mining had all but destroyed the place. As the Tasmanian Times explains: “Queenstown became famed for the denuded landscapes … and its Red River. The Queen River turns red from the iron oxide that leaches from the mine along with other metal sulphides and most of the creeks around the town are subject to the acid mine drainage and can be consider contaminated 1.” (I highly recommend you click through to this article and particularly check out the photographs).
“The copper smelters wreaked havoc on the surrounding landscape. Not only did the sulphur fumes kill off plants in the area but the eleven furnaces required vast quantities of timber and the mining company simply cut down the forests to fuel the fires. It has been estimated that hundreds of men were employed as timber cutters and that over 3 million tonnes of timber were cut down between 1896 and 1923. At its peak the furnaces were consuming 2,040 tonnes of wood each week. The combination of timber felling, the sulphur fumes and the heavy rainfall in the area (which washed away the top soil) ensured that by 1900 the whole valley looked like a desert.”
So, clearly the Tasmanian Queenstown is a striking contrast to its Kiwi namesake.
Unfortunately, this also leaves me with another confession to make.
Geoff and I spent two weeks travelling around New Zealand on our honeymoon, but didn’t make it through to Queenstown. Otherwise, I would’ve been writing about my honeymoon instead, which would’ve been such a wonderful story straight after my tales of heartbreak and existential angst in Paris.
Well, perhaps you’ll be pleased to know that my travels do end up with a happy ending, which actually turned out to be a new beginning.
Do you have any travel stories where you took the wrong fork in the road? I’m sure there must be so many of them out there. I’d love to hear from you.